DR AGGREY KIYINGI (1955- 2023): “The Man I knew!”

Any life can fall into two chapters: Part I and Part II. I shall here write about a certain part of the life of the Late Dr Aggrey Kiyingi, the deceased world renown cardiologist and for long a friend.

I cant locate exactly when we first met, but there is a bit of important history here leading us to what bloomed into a mutual friendship. The history of Uganda, like all, has had its fair share of tragedies. In May 1966 a cabinet Minister, Balak Kirya, together with his four colleagues were suspected of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Milton Obote. Early one morning without warning all were hauled from a Cabinet meeting board room at Entebbe State House. Kirya, along with Grace Ibingira, Mathais Ngobi, George Magezi and Dr Emmanuel Lumu, would serve five consecutive years while held in Luzira Maximum Security prison. They saw the sun only after the new President Idi Amin released over 50 political detainees, following his astonishing 1971 coup.

After his release Kirya settled down into a quiet life. However he was yanked out of his early retirement from public life when his old tormentor, Obote, returned to power in 1980. Fearing he would be thrown back into the cooler, he fled into neighbouring Kenya. There he joined the nascent rebel movement fighting to overthrow the Obote regime. But one day there was a sudden swoop of the rebels which picked up as many, Balak Kirya, being a prize trophy.

Back to his old address, alone in a cell, Kirya had a lot to reflect on his life. One day, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior. When the Obote regime fell and Kirya saw the light of day he was a changed man. There was a promise he had made to God that if he ever came out alive he would use the rest of his time here on earth by reaching out to leaders with the Gospel of Christ. So when President Museveni appointed him Minister of State in the Office of President, Kirya now used that as a launching pad to start the Prayer Breakfast Ministry targetting leaders.

In 1997 I was introduced to this ministry by Hon Captain Gad Gasatura, a former member of the Constituent Assembly, while on a vsit to Chicago, US, where I was based. Upon return to Uganda I was invited to attend the regular reach out breakfast fellowships held at Fairway Hotel. By then the founder, Balak Kirya, had passed on. But there in the midst sat his widow Grace. I never left.

There I also met a lawyer going by Robinah Kiyingi, with whom we became fast friends. I noticed though she often came alone. But one day I found her sitting next to a gentleman dressed in a snowhite white suit. He had such a calm countenance around him, disarming and welcoming. I needn’t guess much. His name was Dr Aggrey Kiyingi.

Born to Azaliya Ssebowa, in 1955, Aggrey was a gifted boy, perhaps a prodigy. The Ssebowas believed in the power of education to change lives. Perhaps it is worthy pausing here to first explain why he was named Aggrey.

In the late 1920s the British Colonial government started to express interest in managing education in Uganda, hitherto run by missionaries. To inform policy they put up the Phelps-Stokes Commission which went about soliciting views. Among the Commisioners was an eminent Ghanain educator, Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey, already an accomplished educator, Pan-Africanist, and public intellectual. When the commissioners visited King’s College Budo, students were amazed to see a black African ( these were the 1930s) who could stride so easily as an equal of the white man. Dr Aggrey left such a huge impression on those lads that soon after excited students would strike to demand equal rights with whites. When the school authorities expelled them these nationalist Budo students, among whom was Ignatius Musazi and Polycarp Kakoza, all who would leave a mark on Uganda, went on to found Aggrey Memorial School, in Bunamwaya, still flourishing to this day.

The young Aggrey was hurried to Budo Junior School. As one of his classmstes once told me, “Aggrey was one of the brightest in his class. He could quickly solve any problem before any of us!” A star student from there he moved on to King’s College Budo, where he resided in Nigeria House.

Besides academics, Aggrey had also a love for music. Anyone familiar with Budo then had to know the famous Nightingale singers, famous for their captivating ballads, and soon Aggrey became a jovial choralist. The Nightingales would also occasionally link up with their singing counter parts at Gayaza High School. On one of those enconters Aggrey’s eye fell on a beautiful belle called Robinah Kayaga.

Aggrey and Robinah

Although it was their mutual love of music that drew them to each other, there was also another motivating aspect. Robinah had been raised in Kitetika, Gayaza road, only a few miles away from Busukuma, where Kiyingi family home was. They were both exceptionally bright students too. In 1972 Aggrey was admitted to Makerere University for Medical School while Robinah joined Law School.

Another thing pulling them together was because Aggrey and Robinah were not only both children from the traditional Anglican church but at a certain point earlier on had also accepted Jesus as a personal savior. In local speak they were “balokole”! While this must have given Aggrey an edge over the hotly pursued Robinah, as she was a striking beauty, winning her was never going to be easy.

All those who knew Aggrey can confess that besides his brilliance, he was one man who once he was determined to achieve anything, no dam – high or low- could stand in his way! Capturing the beautiful Robinah was perhaps the toughest test of his life then but typical of him he left nothing to chance. Those who saw his courtship recall Aggrey even pulling in the support of Namirembe heavy weights clergy to weigh in on her and accept this promising young man. After a spirited courtship Robinah alas yielded and they tied the knot, at Namirembe Cathedral, just before he graduated.

Perhaps because he was much apprehensive of his rivals, or, it was a secretive nature of his, Aggrey did not even alert his classmates, most of whom got to know of the wedding the day after. “I couldn’t believe someone I had been with together at school for so long,” one of his old classmates shared with me years later, “could marry without inviting any of us!” But that was Aggrey.

By 1977, when Aggrey graduated, medical doctors who had once been the most prized profession given their scarcity and rare expertise in Uganda, had lost vogue. The brutal years of Amin’s bungling dictatorship had pushed virtually all professinals out of the country, in search of greener pastures. And so it were that soon after graduation, this young couple, fled to neighbouring Kenya to scour a decent living.

In Kenya Aggrey started out at a village hospital in Kitui, Machakos and later moved to Kalolemi hospital in Mombasa. Life was not easy for the young couple and at one point they shared home with Robinah’s sister, Dr Eve Kasirye Alemu, a chemist who had also moved there. Always his eyes on bigger goals Aggrey secured a scholarship that enabled him move to Australia.

Once in Australia Aggrey took on specialist cardiology training in Sydney, at Westmead and Concord Hospitals. By the time we met he had excelled and was one of the most respected cardiologists globally with him advising over a dozen pharmaceutical companies involved in heart research medicine. His practice in Australia had soured enabling them reap great wealth, and of which he was eager to share with his country.

Here there is an aspect we need highlight about the Kiyingis. Successful Ugandans straddling in the diaspora tend to fall into two classes. There are those scarred by the memory of their harsh upbringing who vow never to return home except for those “quickie- return forced visit” to bury their parents, like some favor or, some, who just pass by to vainly pose off their global wares. Another class is one which for all the tribulations of their homeland never loose a love for the motherland, occasionally visiting and endeavoring to give back as much. Aggrey was clearly in the latter category.

In the early 2000s every now and then he would hit the headlines for his philantropic work- donating billions of shillings to pet projects. Once it was millions to his Buziga local church where he sponsored a music CD by the church choir of which he was a patron. Aggrey was fascinated with computers and he set up a computer company, Dehezi International, to promote ICT in Uganda. This company made it a habit to donate computers to the Kingdom of Buganda, which he cherished. But his most prized dream was putting up what he dreamed to be the best heart hospital in East Africa, around old Kampala, a project where he sunk billions of shillings.

Although Aggrey had a punishing schedule each time he would drop in town he would make it to our prayer breakfast fellowships. I always looked forward to these visits as occasionally after the meeting we would linger behind to catch up. I was also endeared to him because his younger brother, Dr Stephen Mayombwe, had been not just a schoolmate at Budo but a best friend. Once we walked from Fairway Hotel down to his office on Impala Avenue sharing lighly on a number of subjects. Midway he paused and he mentioned something memorable, “Always walk as much as you can, for it’s good for your heart!” I would never forget that lesson coming from a world renowned heart surgeon.

As our friendship bloomed Aggrey and Robinah would now and then invite me over to their palatial home rising up in Buziga. They were both totally committed to Uganda. In the 1980s Aggrey had lost his father who was gunned down during the liberation struggle. That did not deter this young family already successful overseas from returning home. Once stability returned they set up a beautiful mansion up on the hill looking down on Kampala. I remember once during a dinner there, the late General Elly Tumwine, teasing Aggrey, “this must bring you more fulfillment than all the honors you might have received back in Australia!” He beamed.

