BOOK REVIEW: The Bell is Ringing, Martin Aliker’s Story

By Andrew Muhimbise

Dr Mart in Aliker an elder citizen shares his story of: personal strive, pain, love, adventure, endurance and triumph set around the t time of Uganda’s independence where he occupied a front row seat as major event s unfolded.

An educative and powerful story on the power of: building, nurturing and gaining from personal networks spanning a lifetime.

Dotted with hilarious stories, candid conversation of a man who is content with his almost nine decade life now relishing in his grandfather role.

He tells it all in his autobiography titled; The Bell is Ringing, Martin Aliker’s Story.

Born in 1928 he is one of the three and half million resident s of Uganda.

Aliker is a son of an Acholi chief. Sir Apollo Kagwa encourages admission of chiefs’ children to study at King’s College Budo where he joins his older brother Daudi Ochieng in the 1940’s.

Thereafter he is admitted at Makerere College in 1948. The student life is centred stories in Nakulabye and Wandegeya when there was no HIV/AIDS.


William Senteza Kajubi’s makes the all-important link to Ned Munger that leads him to America to study Dentistry and from where he returns with a wife.

Studying dentistry, in the 1950’s, for six years in midst of racism and in between getting hold of the ‘Jewish Files’ on exclusive medical knowledge.

Active in anticolonialism debate leads him to studying a BA in political science. FBI has him on their radar at the height of McCarthyism.

Aliker falls in love, thanks to his exotic accent that opens the door! Paul Kawanga Ssemwogere accompanies him for ‘kukyala’ (meet the family) in Chicago where his in-laws are worried that he may have other wives in the darkest Africa.

Aliker’s works as: a teacher Nabumali High School, porter at soap factory, Dental Officer at Mulago hospital private practice and finally to diplomacy and corporate leadership.

When there is an assassination attempt on President Obote, he is in the operating theatre full of excited soldiers with automatic weapons.

Aliker knew both Kabaka Mutesa and Obote personally, the two victors at Independence.

Aliker points out the while Mutesa was a likeable charming person he was a fundamentally weak man who was in the grip of: elderly, conservative and narrow minded advisors on Mengo Hill where they only concentrated on the parochial affairs of Buganda.

Whereas Obote was eccentric and had learned politics from Kenya under the tutelage of Tom Mboya.

That Obote was clever, shrewd and unprincipled.

Read how Obote meets Miria Kalule and why Aliker was the Prime Minister’s best man.

Amin’s secretary Benny Kanyangeyo tips off the then Chairman of Uganda Argus newspaper, which sends Aliker to exile.

Sharing tales of meeting President Kenyatta to save his life and failed assassination attempts on President Amin Dada.

Aliker is offered the Presidency which he passes, for his friend Yusuf Kironde Lule.

Aliker contests for the Gulu South Parliamentary seat under the Democratic Party ticket in the 1980 Elect ions. Disillusioned, frustrated and angry at the incredible loss he returns to Kenya as Museveni takes to the bush.

In 1984 his longstanding friend Rwakasiisi delivers a personal letter from President Obote.

Olara Otunnu keeps Aliker at bay in the Okellos’ government.

At Yoweri Museveni’s request they meet in Nairobi in guarded conversation with the agenda on how to get rid of Amin, read why Aliker dismissed Museveni as a dreamer.

In 1996 he finally returns from exile on invitation of Museveni from whom he serves a shuttle diplomat to Omar al-Bashir on the Joseph Kony war and the American interests in SPLA and Garang and later Gadhafi in the Lockerbie negotiations.

He also serves as Minister for Parliamentary affairs marveling at debaters from the opposition side; Dick Nyai, Ben Wacha and Yefusa Okullo-Epak who hit hard with politeness.

Aliker is spectacularly dropped from cabinet, abruptly without warning and ret reat s to diplomatic and corporate leadership.

Aliker also meet s notables; Clinton, Al Gore, Bush, Condoleezza, Collin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Mandela, Mondlane, Seretse and shares a table with the Queen of Britain.

Sir Michael Blundell, the leader of the white settlers in Kenya, propels a young Martin into the world of Boardrooms sitting on Allied Breweries (now Diageo the brewers of Guinness) rubbing shoulders with members of the British aristocracy.

In the 1960s he also sits on the Boards of: Uganda Breweries, Standard Chartered Bank, Uganda Argus newspaper.

In the 2000s he chairs boards of the Stanbic Bank, Heritage Oil, National Insurance and Uganda Clays.

Aliker acknowledges the dog eat dog world of corporate business and the exclusive old boy network of board admission.

Indeed a worthy book to inspire endeavor and honesty in the next generation through the lenses of a man who has seen it all.

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