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.

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.

DR. Daniel Semambo, PhD (1957-2022): His Life, Mission & Legacy

Late one evening my mother returned from Mulago hospital where she was employed as a nurse, at Mwanamugimu outpatient clinic, her face distraught. “Last night they murdered the husband of my colleague!” I asked who that was again. This was 1980. A year earlier the Amin regime had fallen, but the joy of freedom was short-lived as the country collapsed into anarchy sparked by power struggles, starting with the fall of the Lule government. In 1979 shortly after the Binaisa government was sworn in a killing spree enveloped Kampala. Initially, it targeted medical workers, like Dr. Jack Barlow, the dentist, and Dr. Joseph Kamulegeya, of KCC, all of who fell prey to unknown assassins.

And now the killers had hit closer home. The gunmen had descended upon the home of Mr. and Mrs. Semambo in Nakulabye, there with axes had broken down the hard mahogany doors. Then they moved from room to room, searching for the General Manager of Produce Marketing Board. The kids were away at school but Kassede, the second last born, was there. He managed to step up onto a bicycle in a dark corridor, then take cover-up in the ceiling. Finally, the killers found their target and against all pleas to spare his life showered him a cascade of bullets. Then they left.

It was in 1950 when Herbert Semambo married a beautiful girl called Abisagi Proscovia Nabetweme. They had something in common as he had studied at King’s College Budo (KCB); and, at Gayaza High School (GHS). Then it was often said that GHS raised wives for Budo boys! Trained as an Agriculturalist and she as a nurse, they settled in Nakulabye, a Kampala neighborhood as public servants. Here they quietly raised all their nine children.

According to Baganda naming tradition, children do not carry surnames of their fathers. However, when Mr. Semambo had his fourth child he decided he should carry the Semambo name, unlike the rest, along with Dan.

At about 8, Dan was taken to the nearby Mengo Primary School, where he met a famed teacher called Mrs. Gladys Nsibirwa Wambuzi. Dan’s siblings remember him as quite mischievous, then, and he needed her strict but motherly touch. “Mrs. Wambuzi was a teacher’s teacher,” recalls Mrs. Olive Kyambadde, an old student of hers, “and Dan easily became one of her star students. She never believed in the cane but was demanding and brought out the best from her pupils.”

Grateful, later in life, Dan would remain close to Mrs. Wambuzi who went on to start Greenhill Academy. In 2004, a year before her sudden death, Dan, together with some of her famous students who include William Kalema Jr, Justice Kiryabwire, Dr Edward Kayondo; the Mengo Primary students organized a 50th-anniversary celebration in recognition of her impact on their lives.

If Dan was mischievous and could easily get in trouble he had something else going for him. His great grandfather, Katale, was the elder brother to the long-serving Baganda chief, the Ssekibobo Hamu Mukasa. In 1902 Hamu Mukasa had accompanied Buganda’s premier, Katikiro Appolo Kagwa, to attend the coronation of King Edward VII, becoming the first Ugandans to visit Europe.

Mr. Semambo grew up in Hamu Mukasa’s home at Mengo, along with the later composer of Uganda’s national anthem, George Kakoma. Dan would inherit the prodigious musical gifts that run through this family. Blessed with a rich tenor, as soon as he was done school he would run up the hill to sing with the Namirembe Cathedral Choir. “As a little boy on almost all weekends, Dan was here practicing and singing through all church services,” remised later one of the Cathedral choir patrons.

All the Semambo children after finishing primary school would progress on to KCB, their father’s old school. But when it came to Dan’s turn, he was advised to opt for St Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK). “If you are all in one school it will spoil you,” Dan told this writer, curious how given his strong Anglican background he ended up in a rival Catholic institution.

Dan would never look back on his time at SMACK. He joined with Dr. Alex Coutinho- who would later go on to become a global leader in HIV/AIDS prevention. “Dan was a very sociable character,” Dr. Coutinho recalls. “We had a tight-knit buddy group called “Kikati”. Dan was a member of the school band, Skylax, and was in hot demand as a dancer and soloist. He was very good at crooning ligala lyrics, popular at the time. He was also a sportsman, played tennis, and enjoyed the drama.”