In the course they introduced me to their children. The eldest Samalie was pursuing a double law and business degree in Australia, and whenever around, would come for our fellowships along with Robinah. She was vibrant and there was no doubt she would go far. Kibuka was in Medical School in Australia, following Dad’s path. Kirabo was at Budo, soon to join Medical School, after excelling. Sanyu, the youngest, was secure in a Kampala school. At one event in their home Samalie spoke glowingly on behalf of her siblings and praised them for always pushing them to aspire for excellence in life. “Our parents would never give us anything less than the best!”

Yet it is Robinah whom I would get to know better and she became much more than a sister. She was a prayer partner and confidant. I recall once visiting her down in her law offices which were overlooking the old Kampala taxi park. “Why would you have offices over in this crowded place,” I teased her as I sniffed around. “But Martin you are such a snob!” she rubbed me off with a down to earth snippet. “This is where the business is”! When we had our first child Robinah quickly drove through a stormy weather and left with us a beautiful message, a moment ever to treasure.

Somewhere along, like a bolt from the blue, one day I heard all was not well in the Kiyingi steady as a rock relationship, or so I thought. I struggled to put it all together but there I stood in a trance. The macabre events thereafter leading to the murder of my friend Robinah and the subsequent arrest of Aggrey on murder charges will remain like a blur.

I last saw Aggrey during the funeral service of Robinah where he gave an incoherent speech. After his acquittal he took on a life totally different from the man I had earlier known. In fact sometimes I could not recognize him anymore. When a few weeks ago I learnt he had passed away almost without warning my mind went back to the good old days. Here was a young couple immensely blessed who had decided to partially relocate to Uganda where their lives drew inspiration on the many who looked up to them. But the devil has such a long and ugly hand. All I could do was pray, what else; thankful for the memory of a once beautiful and shining couple! May Robinah and Aggrey RIP!

Eng Robert Hubert Kibuuka ( 1950-2023): “An Engineer’s Engineer!

In the 1970s the road infrastructure in Uganda was not only sparse but tear and wear had begun to affect even the few major roads around. When a young graduate Engineer, Robert Hubert Kibuuka, was posted to the Eastern region, he was shocked at the time it took to get to his work station due to the bad state of road. For those living in Eastern Uganda traveling the 103Km Iganga – Tirinyi- Mbale road was a nightmare of wading through gigantic potholes and surviving occasional road accidents. The young engineer knew something had to be done. Having graduated from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s degree (Civil Engineering) he had proceeded to Loughborough university in UK where he attained a Masters degree in road mantainence.

In the 1990s Uganda under the new Museveni government started a program of road rehabilitation, largely funded by development partners. Eng Kibuuka, fresh from his overseas studies, was appointed to lead the upgrading works on the Iganga – Tirinya- Mbale road, a project long on his mind. Not only did he execute the project in record time but at less the budgeted cost and to government satisfaction. President Museveni asked who this young man was. On finding he almost immediately appointed him Permanent Secretary ( PS), Ministry of Works, ahead of many others to oversee all the road construction in Uganda.

Serving as one of the youngest PS, Eng Kibuuka worked with four different ministers until he decided to take early retirement from public service in 1996 to enter private practice. Engineers, with their methodical and perfectionist attention to detail, may find the hazy business world an odd patch of field to enter- especially for someone already honed in the stable life of public service. But he was not the one to be deterred. Resolutely he put together an engineering consulting firm, Prome Consultants, specializing in road construction. But then would he succeed!

Around this time there were hardly any indigenous road construction firm flourishing in Uganda. Some, like Mukalakazi Construction, had ventured into the highly competitive industry, only to fold for various reasons but mostly poor busniess practices. Here was an uphill task. Prome Consultants would not only survive the harsh “start up phase” but almost three decades later bears a mark on almost every major road in Uganda, with even branches of works as far as Ethiopia. Thanks to his industrousness, quiet resolve and exceptional business management.

It is in the course of this work that our paths crossed. In 2012 his firm and mine, CME Consult, a Management Consulting firm, bidded for a World Bank project to develop municipal infrastructure and Uganda’s national Urban policy, which we both won respectively. Since we were reporting to the same local manager, we often found ourselves seated in the same room comparing notes. This is how I discovered he had a prime building along Acacia road named Innovation house. On noticing its good business location and ambience I asked and, he agreed, to sublet me space for my firm.

Working in the same complex with him opened up a whole new world of knowledge. For he was such a gifted industrious man as I soon discovered. He worked long and late hours, a crime I confessed too. Most of the time we would be the only two left behind well after 8pm in the vast office complex, after all our colleagues had retired. And, just before I would head home, I would occasionally drop by his office, to chide him for working so late. Very often he would push away all his work, turn to me and we would settle into a long conversation, where sometimes the clock went ticking past 10pm, till we just had to leave.

He told me almost everything about life: the rigours of business life, faith in God, attending government cabinet meetings, serving the Kingdom of Buganda where he was once a Minister and a co- founder of CBS FM radio. Serving the Kabaka of Buganda was his life mission. Almost every time he was out of office I could guess well it was him in a meeting over in Mengo.

Tragedy had visited him in 1996 when he lost his wife and mother of four children. For reasons he confided in me, he had chosen not to remarry, but largely to do with his preoccupation to raise his children. All had done well; and his two boys, Cyrus and Ronnie, after finishing their engineering studies had returned home and were now working with him, to his great delight.

Occasionally, in our long talks, he would take me through his early years of life. He had passed through my alma matter, St Henry’s College Kitovu, too, where he was the best science student before joining Makerere University in 1972. His father, Mbidde, had tought him and his siblings the value of hard work and saving. “My father was a coffee farmer,” he once shared. “He had a row of coffe bags set up in our store, which served as a bank. If there was any urgent cash need that is when he would sell.”

As our friendship matured, I came to notice he was looking after so many people, many but not limited to members of his extended family. A bit concerned at his scale of philantrophy, once I asked him why all the bother. His answer I will never forget. “If I dont,” he calmly laboured, “who will bury me!” An educated man with all the means knew and saw the value of the community he came from and never forgot.

Eng Kibuuka had an uncommonly oversized heart. Gifted with immense wealth he saw money as a mere tool to achieve noble goals. He gave himself to minimal pleasures and more to serving others. He would look out and give jobs to his fellow Engineers sometimes just to help those struggling get by. Once, a nephew of his was struck with cancer. Immediately at his expense he flew him to India for treatment. When that failed he flew the ailing nephew to Germany, where unfortunately the patient died. Then he took over the repatriation of the body and burial arrangements, quite a huge cost.

He never forgot his home in Nabutolo, close to Busukuma on Zirobwe road where he would go almost every weekend. There are two particular projects he gave considerable resource and time. Almost single handedly he built a cathedral church in place of an ageing structure. He also raised a community center with projects to teach youth life skills.

When Covid-19 struck I lost a bit of touch with him due to the Lockdown and restricted movements. After Kampala fully opened up I visited him in his office and picked up from where we had left. He was a bit relieved that the pandemic had struck soon after he had buried his mother, whom he had nursed through a long comma. The terrain of business was rough but he knew he would pull off. He also shared with me his medical reports. “The doctors just gave me a good bill,” he said with a brim of satsfaction. “It is these late business payments now bothering me!”

After job changes in my life I knew I had to visit Eng Kibuuka for some good mentorship talk. But for me there could be no small talk with the man other engineers referred to as HRK- Herbert Robert Kibuuka. Time was scarce and therefore I moved without a farewell parting word. But he was never far from my mind. On a recent visit to Kampala, just as I was trying to figure out if I could check on him, came the sad news- “HRK has gone!”

I struggled to figure how such a good and gentle man of all seasons could leave when everyone was waiting on him! Over the years I have had this great fortune to meet and chance upon Engineers of exceptional brittle. There was Eng Abraham Waligo, the man who almost wired every major building in Kampala in the 1970s and whose office on George street was one bloc away from mine. I always enjoyed his soft teasing and roaring laughter. My Uncle Eng Henry Nalikka, one of Uganda’s first electrical Engineer, was always a calm and collected presence, each time he visited us. There was my father in law, Eng Samuel Bayizzi, one of those early engineers from Nairobi university, ethical to the bone and what a great company his was.

But Eng Kibuuka fell in another realm. All I can say I was privileged to meet him and what a debt he has left in my heart! It was the former CEO of Uganda National Roads Authority ( UNRA), an organisation he helped found, Eng Ssebugga Kimeze, whom he had mentored along with a generation of other Engineers, just before he was laid to rest at the feet of his father and mother, and close to his wife and kin whom he served so selflessly, who put it so well: “How can we raise another Eng Kibuuka among ourselves!” I don’t know!!! Tall order.

