49 years on, Jolly Joe’s football legacy lives on

Joseph William Kiwanuka Aliddeki

The history of Ugandan politics and football cannot be complete without the name JOSEPH WILLIAM KIWANUKA ALIDDEKI, popularly known as Jolly Joe.

Close friends and critics also used to call him as Namwatulira due to his outspokenness. Jolly Joe was a top journalist, politician, businessman and, to crown it all, a football enthusiast.

It is 49 years since he was kidnapped and murdered in December, 1973 but to this day, his impact is still felt as one of the most influential figures in Ugandan football, especially at Express FC, where his grandson Kenneth Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Attorney General, is also club chairman, writes Hassan Badru Zziwa. 

The most agreeable fact about Jolly Joe is that he was principled man, an attribute that some people took to be bullish and arrogant In football, he almost single-handedly built Express into one of the most successful clubs in Ugandan football. However, his high self-esteem and outspokenness often landed him into trouble and he spent a portion of his life in jail.


Jolly Joe was born in 1915 and long before he came to forefront of Ugandan football, he started out as a goalkeeper in his teenage years at King’s College Budo. After Makerere, he pursued journalism and shortly after graduation, he started two powerful newspapers; Uganda Post (printed in Luganda) and Express (English).

He was the chief writer and editor at the same time. He used his newspapers not just for business but also to build his political career and football influence.

But it was politics which first shaped Jolly Joe’s identity when he was elected chairman of Uganda National Congress (UNC), the party which later merged with other parties to form Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).


By the 1950s, Jolly Joe had risen to become a key political figure and a top sports administrator. He worked closely with sports administration gurus such as Rev Pollycarp Kakooza, Prince Badru Kakungulu and Adoko Nekyon as Ugandans started taking over from colonialists.

In 1956, he was one of the officials who accompanied the Uganda national football team that toured England for friendly games. It was in 1959 that he conceived the idea of forming a football team to help build his political career countrywide.

He joined hands with his close friends Gustavas Nsubuga, PK Senyendo and Dr Kunuka, among others, and formed the club which he named Express FC after his English newspaper. The club straightaway embarked on competitive football and Jolly Joe, who had acquired some coaching skills from reading books, named himself coach.

Through his longtime friend Nsubuga, he signed some experienced players and top prospects like Robert Kiberu, Jimmy Bakyayita Semugabi, Bablo Ali, Charles Jaggwe, Noah Mbowa and Ali Kitonsa, among others.

In just three years, Express was strong enough to compete with top sides in the country such as Nsambya, Mutungo, Engineering, Pepsi Cola, KDS and Young Salumbey. He used his influence to make Express a powerful club countrywide through mobilization of funds from members across the country.


He is vividly remembered for his role in the construction of Muteesa II stadium at Wankulukuku. Jolly Joe had just formed Express and was eager to have an instant footprint on the game when he was appointed chief organizer of the annual Kabaka Birthday Cup.

Around November, 1959 as the tournament reached its climax, the management of Nakivubo stadium defied the usual norm when it declined hosting the final on grounds that it was notified late. This greatly dismayed Jolly Joe and instead of pleading, he mooted the idea of constructing a stadium for the tournament.

A makeshift structure was quickly set up around Wankulukuku pitch where the event took place. In the aftermath, Prince Hajji Badru Kakungulu was pleased with Jolly Joe’s pragmatism and used his royal family connections to get clearance for the project, with Jolly Joe using part of his resources to construct the stadium.

This project helped Jolly Joe to mend fences with Buganda kingdom leadership, which politically disagreed with. Jolly Joe was also instrumental in the creation of the National Council of Sports (NCS) and the passing of the NCS’s Act in 1964.

In 1968, he also worked with the likes of Nekyon, Henry Balamaze Lwanga, Rev Kakooza, Hassan Sunderani to form Fufa, which replaced the Uganda Football Association (UFA). He also played an integral part in the establishment of the National Football League Committee (NFLC) which helped to run a national league.

Jolly Joe is also credited for helping Buganda to form a football team which strongly competed in the regional tournament called Madhvani Cup


Jolly Joe was feared and respected in equal measure. His word was final. A case in point was in 1962 when Express lost a league match to Young Salumbey. Jolly Joe was away in United Kingdom and upon his return, he convinced the football authorities to have the match replayed because as coach, the team was disadvantaged in his absence.

To the surprise of many, the result was cancelled and it was ordered for the game to be replayed. Express went on to win. In 1962, Jolly Joe criticized the national coach, Clive Bond, for poor team selections when Uganda lost both its matches to Tunisia and Egypt at the 1962 Afcon in Ethiopia.

Jolly Joe (extreme right) with The Cranes side he guided to the 1962 Gossage Cup

In return, UFA handed the national team coaching reins to Jolly Joe. Many doubted his credentials for the job but he went on to guide Uganda to victory at the 1962 Gossage Cup (which later became Cecafa Cup). His team retained the title in 1963 after beating Kenya in Nairobi.

In 1965, Bitumastic FC emerged as the biggest threat to Express FC’s quest for silverware. To show its might, Bitumastic even recruited some Express players. This greatly upset Jolly Joe.

He took issue with Bitumastic by reporting on the floor of parliament that the club was engaged in activities that endangered national security. In a chat I once had with former Bitumastic players David Otti and Jimmy Bakyayita Semugabi, they said parliament did not need to get the side of Bitumastic and banned it there and then.

In 1969, Express was scheduled to play Prisons but the Luzira-based side did not show up due to the absence of several players who were on national duty. Prisons officials asked the NFLC to reschedule the game. However, Jolly Joe demanded Express be given full points for the walkover but NFLC opted to reschedule the match.

A livid Jolly Joe swore that his side would not honour the rescheduled game, even when it was clear Express badly needed the points. Indeed, Express failed to turn up the game was awarded to Prisons. This denied Express a chance to win its first league title.


Thereafter, Express FC’s performance declined as Jolly Joe spent most of his time in and out of jail for political reasons. On December 19, 1969, there was an attempt to assassinate President Obote during a UPC delegates conference at Lugogo indoor stadium.

Thereafter, several opposition politicians were arrested, including Jolly Joe, Prince Kakungulu and Abubaker Mayanja. As Jolly Joe battled to clear his name while in detention, Express descended into disarray. The Red Eagles lost several top players to rival clubs.

In 1971, after spending almost two years in jail, new president Idi Amin released Jolly Joe along with other political prisoners. With Amin banning political parties, Jolly Joe dedicated more time to Express. However, when political disappearances and murders remerged at an alarming scale, Jolly Joe realized his life was under threat.

He relocated to Kenya but in December 1973, him and some colleagues were kidnaped from Kenya, returned to Uganda and murdered. At the time, Jolly Joe was 58 years. Forty-nine years on, his influence in football, politics and media remains visible through the establishments he set up as well as the family members.


Source: The Observer

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