For his A’level Dan joined Makerere College School (MAKOS), and it is here that he met another famed teacher- mentor called Mr. Edward Kasolo- Kimuli, who took him on as a son. The two would remain particularly close, such that when Dan heard his former Headmaster was ailing, he hurried to him in his retirement home in Buloba. They had a great visit, which closed with prayer.

Life is a series of decision-making, consciously or unconsciously, some with positive others with a negative impact on our lives. In 1978 Dan joined Makerere University to undertake a degree course in Veterinary medicine. One day as a resident of Nkrumah hall, he made the best decision ever of his life. Although he had grown up in church circles as a choir boy; he had never received Jesus as a personal savior. Having heard “For God so loved that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” ( John 3:16), Dan accepted Jesus and became saved- omulokole!

It is said that when the man Saul who once used to persecute Christians accepted Jesus as his savior one person scoffed, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’s followers..” (Acts 9:21). Dan, the once crooner of naughty lingala lyrics now, too, made a complete about turn in life, “After getting saved he was always on fire preaching the Gospel,” recalls Damoni Kitabire, his year mate and later Senior Economist and Country Manager Africa Development Bank. “Whenever he met anyone he would start by asking walokoka- are you saved!” This zeal to win others to Christ would permeate Dan’s life in everything he did to his last days.

The other change in Dan’s life is that he would now use his musical gift totally for Christ’s kingdom. At the university were a number of gifted musicians like John Sebutinde, Julia Semambo, Ruth Kawuma, Rita Mukwaya, Charles Male, Apollo Gessa, and others. These, along with Dan, joined hands in a praise band they dubbed Joint Heirs. Dan became one of its lead soloists as it toured churches and schools.

Upon graduation to put his veterinary skills to work, Dan went around Uganda teaching farmers modern livestock keeping. One particular rancher, Mr Kassim Kiwanuka of Kisozi ranchers, sought him out. But Dan turned down his lucrative offer because he had decided to work for the Government of Uganda. He hoped to secure a scholarship to go for further studies. Finally, he was sponsored to attend the University of Glasgow, UK, where he enrolled for a Phd programme.

Here he linked up with Damon Kitabire, who had also moved to the UK for postgraduate studies in Economics. “We became members of a Christian fellowship bringing together African and Caribbean students,” Mr. Kitabire recalls. “Dan was still on fire for Christ and would go around preaching and encouraging members to remain strong in the faith.”

Dan’s Phd studies did not go smoothly. Usually, for those pursuing doctoral studies, the key is being assigned the right supervisor. Unfortunately for Dan, his supervisor was not very supportive, which he found very frustrating. Eventually, he decided to report the difficult supervisor to the Head of Department.

“The Head of Department after a week decided to call over the supervisor and asked me to repeat my allegations in front of her,” he once shared with Dr. Jackson Mubiru, later his best man. “Without fail, I shared exactly what I had told my head in front of my supervisor, word for word. She was so embarrassed that she resigned as my supervisor. I was assigned a new supervisor and was able to complete in time.” Dan often told this story to show the importance of being truthful. “Imagine if I had lied to the Head of Department, what would have happened when he summoned me in front of the person I had accused!”

The title of Dan’s Phd was “Actinomyces pygonese in Embryonic Loss in Cattle”! Globally there is less than 2% of university graduates go on to attain a Phd. Dr. Dan Semambo, Phd, was now a scarce commodity that could easily settle down anywhere in the West and take up a comfortable lucrative offer. However, Dan had long settled in his mind to serve Uganda, grateful for sponsoring his studies up to that point. It was a bold decision given the haphazard state of the Ugandan economy in the early 1990s. After graduating he promptly flew back and joined the public service. “I had studied so as to share my skills with Uganda, after all,” he once told Dr. Mubiru. He would never leave Uganda even as attractive offers came his way later in life.

In 1992 I was out of the country doing postgraduate work in the US when I received a letter from a friend attending Makerere University, and a member of the Christian Union. She informed me of a young dashing man just returned from the UK whose commitment to Christ was so sweeping. Based in Entebbe this young man would jump on a motorcycle and visit the fellowship and other churches, to lead in praises. He was called Dr. Dan Semambo!

One day through these encounters, Dan spotted someone. A girl called Dorah Rukare, with looks that made heads turn and tongues roll.