Life @ 60: A Time to be Thankful

Today, August 29th, 2023; I graduate to the ranks of Mzei, now @ 60! It’s some crazy experience to realize your are also here, after all! You see at age 3, almost accidentally, it was discovered I had been born with a “hole in the heart!” I was fortunate to have not only a mother who had medical education as an enrolled nurse but also with guts to stand up to my father and his well connected family who were apprehensive of the proposed surgery to correct this birth defect. Taata, together with Owek Bulasio Kavuma, a leading official in Buganda government and Hon Godfrey Binaisa, QC, Attorney General of Uganda, raised their hands in objection. Nonetheless she, with her elder sister, Maama Christine Musoke, a British trained Social Worker, stood ground and the open heart surgery at Mulago hospital went on successfully.

Now I know when I attained 50, and did share this story elsewhere, some fast medical person doubted that in 1966 a hospital in Uganda could carry out open heart surgery. Well, I dont know what that means for someone who since coming of age realised those scars where the needles closed up after they opened me up and stitched  that gaping hole. Truth told I have never been to India! What I know is early at school teachers would desperately hold me back from fully participating in games shocked at my scars, screaming wildly – “muleke omwana owo’mutima!” spare the child with a frail heart. Yet, for me I never felt different, and have since lived a full life. I intend to go on and on, like there was no event.

It was education which gave my mother the courage to ignore the old men in my life, since she knew what was right. If there is anything I have felt so clear about is how we need to extend education opportunities to every African child. Had my mother not been to school, courtesy of my grandparents, Adolph and Bibian Musoke, who on Buganda government salaried income took all their dozen children to school, in the 1930s and 40s, she would not have grasped at a chance that was in her hands to save a life.

The other part is the person who discovered my heart condition. He was an Indian medical student, at Mulago Medical School, who connected my laboured breathing with what used to be an incurable condition. And then there was also an expatriate white doctor I would only get to know as Dr James. Not only did he carry out this surgery expertly but knowing the opposition from the rest of the family, dilligently followed up on me, till back to full health.

So, maybe if I had been born after a fumbling autocrat, Idi Amin, summarily expelled non citizen Asians and pushed out most White expatriates labeling them as economic saboteurs, my survival would have been a figment of imagination. In life you meet hate – filled frustrated characters and you just pray they never land on the means to will the lives of those who become toys to nurse their insecurities.

I must say that life has not been rosy though. I am of the generation that popped up when most of these colonized African nations had just became independent. To be honest mine should have been the luckiest of all, since our Black African people were now in power. But wait a minute.

The boarding schools which my parents felt would give me a good start in life turned out to be nothing but mean camps that weaned us on skimpy coarse meals. We saw a war in 1979 aimed to remove a deranged dictator leave mangled bodies scattered out on blood soaked streets. Then as our hope were being lifted we were plunged into a civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead. And just as it was cooling down came the unforgiving HIV/ AIDs virus that gobbled up as many as it could, before ART drugs eased the burden. Lately, like we had not seen it all, stormed the Covid -19 pandemic, as if to maul up remnants. Guys, why shouldn’t I pinch myself that this “fluke” has scraped through all and more.

Ours has been a torpsy turvey life. Having welcomed the ragged liberators of mid 1980s, skinny disheveled gun slinging chaps, we imagined our tortured upbringing was a thing of the past. But here we are closing life, amazed and sobered up how things remain pretty much the same. Our generation of those born in the sixties has been cheated to give my country also a President. By now you know life is not a bet!

In a life of tragedies after another I once fled from my war torn country quite determined never to return to this patch of long misery. But something happened. Before, around 1985, while at university, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, as a personal Lord and Savior, and that has made all the difference. For just as with the Apostle Paul who met Christ on the road to Damascus, no one who has surrendered his life to Christ can find himself on the same path as before, or, as the world understands.

At 60, you realise you have done two third of your life, assuming you are lucky and have still steam for another third. Life takes on a sense of urgency for however much you fight, nature will eventually take its course. Suddenly it dawns on you its now time to focus on the things that count the most. Relationships are some of those, especially the people who will remain true to you to the end. You know and have seen each other through thick and thin and truly with these it’s not empty words for you’ll “never walk alone!”

And, by this time, you kind of know a bit about your gifts and abilities, together with limitations, giving you a dose of humility. Why stress yourself in things you have no aptitude? Just do and stick to what comes naturally to you. If there was anybody who needed to be impressed they should have got it by now.

Certain interpersonal conflicts with their toxicity no longer posses you. Purposeful living, creating beautiful memories, laughing a lot and chilling is the thing. You start looking at life as a gift with a divine call, for you are not here because you were the best in class but God was just gracious to you, where others did not pass. Come now, you know you have to be more thankful than spend time bitching.

Early this year I grabbed a fantastic book, titled “Half time”! The writer divided life into a first half of pursuit of one’s goals and entering the second half where some ask themselves what is life all about. You have got your dream big house but soon it will be empty, all kids gone, and  suddenly you feel the echoes scream through silent corridors. You scooped a big car, hoping to be recognized but who has not enough load of his own to just wake up and gaze at your flashing carriage. The big job titles and that chair of yours will one day be passed on to a stranger who will without waste erase your name to insert his own. You might have a fat bank account but of what use if you have no good health! Maybe you have simply stored it for some opportunist to gently show up one day with claims to have weapons to add a few more years to your mortal life. Once, growing up on an empty belly, you longed for an overflowing buffet plate of delicious foods but well- intentioned doctors have now started their predictable retort of – “watch what you eat!” And you have seen those who hopelessly worked themselves to death building empires only immediately once gone for such to crumble and fizzle away like an impatient shadow.

Perhaps you have realized all life pursuits and feel there is nothing left to accomplish. You suddenly feel empty and at the short end of the stick. In my case I have a quiet feeling I have got many of my life goals pretty under wraps, but, yet, something still burns within me. Here it is: I should know more of my Creator and serve Him faithfully, till He decides it’s time to cross the shores!

WALKING WITH GORILLAS: The journey of an African Wildlife Vet by Dr Gladys Kalema – Zikusoka

Somewhere after 1996, newly returned to Uganda after a decade absence in USA for study and work, I bumped into someone, also just back. After graduating from the Royal Veterinary College, UK, Gladys Kalema, had almost immediately packed up to return “home”. Her mission was to help rebuild Uganda using her rich vet education. Now employed with Uganda National Parks she was all over rebuilding the country’s wildlife, long shattered through decades of war and anarchy.

Walking with the GorillaI must say I found this life of hers curious. Yes I had grown up with a guard dog at home- we called him Snap; but a life dedicated to taking care of wildlife was just out of my depth. If anything all I knew based on my university days was students who got to study vet medicine it was because they had missed out on their first choice- human medicine. But here was someone for whom practicing vet medicine by scouring national parks, habitat for wildlife, trekking to treat mountain gorillas, among others, was a life passion.

At a certain point we worked together to start a newsletter where she enthusiastically shared her adventurous work to those who might capture her vision. As our work took us in different directions, I remotely followed this wildlife vet career with a certain bemusement and growing respect, as I kept taking note of the awards she was scooping through her conservation promotion work for wildlife.

In “Walking with Gorrilas” Gladys has now put together a well candidly written story of her life, which gives a vivid account of her path breaking career as a scientist and conservationist.

Born to a political family, at age 2, Gladys suffered a family blow of many to come, when her father, William Kalema, a former Minister in the deposed Milton Obote government, was abducted by soldiers linked to the new Idi Amin regime. He was never seen again. Growing up without a Dad, though fortunately in a family with a wide rich extensive network, she would often find her solace in a brood of pets kept at home for play. At an early age she decided a vet career was for her as it would fullfil her ambition to take care of animals.

Upon return from her studies Gladys joined Uganda National Parks as the first veterinary officer, courtesy of Director Professor Eric Edroma, who gave her the job. He retinue thereafter was a most thrilling one – from following up and treating sick mountain gorillas to translocations giraffes and elephants to more accommodating environments.

The book has multiple engrossing scenes- like a time where after leading an elephant translocation exercise one white official decided to take credit claiming that Ugandans lack initiative. Gladys stood up to this burly official who had to apologize. On another occasion Gladys found herself being chased by elephants that almost crushed her to death. Then there was a narrow survival from a road accident and her mother, Mama Rhoda Kalema, ever supportive of her unconventional career, being informed she had passed on. Fortunately it was not true!

Africans have lived with our wildlife cousins in a balanced eco system for millenniums. Unfortunately economic disruption and increased land scarcity has affected co existence. After taking a break for further studies in the US, Gladys decided to found the non profit organisation – Conservation Through Public Health. It aims to promote our meaningful coexistence.

A married mother of two boys, Gladys now devotes her time promoting her conservation work, together with her husband, Lawrence Zikusooka. They met while undertaking her post graduate studies in the US and together they have formed a powerful team couple dedicated to wildlife conservation. As an IT specialist Lawrence has enhanced the conservation cause by also adding another dimension of using tele centers to share information in the community.

Observing all her work once I happened to ask Gladys what drives her. Her answer was prescient, “My fathers legacy ..!” It’s not only him but I am sure her deceased siblings would all be just as proud.

After reading this book which I sensed could impact the lives of many girls I asked Gladys how it was doing on Uganda market. I gathered it was making progress but could do better. So, I want to encourage all those interested in a good inspirational read, to grab it as fast. It left me filled with pride to see a home girl who has turned an idea into a phenomenal global cause.


John Mwesigwa Nagenda ( 1938 – 2023): The Long Walk back home!

As he lay dying, the son stood on the edge, a storm of thoughts clouding his mind. His father, whom he loved deeply, was a famous global Evangelist, who had preached for a quarter of a century around the world the Gospel of salvation in Christ. However, himself, he had long walked away from the faith.

When I met John Mwesigwa in his early eighties, he not only shared with me his final moments with his father, Nagenda, but on the subject of receiving Christ as a personal Savior, he was quite adamant. “I loved my father dearly,” he told me, a bit teary. “But I just don’t believe you need to be saved to go to heaven!” It was just after noon and he took a sip of whiskey at Kampala Club where as President of Kampala West Rotary Club I had just honoured him with a vocational award, for his life of service as a writer.

In 1912 William Nagenda, had been born to a leading Muganda saza (province) chief, Festo Munyangenda. During the early reign of Ssekabaka Mutesa 1, Munyangeda briefly served as a regent. As was common then for sons of chiefs Nagenda was taken to King’s College Budo where he excelled to go to Makerere University. He graduated with a Diploma, the highest award offered, and was posted to the colonial central government base in Entebbe as a clerk. There while attending an open air crusade meeting led by a one Simeon Nsibambi, he made a life turning decision to accept Jesus as a personal saviour. And his life was never the same.

Nagenda resigned his secure government job, to engage in full time Christian ministry. Together with Nsibambi the two married two beautiful sisters of a leading chief, Erastus Bakaluba. While Nsibambi would marry Eva; Nagenda went for the younger Sala.

Nsibambi had also resigned from his government job as health inspector. A chance meeting with a British missionary, Dr Joe Church, had led him surrender completely his life to Christ. After that Nsimbabi had also led his younger brother, Blasio Kigozi, to Christ. Kigozi as well married a Bakaluba girl, Katherine. This trio became full time lay preachers, using the Nsibambi home in Bulange as a base.

Blasio Kigozi was a fiery preacher whom audiences could not resist as he urged all to repent and accept Jesus. Dr Church appointed him as Headmaster of Gahini Evangelistic Training School. However, in 1936 after a mission trip to Gahini, Rwanda, where Dr Church had started a missionary hospital, Blasio passed away following a short illness. Nagenda was posted to Gahini to succeed him. And it is here in 1938 that he and Sala gave birth to a bouncing son whom they baptized the name of Mwesigwa ( “Our God is faithful!”)

Bishop Stuart who headed the Anglican church easily saw in Nagenda the kind of leader he wanted. After a brief time as a Chaplain at a tea estate owned by a committed Christian business couple, Leslie Wilsons, he convinced Nagenda to attend Bishop Tucker Theological College and join mainstream clergy.

Founded in 1913 by Bishop Alfred Tucker the College was the best theological institution in the region, not just training priests of the Anglican Church, but also teachers and certain other vocational skills. When Nagenda joined he was on fire for Christ and started preaching against sin, repentance and modern practices that had made the church “cold!” Nagenda roused his fellow students to get up at 4 am for fervent prayers. Feeling threatened by this “revival movement” of young believers, the administration resisted. The matter went up to Bishop Stuart who was already under siege from the young balokole ( savadees) accusing the church of being lukewarm. He sided with the administration. The radicals were given an ultimatum to cease with their revival campaign. But they refused to balk down. In the end Nagenda, together with 26 students, just a month to graduation, were all expelled.

But that was not the end of the matter. The Anglican church now felt under attack from the radical balokole who were pushing her traditional members to embrace salvation. Coincidentally these balokole were from the leading Baganda families and wielded a lot of influence for the church to be concerned. Yet, also, among the balokole were also those who wanted to leave the Anglican church and form a separate church. What saved the day was when Nsibambi and Nagenda, the leaders of the movement, decided against exit. Their reasoning was that the church needed them most and it was better to preach “okulokoka” (salvation) while still in the church, than outside. Indeed, to this day, the balokole remain part of mainstream Anglican church.

It is generally acknowledged that if Nsibambi, a former Head Prefect at Budo, had not given his life to Christ, and continued with his government career, he would have risen to become a Kattikiro ( Prime Minister) of the 500 year plus Buganda kingdom government. Likewise, for Nagenda too, Bishop Stuart in sending him to Mukono, the idea was he could one day rise to become the first African Bishop. Bishop Stuart was disappointed when Nagenda refused to repent, who insisted that he had obeyed God. As a result of that, he was punished more, with Bishop Stuart revoking his license to preach in the Anglican church.

Denied of the opportunity to share the Gospel in church, Nagenda decided thereon to spend the rest of his life sharing the gospel of salvation as a street evangelist. He and Dr Church, whose license was also revoked, would occasionally be invited to speak within and outside Uganda. In 1946 Nagenda made his first evangelical mission to England. He had a very good command of the English language and easily won over crowds. Soon he was visiting the rest of Europe, parts of Africa, the US and South America on evangelical missions.

As Nagenda became a global evangelist, Sala at home was busy as a doting mother. Like all believing mothers, Sala introduced Sunday school stories about Jesus to her son. Although we have no record, at one point, Sala, must also have led young Mwesigwa in a prayer of salvation, which would normally happen with all children raised in believers home.

Nagenda and Sala also decided to take Mwesigwa to the best Christian mission schools around at the time. Starting him at Mwiri College, Busoga, Mwesigwa, who also had a stint at Kigezi High School, would later join King’s College Budo in the most famous class of Jubilants ( Budo @50 years). His Budo classmates would later read like Who is Who in Uganda. Among them was Charles Kikonyogo, later Governor Bank of Uganda, Professor FIB Kayanja, later Vice Chancellor Mbarara University of Science & Technology, Professor Phares Mutibwa, later the noted historian, Dr Jack Jagwe, later Medical Superintendent Mulago hospital, Dr Edward Kakonge, later a cabinet minister. But there was also Rev Laban Bombo, later not only my muko ( brother in law); but one who would return to Budo where for nearly 30 years he taught a future generation of global leaders.

After passing his Cambridge Certificate of Education with a first-class, Mwesigwa joined Makerere University where he had two interesting classmates- Joyce Kaddu, later a Vice Chair of Public Service Commission and Benjamin Mkapa, later President of Tanzania. They would remain close friends over the years. “Once when President Mkpa was in Uganda on a visit,” Joyce Kaddu would share with me, “Mkapa invited both of us for a private dinner at Sheraton hotel. We had such a good time reminiscing about our Makerere days!”

At Makerere University Mwesigwa’s love of writing flowered. It was not by accident though. Mwesigwa’s maternal grandfather, Erasto Bakaluba, was a writer of a small book “Emmere ya’Baganda”! His mother Sala had written an unpublished novel. When Mwesigwa joined university a young and restless African educated class was rising eager to define African identity in their words. Mwesigwa would become editor of a literary magazine Penpoint which first published his poems and short stories. In 1962 after graduation, Mwesigwa joined the Oxford University Press where he would edit and publish many of the emerging works of African writers.

As Mwesigwa rose and established himself in the literary world publishing poems like “Gahini Lake” and short stories like, “And This, At Last” he started cooling towards the faith of his parents. Somewhere in the mid sixties after preaching salvation on the five continents, Nagenda had slowed down. Concerned about his health, his many friends in the United Kingdom took him in, but as his condition worsened, he returned to Uganda.

By then Nagenda and Sala had given their all to their six children: Stephen, Ruth, Jane, Tendo and Jim, the best education of the day. Through their global connections they secured them places in overseas universities and all would go on to become well established. They looked with pride as Mwesigwa not only established himself as a writer but became a lion in the sporting world. In 1975 Mwesigwa would represent East Africa at the World Cricket match, by then recognized as perhaps the fastest bowler in East Africa.

So why would Mwesigwa, successful in life, now start cooling towards the faith of his loving parents! What had happened is that out in the world, freed from the religious atmosphere of his childhood, Mwesigwa had encountered a world of intellectuals and egregious sports lover, some hard drinking, who inevitably shook his earlier beliefs as a born again Christian. Among African intellectuals who, ironically had largely been educated through missionary schools, it was a fashion to scorn Christianity once exposed to the rest of the world. Many were quick to observe that Christian missionaries had hypocritically painted African cultures negatively as they held up theirs. In reaction prominent writers like Nagenda’s age mate, James Ngugi, decided to renounce the Christian faith as the religion of the exploiter. James Ngugi renounced his Christian name James, though Mwesigwa never went that far and retained his name John.

Another reason, less obvious, but clearer to the spiritual eyes, was because Mwesigwa was the First born of Evangelist Nagenda’s six children. In the Bible we find that when Moses went out to plea for the release of the Israelites and met opposition from Pharaoh, the only way the latter agreed was after God moved to snap the life of all First borns, with the exception of those of the Israelites. In as much as the First born belongs to the Lord; the enemy who comes to “kill and destroy” is always after these! If Mwesigwa would turn his back on his father’s faith, as the eldest child, then the rest had no one to look up to. Each one could walk his way.

On this point we must note that, as Mwesigwa walked away from the faith, the relationship between his parents remained strong. To the end they prayed he would return to the faith they had given their life to and preached around the world.

No longer identifying himself as a Christian, Mwesigwa now embraced humanism as an alternative belief system. The seventies were perilous times and Mwesigwa like many intellectuals of his time fled into exile. His fellow writer, Robert Serumaga, was one of those who took up arms to fight for removal of Idi Amin. In 1980 President Obote returned to power after contested elections. Some of those aggrieved decided to take up arms and wage a guerrilla war using Luwero Triangle as a base. Along the way Mwesigwa also joined in the struggle helping connect Prince Ronald Mutebi with Yoweri Museveni, of whom many Baganda were quite sceptical. Eventually he led Prince Mutebi to the battlefield, which was a turning point in that wars fortune.

Grateful for his support, after Mr Museveni took power, in 1986, Mwesigwa was appointed a member of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the abuse of Human rights witnessed during the atrocious war. Having distinguished himself, he was later promoted to Senior Presidential advisor on Public Relations, a position he held up to the time of his death. In a sense Mwesigwa was one of those woud have the longest running relationship with President Museveni. But it must be said, also, it was often a fractured one, especially when out of exasperation and apparent lack of access to the President, he would take to his pen that could send shiver in many where he openly disagreed on important issues like removal of Presidential term limits.

In the early 2000s I started attending Prayer Breakfast prayer organized by Mr Balak Kirya. In 1966 Balak Kirya was one of the five ministers detained without trial by the Obote government who were opposed to his coup plot against President Mutesa. After Obote regained power Kirya quickly joined the rebels and took up base in Nairobi. One day he was kidnapped and hauled back to Luzira maximum security. There alone in a cold cell Kirya gave his life to Christ. Now as a Minister in the Museveni government he started weekly prayer breakfast meetings focusing on leaders. One day we were joined by Stephen, the younger brother to Mwesigwa and, one who himself confessed Christ as a personal savior. Later when he left to take over the management of the Namutamba tea estate, I could only relate with the Nagendas through Mwesigwa’s New Vision weekly column, One man’s week.

I was an enthusiastic reader and aside from following his incisive commentaries I could not help but count how many times he would bring up the memory of Nagenda and Sala, whom he had outlived for over thirty years. Yet, almost in the same breath, Mwesigwa, would also remind readers, that unlike them, he was not a believer. “My religion is humanism” he shared freely in one of his last New Vision interviews.

Incidentally, Mwesigwa was not the only First born to walk away from his father’s faith. The eldest son of Nsibambi, Dr John Nsibambi, had also backslid. Married to my cousin Solome Nabulya, I never heard anything about the faith of his father while growing up. All I knew was that he was living a high town life. But with the passage of years, Dr John Nsibambi, repented and gave his life back to Christ. Later he was joined by his younger brother Apollo Nsibambi, then Prime Minister of Uganda.

But where was Mwesigwa! Unlike his Nsibambi cousins, Mwesigwa, held on to the fences, even as he aged. In one New Vison interview, then 80, he spoke ruefully, “God exists and I don’t deny that according to the Bible, Christ came. I have read a lot about it, but I have my point of departure from my cousins, like Apollo Nsibambi, who got saved and stopped and then became a Christian again..!”

By then his star as a writer had soared, with a novel “Seasons of Tembo” to his name. He took on many prestigious positions in society, chairing the Uganda Cricket Association, among many honors. High as he went there was though that distinct, quiet but highly regarded part of society who, whatever Mwesigwa wrote would read and see him through lenses of “the son of an Evangelist”! For one of the permanent facts about our lives is that none of us can deny our identity. All of us inherited a certain identity at birth. If you are born a child of a Sheikh even if you turn out something else, you will always be known as “the son of a Sheikh”! Jesus is the “son of a Carpenter”! So, even as Mwesigwa took on a different belief system, and cast doubt on his father’s, he would remain ever “the son of an Evangelist!”

More importantly, many of the balokole were praying for him, that however long it took, no matter, one day, Mwesigwa- omwana’ w’omulokole, ( son of a savedee) would come back to his father’s fold, as he would have wished.

And why would they care so much? For some it was simply because a man called Nagenda and his wife Sala, had led them to Christ. In her autobiography, “My Life is weaving” Rhoda Kalema shared how as a young newly born-again Christian she visited the Nagenda home in Namutamba. “William was approachable, friendly and humble. He talked to me in a personal way about my new salvation…He promised to pray for me, for God to guide to me.”

After handing him his Rotary vocational award we continued to engage. Although I have read he could set terror in many, personally, I found him a gentleman of extreme grace and with a rich sense of humor. Once after the loss of a sister I placed a call to him but we missed each other. The moment he got an opportunity he got back to me apologizing profusely.

In another call I shared a matter of great concern. After reading about Nagenda and the 26 students expelled in 1941 from Mukono, because of their beliefs, I wondered if was it not about time that Uganda Christian University ( the successor of Bishop Alfred Tucker Theology) where I was then on staff, should apologize for their summary dismissal and award them posthumous diplomas! History had vindicated the Nagenda-led expelled students, who never wavered in their beliefs even if the decision had cost them their career ambitions. Through these expelled students the East African revival was born that touched the rest of the world. Mwesigwa immediately warmed to the idea. But then, by now, his health was in steep decline and we didn’t follow up. Our last conversation was when he told me how he was struggling to take regular walks out on his wide veranda, and I encouraged him to just carry on.

Far away in Tanzania, while following events back home, early this month I received news that Mwesigwa had passed on. Immediately a thought raced through my mind, almost too terrifying to behold. “Did Mwesigwa finally return to the faith of his father!” I felt a mixture of sadness and anger at the same time, thinking what a loss!

Then, as the day closed, my heaviness was lifted when news came from a close family member: “John confessed salvation in his hospital bed to his wife. I talked to him while he was alert. He didn’t deny his confession. Yesu talina gwalemwa. Tukutendereza!”

Jesus once asked, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? ( Mathew 8:12). To illustrate the point he gave the story of the prodigal son who, left all his father had for him, wandered out in the world, only to realize there was no better home to be than return his father’s.

Not so long ago I happened to be attending a funeral of some important person. The Mwesigwa’s cousin, Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi stood up to say something about the deceased. “I wonder what kind of rejoicing is happening now in heaven!” he mused. “It must be home coming joy up there!”

Nagenda and Sala gave all their lives to win over the lost to Christ. What a joy it was and, is, that the First born, had returned home, finally, to enjoy eternity together with Maama and Taata! The heavens must have rejoiced with, “Tukutedereza Yesu!”

Joyce Kaddu ( 1939- 2022)- a teachers teacher; a mother’s mother, quietly bows out!

As the Luwero Triangle war took root in the mid-1980s in Uganda, the country was on the brink of being a failed state, and Mrs Joyce Agiri Natabi Kaddu, found herself at its epicenter. She was the Principal of Lady Irene Teacher Training College, Ndejje, Luweero District at that time and this all girls college was surrounded by terrorists, who habitually left mines in the roadway, disrupting movement of school supplies and personnel. Internal displacement of citizens was rife and an internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp had already been set up in the college vicinity. Joyce was faced with the daunting task of keeping her students safe in the midst of incredible danger. So early one day Joyce and her staff were forced to flee for their lives and they led students and walked to Kampala, 43 Km away. With her husband, Sylvester, they looked after at least 100 students for weeks in their home at Mutundwe since many couldn’t be reunited with their families right way. The Kaddu family home at Mutundwe was transformed into one big internally displaced students camp overnight!

To find words to characterize Joyce one may think of selflessness but also a certain charitable grace. When I called up Mrs Rhoda Kalema soon after service at Namirembe, to share how she remembered her, her description of her was – “a heroic woman” ( oyo abadde mu’kazi muzira!)

For over a decade while Joyce served as Vice Chair of the Public Service Commission I would meet with her on a weekly basis for an early morning prayer breakfast event. This is how I got to know her exceedingly well and she became an adoptive mother, though at best she was my dear friend. Many a time she traveled from the Kaddu Country Home in Luyobyo – Luweero District and she was unfailing as the first to appear at Fairway Hotel, at Nakasero for those prayers. Dressed immaculately in her signature Busuuti, she was a fixture of grace.

Heroism defined Joyce all through her life. Born in August 1939, to an enterprising coffee farmer – Samwiri Merekizadeki Kasule, Joyce was blessed with a far seeing father who believed in girls’ education. When western education arrived here the Baganda as a patrilineal society reserved it largely for boys. The path of a girl was early marriage. But her father and her mother Alice Nabatanzi thought differently; they took and placed her in a girls only boarding primary school- Nalinya Lwantale, Ndejje. There she met some of her best friends in life including Mrs Robina Kalega and Mrs Christine Nassolo Kityo (RIP).

This was no mean undertaking, for it would raise eyebrows among neighbours, dismissing it as a fad and waste of money. In fact, many didnt think Joyce would last before dropping out. But not only would she complete Nalinya Lwantale, against odds, she then moved up to Gayaza High School. Joyce’s father would ride her on a bicycle from Ndejje to Kampala where he would hire a special taxi to take her to Gayaza High School. He would lead her by the hand determined that his girl would get the best education available.

At Gayaza Joyce started out with lifelong friends Rhoda Kayanja( later Mrs Nsimbabi RIP) and the vivacious Lydia Lubwama ( later Mrs Mugambi), Mrs Ida Wanendeya, Ms Robina Kawungu, Mrs Rose Kitaka, Freda Kase ( RIP) ( later Mrs Luganda) and others. These bright and self confident girls would go on to storm Makerere University where women were a rarity, at the time. You can imagine how they were intensely competed for during dance balls! They stayed in the only girls hostel then- Mary Stuart hall. One of their male school mates would go on to become President of Tanzania- HE Ben Mkapa ( RIP). After school they kept in touch. Once as President Ben Mkapa here on a state vist, he called up and took out Joyce and other classmates for a private dinner at Sheraton Hotel.

In 1963 Joyce graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. They were few graduates then, leave alone women, and Joyce quickly secured a job with Shell. And just as she was starting, a dashing young man newly returned from England, arrived.

On his father’s side Sylvester Kaddu her husband-to-be, was one of only two children born to Rev Samson Kiwanuka, a former Chaplain of Makerere College School and later Dean of Anglican church Diocese of Bulemezi. His only sister was Gibwa Gwokyalya ( later Mrs Kanyerezi). Sylvester’s mother, Deborah Nandawula Lebeka Mulira was from the Kooki princely ancestry; the elder sister of EMK Mulira and other famous Mulira siblings. After joining Buddo Junior School and Kings College Budo in late 40s/ early 50s, where some of his school mates included Peter Nkambo Mugerwa, Mrs Betty Senkatuka and my cousin Mangalita Kavuma ( later Mrs Sam Odaka). After he went to Makerere University and then on to London University where he majored in English and for a number of years taught English people their language!

Sylvester was a man of many gifts, with a deep baritone voice and perhaps the best English speaker around after Ssekabaka Mutesa II. It was only a matter of time before he met Joyce and the two became etwined.

On 15th December 1962, these love birds were wedded at Namirembe Cathedral and hosted their guests at Makerere University Arts quadrangle. Joyce’s matron was Eunice Lubega Posnansky (RIP) while Sylvester’s best man was his first cousin Erisa Kironde (RIP). They were deeply committed to each other as a couple and greeted each other as “Darling!” Fifty years later together with all the children around we met at the same wedding venue to celebrate what was a happy most productive union.

If there was a couple that was agreed on one thing this couple was decided on raising a big family. First had come Deborah (Debbie), quickly followed by Samson, Samuel (RIP), Mark, Micheal, Brenda ( Nina) and then finally Peter.

The 1970s were not a very easy time to raise a family of a nearly dozen children- families those days would open the door to extended family and both came from big families. Following Idi Amin’s Economic war the “magendo” economy wiped out much of salaried income due to galloping inflation. To survive most salary earning families had to find a “side hassle” and for the Kaddus it meant starting and running a restaurant, among others. At some point Joyce also decided to switch career and join the more stable teaching fraternity. Joyce would go on to teach at Aggrey Memorial School, Old Kampala Secondary School, Shimoni Teacher Training College culminating as Principal of Nalinya Lwantale, Ndejje.

In between she also found time for community work. Founded in 1902 as the first girls secondary school, she realised a need to have an umbrella alumni organisation for her alma matter. Joyce was a co founder and first Chairperson of Gayaza Old Girls Associaton. In 1977 when Uganda celebrated 100 years of Christianity Joyce was Secretary of Centenary celebrations. She went on to represent the church of Uganda at the World Council of Churches.

Here we must pause and ask ourselves where did Joyce pick her work ethic that enabled her juggle so many roles. Was it in born or it had to do with her upbringing- environment! I would argue the latter. Joyce had grown up under an enterprising coffee farmer. Any who knows about coffee cultivation, which involves hand pruning, harvesting, drying and bagging, will testify that this system would spare no lazy child who grew up under such a household. In fact children of coffee farmers so often were required to pick coffee berries themselves for their school fees. They had to get up early and work in fields late in the day. Such children came out with a work ethic that would enable them thrive in all adverse situations.

Joyce’s father loved preaching “hard work pays!” which became a life motto. Indeed it is these transferable life skills that Joyce passed on to her children. Life in her household was clockwork routine of scrubbing, washing, mopping and cooking meals. “She woke us up before dawn,” shared the children at the funeral, “and we were up on our feet doing all sorts of chores through the day!” There was hardly any work for house hold helpers, indeed she discouraged the culture of having domestic help .

For Debbie, being the eldest, she sometimes found herself preparing a meal for nearly 20 mouths as the Kaddu home was open to all. At one point she stepped back, confused if this was her “real mother” as she assigned her one task after the other!

Parents of today who have been let on to popular liberal jargons about “child abuse” may here whish to reflect on their style especially if they observe the fruits of this upbringing on her children. In latter life, all would graduate with university degrees and go on to excel in their professions.

Both Joyce and Sylvester had been raised in church and were always active, with Joyce as a strong member of Mothers Union. In the early 1970’s the late Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga started seeking out career professionals to join the “collar” as tent makers. Sylvester who had since progressed as a career civil servant was approached. The couple prayerfully considered and decided to take the leap. It was a carageous decision of faith as it meant giving up on their house tucked in Nakasero leafy suburb. Sylvester had been the first African Clerk to Parliament and rose to Parmanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Animal husbandry. But they never looked back.

I had grown up much in Joyce’s shadow. At Budo I studied with three of Kaddu boys ( famed for piano playing) who became close buddies, particularly Sam (RIP). At Makerere University I was among steady “benchers” in Debbie’s room in CCE hall, till we heard there was a certain Doctor firmly locked in, and then deflated, we all scattered. Then while living in Chicago, US, I met flight Captain Gad Gasaatura, who introduced me to the Prayer Breakfast movement. When Hon Balaki Kirya was abducted by Obote 2 regime forces in Nairobi in the 1980s and imprisoned for the second time ( he was one of the five ministers detained during Obote I regime), while locked up in Luzira prison he gave his life to Jesus as a personal Saviour. After the Museveni government took over he decided to reach out to fellow leaders with a message of salvation in Christ through prayer breakfast outreaches.

This is where I met Joyce who, of course, was a commited believer, upon return to the country. Yes, she knew me well, as her family and mine had been close, due to our common inheritance as children of Balya Nnaka- those who originate from Bulemezi. In getting to know her I found a late friend and where had I been all along!

We hit it off from go and she gently urged me to get settled with a family as fast. When I met someone it is her I had to call upon to accompany me for kwanjula. Without waste she complied and along the way as was typical of her mentored me in all the grand cultural norms.

Almost immediately after our wedding the calls started. Her request was simple but direct- “Kati muzaale abaana musirike” ( Now start having as many children as you must). She expected numbers to rival her near dozen troop. When I slowed down I knew I had to explain myself. I argued that these were days of much smaller families. “No!” She waved me off. “It is God who gives and raises children!”

As she advanced in age Joyce’s robust health started to ebb. Once she had a long stay in hospital but with her courage to live she pulled through. During the lockdown, she called me as she would every once in a while. On this occasion I felt quite embarrassed for I should have been the one searching her out. But here she was minding about her friends. Characteristic of her she asked about her grand children, name by name. Her voice was breaking and I sensed she was struggling with her health, which I later confirmed with Debbie.

I must here thank all her children who circled around her and gave her the best care including protectiing her from sudden intrusions. Early on the morning of October 17th 2022, Joyce quietly slipped away.

About two decades ago I had a pressing family matter over someone mean. I shared my concern with Prof William Senteza- Kajubi, the old Vice Chancellor of Makerere and Nkumba universities, a mutual friend, known for his sagacious wisdom. In counseling the Professor told me a story of a very wealthy lady whom he had just attended her funeral but then “hardly anybody showed up”! When Joyce passed on a troop of the hundreds of thousands of those her life had touched rushed to her home in Mutundwe, attended her farewell service at Namirembe, and accompanied her gratefully to her country home at Luyobyo and final resting place deep in Bulemezi. It was a fitting farewell for a true General of grace.

In life I had many long chats with Joyce. I can’t recall once where we talked politics. But if anything everything about Joyce was political. In the way she dressed in that immaculate Busuuti and carried herself with matchless grace- there was a political statement on personal conduct. In the way she handled her affairs with meticulous care and duty above self – there was a political statement on work. In the way she fullfiled her duties at the Public Service Commission without abusing office- there was a political statement on how a nation should be run. In the way she groomed her children to grow into responsible citizens of our commonwealth- there was a political statement on the importance of a family. In the way she cared for her friends and so often went out of her way to cater for their welfare – there was a political statement on what matters most in life.

When Sylvester passed on in 2015 for some reason I had not been able to progress on to the burial place at Kiwumpa. Yet this time I rushed ahead to dig in the moment. It’s a beautiful place I found, where the three, together with Sam now all rest, with an air of tranquility, all around, of a life welll lived that brought so much joy and meaning to all who were touched by these good and gentle people, and their sweet memory will live for ages on.

The Manager and staff deployment

Central Credit Company (CCC) had a niche business of collecting bad debts from institutions- particularly delinquent schools and hospitals. They had perfected a near 90% performance rate through a combination of aggressive tactics involving absolute persistence and direct threats. This business model had over time generated a number of copycats and business had started to ebb. Then, after an audit, it was found there had been an internal fraud, and the contract of the General Manager was canceled.

This is how Moses was brought in as the new General Manager. He came in at a time when CCC’s performance had dipped to less than 20 percent of her debt collection dues, and the owners were thinking of closing it down. Moses started by perusing through the company operations and discovered two things. First the number of branches especially those upcountry struck him as excessive. He noted debt collectors were even spread out in those scattered branches.

This was despite the fact that almost three quarters of the money generated was from the central region! Moses knew something had to be done.
“Why all these non performing branches with debt collectors all over the country?” he asked the Operations Manager.
“Well, because our debtors are spread all over the country,” the Operations Manager explained.
“But is there business in those centers!”
They bring in some, still!” argued the Manager. “Besides we hope they will one day catch up with the rest of the regions!”
“No you can’t do that, “Moses observed. “Branch opening must be guided by where the business is. In fact, if there is no business in certain places then we should consider shutting down operations there.”
“But Sir, some of the owners want us to have those branches there!” the Operations Manager cautioned.

Indeed, when Moses inquired he found the reasons why CCC had opened so many branches upcountry, even in places with no business, it had to do with a certain Board member who had real estate upcountry and wanted to tap into further income. Moses quickly brought to the Board’s attention that this was at the expense of developing a viable business since a majority of these branches were loss-making. Fortunately, the member saw the point; he agreed, and the nonperforming branches were subsequently shut down.
Following this, these staffs were brought back and deployed in the most productive region. Here they started exerting effort amongst the target market. This new strategy worked and CCC’s fortunes recovered.

In this case, we come across a familiar problem of an organization where branches and staff have been opened nationwide regardless of revenue performance. The idea could have been motivated on the ground that those branches and staff would help spur income. Unfortunately, for various reasons, this hasn’t materialized. But while it has been easy for CCC to close nonperforming branches and shift redundant staff back to headquarters, as we noted above, there are cases where that is not easy. For some organizations, political reasons override business sense. Yet even then this is a risk especially when it comes to business sustenance.

The Manager and Leading Change

“To meet our budget we are also expecting income from our privatized parking lot,” so said Enoch, the Finance Manager. He was discussing this pressing matter with the newly appointed Principal, Mr. Mugerwa. “However, the problem is we can’t easily track payments!”

“How come?” asked Mr. Mugerwa.

“Our sources of income are quite erratic, Sir!” Enoch admitted.

“You mean you don’t have any way of tracking them?” Mr. Mugerwa interrupted.

“No!” Enoch confessed. “But is there a way!”

Mr. Mugerwa had just assumed the position of Principal. What had shocked him was to find that the Institute which he had looked at from afar with admiration was stuck in the past where almost every facet of its work could be described as “manual”! In the office, he found they were even using old electric typewriters. Whenever he made a request for some information it had to be delivered in person, and time was lost.

“We need to move the Institute into the information age,” in his first meeting with top management, he urged. He noticed almost all were gray-haired and dressed in dark suits. The reception was quite muted with some insisting there was no need. “We have always done well in the past and why worry!”

In spite of this apparent lack of enthusiasm, Mr. Mugerwa was convinced the organization had to change. He couldn’t think of any other way about it given the new drivers of the business. Soon after, therefore, one of his first major decision was to purchase a Management Information System (MIS). Challenged by his Top Management elderly staff why he had to spend so much, he offered, “It will help us collect, process, and store data. Once information is processed it will be disseminated at the key of the button for the required purpose.”

“But how?” one of the older staff sleepily wondered, genuinely puzzled.

“For example, payment of fees,” the principal explained, “could all be tracked by the MIS. This will help us save time and increase our productivity!”

Now that the MIS had been installed the opposition grew into fierce resistance. “No one knows how to use these things!” This became ever the convenient excuse.

“Well, let’s organize training!” Mr. Mugerwa countered.

A meeting to educate staff on MIS use was organized. But at the scheduled meeting, which was well advertised, there was a no-show. The department’s elderly heads had conveniently failed to pass on the information for their subordinates to attend. Noticing the absence, Mr. Mugerwa decided to walk down the office bloc and move from door to door directing staff to attend.

The opposition moved to yet another level. Occasionally reports came that the MIS was “permanently down” though on checking it was something minor and easily rectified. Once Mr. Mugerwa got a call from a prospective parent who had paid fees but yet the student had not been admitted. The Institute was not responding. When Mr. Mugerwa called up the Registrar, she quickly offered. “We have a volume of applications and I need to sort through the paperwork!”

“I thought all prospective students were now logging on to the MIS!” he queried.

“But some parents do not know how to use the system!” explained the Registrar.

“You could take them through the system,” he advised. “The trouble is you have left an alternative. What I want to see is we remove any alternative course of action.”

Here, in this case, we see the complexities of leading change in a modern organization. The new principal has rightly noted that the Institute needs to embrace new technologies to manage better. He comes from a younger age group that is well abreast with these changes and feels they will drive the business forward. However, once he moves ahead to share his ideas, predictably, opposition mounts. This resistance is driven by fear ( real or imaginary) and nervousness at loss of power. The resistance manifests itself both passively (failure to attend meetings) and actively (disruption of the new system).

To carry through this change initiative the Principal will need a communication and advocacy plan to woo the reluctant on board. He may also need to generate quick wins, so as to show and hopefully convince the skeptics that his change initiatives work. If resistance does not abate, he might have to isolate the resistors, champion the early adopters, which is vital for her survival and growth.

The Problem with Insecurity

There are certain early encounters in life whose true meaning only unfolds with time. Years ago while an undergraduate student at Makerere university, I happened to call upon a teacher-friend, Prof Rose Mbowa. She was a dramatist, and then Head of Department of Music, Dance, and Drama. Sometime back we had talked about staging a Shakespeare play, me acting as Macbeth. On that visit, I bumped into a famous face which would have made my day. Except something else happened.

There is a play “The Burdens” which some here may argue is the best to ever come out of the continent. On this occasion, Prof Mbowa suddenly introduced me to the author who was visiting- John Ruganda! Of course, I could hardly contain my excitement to meet a famous author. However, the playwright was in no mood to entertain strangers. He hardly took note of me as I offered to greet him, for something else was deeply troubling him.

Ruganda was one of many qualified Ugandans who had fled into exile in the wake of the atrocious Idi Amin regime, a period of blight that was followed by the anarchy of the 1980s. Out, through sheer hard work, many prospered with glittering qualifications and excelled in their professions. After the Museveni government took power in 1986, a great number finally saw an opportunity to return home and make their contribution.

Only to be greeted by a rude surprise. You see not everyone was comfortable, particularly when it came to their taking up jobs in certain coveted institutions. There was tussle of sorts between “stayees” and “returnees”, as the foster group feared the “returnees” had come to get their jobs or say, supplant them! Suddenly terms of entering certain institutions were revised; exorbitant papers were now demanded along with heaven knows! In other words for qualified “returnees” getting a job back home had become like going through the needle.

The famous author was one of those locked out. Here he was now crying foul when we accidentally met. I do not know what happened after. I think Prof Mbowa advised him to try elsewhere, but what options were there in such a squeezed economy. Maybe he picked up his bags and made his way back to exile, as I never met him in life again.

When a poor country that is short of manpower slams its door against its own people who are qualified, then you know you have one big problem. You would imagine that arms would be spread out for such a well-qualified person as was Ruganda, eager to be engaged, yet here he was being put to task.

Perhaps you think this is a Ugandan thing where someone qualified is denied entrance or pushed out of a job. There was this Ugandan buddy of mine in the US who after graduating with an Economics degree (Honors) applied and got a job in a leading bank in Oklahoma. Brilliant, he settled to work. Soon he found not everyone was excited about having him there. Incidentally, he was the only black in his Department. Discouraged, I urged him to stay on. But the racism was brutal. Early one morning he drove up to my door. “I can’t take it no more,” he sighed. “I have decided to quit.”

You would think that organizations exist to welcome eager and enthusiastic performers like him. After all, this is what we were taught in school- go and do your best. Well, here was someone of a wrong race, and a group had closed in and decided he didn’t belong. But I must give you some cheer, for when Enoch moved out of state, he came across a smaller financial organization down in neighboring Texas. It gave him a chance. And here, though still the only black, his skills were appreciated and he prospered.

A few years ago I happened to visit a cousin, a medic currently based in the US. He has indeed prospered in the land of honey, as we are told, and his beautiful house is nestled in a picturesque wealthy zip code where properties go for over a million dollar bucks. Throughout my visit he kept fielding consultative calls. Somewhere along I noticed a collection of his advanced degrees all stuck in an old box. Normally you would expect these raised up in someone’s office. Not so fast. “I used to hang all these qualification in my company office,” he shared “Then my supervisor started having issues with me. The day I removed them that is when peace returned.”

So, it is about insecurity! A supervisor feeling threatened by a well-qualified staff! You would expect any good supervisor to desire and boast of an excellently qualified subordinate. But man, that’s not how the world works

But am I being too mournful here? Personally, I have had three or four supervisors/mentors who took my arm and led me the way. They were characters with large hearts willing to give me a chance. You are lucky when in life you find those, as I have been. But there were also those moments I choose to forget when some small persons stood in the way and raged, blocking me all the way. Those are always there.

Just this week I noticed a newspaper story with a headline, “Kyambogo in the final push to recruit nine Cuban professors” Oh, is it so? Out there I know literally thousands of qualified Ugandans, like Enoch and my cousin, who would wish to return home and serve their country, just as the playwright Rugunda. Yet since when did you hear of “Billions of Shillings saved to welcome back qualified Ugandan diaspora.” That would be one storm. Of course, it is far easier to open up the gates to Cuban Professors, since, apparently they pose no threat and comfort our inferiority complexes. The problem with insecurity.

The Manager and Leading Change

“To meet our budget we are also expecting income from our privatized parking lot,” so said Enoch, the Finance Manager.  He was discussing this pressing matter with the newly appointed Principal, Mr. Mugerwa. “However, the problem is we can’t easily truck payments!”

“How come?” asked Mr Mugerwa.

“Our sources of income are quite erratic, Sir!”  Enoch admitted.

“You mean you don’t have any way of tracking them?” Mr Mugerwa interrupted.

“No!” Enoch confessed. “How could we!”

Mr. Mugerwa had just assumed the position of Principal.  What had shocked him was to find that the  Institute which he had looked at from afar with admiration was stuck in the past where almost every facet of its work could be described as “manual”!  In the office he found they were even using old electric typewriters. Whenever he made a request for some information it had all to be delivered in person.

“We need to move the Institute into the information age,” in his first meeting with top management, he urged. He noticed almost all were gray-haired and dressed in dark suits. The reception was quite muted with some insisting there was no need. “We have always done well in the  past  and why  worry!”

In spite of this apparent lack of enthusiasm, Mr. Mugerwa was convinced the organization had to change. He couldn’t think of any other way about it given the new drivers of the business.  Soon after, therefore, one of his first major decision was to purchase a Management Information System (MIS). Challenged by his Top Management and elderly staff on why he had to spend so much, he offered, “It will help us collect, process, and store data. Once information is processed it will be disseminated at the key of the button for the required purpose.”

“But how?” one of the older staff wondered, genuinely puzzled.

“For example, payment of fees,” the principal explained, “could all be tracked by the MIS. This will help us save time and increase our productivity!”

Now that the MIS had been installed the opposition grew into fierce resistance.  “No one knows how to use these things!”  This became the convenient excuse.

“Well, let’s organize training!”  Mr Mugerwa countered.

A meeting to educate staff on MIS use was organized.  But at the scheduled meeting, which was well advertised, there was a no-show.  The department elderly heads had conveniently failed to pass on the information for their subordinates to attend. Noticing the absence, Mr. Mugerwa decided to walk down the office bloc and move from door to door directing staff to attend.

The opposition moved to yet another level. Occasionally reports came that the MIS was “permanently down” though on checking it was minor easily rectified blockages.  Once Mr. Mugerwa got a call from a prospective parent who had paid fees but yet the student had not been admitted. The Institute was not responding. When Mr Mugerwa called up the Registrar, she quickly offered.  “We have a volume of applications and I need to sort  through the paperwork!”

“I thought all prospective students were now logging on the MIS!”  he queried.

“But some parents do not know how to use the system!” explained the registrar.

“You could take them through the system,”  he advised. “The trouble is you have left an alternative to avoid usage.  What I want to see is we remove any  alternative  course  of  action.”

Here, in this case, we see the complexities of leading change in a modern organization. The new principal has rightly noted that the Institute needs to embrace new technologies to manage better. He comes from a  younger age group that is well abreast with these changes and feels they will drive the business forward. However, once he moves ahead to share his ideas, opposition rises. This resistance is driven by fear  ( real or imaginary) and nervousness at the loss of power.  The resistance manifests itself both passively (failure to attend meetings)  and actively (disruption of the new system).

To carry through this change initiative the  Principal will need a communication and advocacy plan to woo the reluctant on board.  He may also need to generate quick wins, so as to show and hopefully convince the skeptics that it all works. If resistance does not abate,  he might have to isolate the resistors and help the organization adopt new trends, which is vital for its survival and growth.