Dorah was the second-born child of Prof and Mrs. Enock Rukare, based at Makerere University. Prof Rukare had accepted Jesus as a personal savior while at Mwiri College. As a student at Makerere University to cement his faith he used to visit the father of the Balokole (Born Again) movement in Uganda, Simeone Nsibambi at his home in Namirembe. “How are you?” he once recalled how Nsibambi would greet him. “Are you uplifting the Lord Jesus? ”

At GHS Dorah had progressed from being a House Leader to House Prefect of Corby House, before joining Makerere University for a B.Com degree. Raised in a loving strong Christian home she carried herself royally. Immediately a bevy of boys started pursuing her, some even faking salvation, knowing her standard. But Dan, the occasional lead singer of Joint Heirs, beat off that stiff competition. After she graduated and got a job at UCB, Wadengeya, would occasionally pick her up after work and take her out.

One day while out Dan asked for a commitment. “I want you to be my friend!” She later confessed about their engagement, musing this was not the most romantic proposal ever said. “But that was Dan!” He was always a forthright man.

Dan and Dorah were coming from two strong cultures- he from Buganda and she from Ankole. Among the Baganda, the norm is for women to kneel while serving men. This beautiful custom has often been misinterpreted as enslavement by the ill-informed. Yet it is nothing but a portrayal of filial respect within the family unit. During wedding functions normally brides perform this ritual.

Dorah was counseled that since she was marrying a firm Muganda man, she was expected to abide by this ritual. At the wedding reception in Lugogo indoor stadium on May 17th, 1997, the air was ripe with expectation how this Munyankore girl would perform this first test. Then, out of the blue, once the moment arrived, to the consternation of everyone there, Dan performed a coup de grace. He knelt before Dorah! Of course, Baganda boys had always knelt for their mothers; but even more so, Baganda men do kneel for a princess. Dorah was Dan’s princess!

“They were a very loving couple,” Dr. Siima Kavuma, Dorah’s childhood neighborhood friend who lived from time to time with them recalls, “always busy but with time for each other.” God would over the years bless the Semambo with six beautiful girls.

It is common to find Born – again Christians who shun their traditional cultures, like performing funeral rites considered as heathen practices, but Dan had the presence and self-assuredness in Christ to sieve through the good and bad. When it came to naming his daughters he gave all Baganda elephant clan names. This is quite important as inter-clan marriage is taboo here and these names help. The names they chose were Nanjobe, Nankadi, Kirokwa, Nasejje, Nabisere, and Nasozi, in their birth order. Dr. Siima Kavuma was tasked as Nanjobe’s god-mother.

Dan was there for Dorah all through their almost 25 years of marriage. “When the children started going to school,” she would later remise, “It was Dan who bathed, dressed, and dropped all at school. He was the unfailing visitor throughout all their school visiting days, religiously following up on their school work and extolling them to do the best!”

A visit to their Entebbe home, as I would on occasion, was ever so uplifting. The girls, as they grew up would fill it with laughter and joy, cheered by their doting parents.

Armed with his Phd, Dan was now employed as a geneticist by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries (MAAIF). Soon he rose to become a Commissioner. About 2003 Dan was seconded by MAAIF to set up the National Animal Genetic Resources Center and Data Bank (NAGRIC & DB). Dan took up the offer with characteristic energy and built up this semi–autonomous agency from scratch into a reputable world renowned animal breeding facility. Then somewhere about 2015 trouble started.

By then after returning back to Uganda I too had since joined a government agency but I felt my services were being circumscribed. One day I called up Dan for a coffee and after sharing my concerns, he strongly advised me against resigning. “We still need you there,” he offered counsel. “But by the way, I am also experiencing challenges with a new Board.” While I ignored his advice and went on to resign after finding another appreciative employer, Dan’s fate did not end well. A new Board decided to terminate the services of a man who had built one of the best-run government agencies.

Throughout his years at NAGRIC & DD Dan had never been involved in any scandal whatsoever. Ugandans know all these other organizations run by the mafia and involved in fraudulent actions. Yet even after appealing to the Minister of MAAIF, the Board remained adamant.

Feeling aggrieved, Dan decided to take his case to court. On June 22, 2017, the court awarded Dr. Semambo Ush 600m in damages for unfair job termination. In spite of all this, the Minister of MAAIF ignored a court order and went ahead to appoint a new Executive Director.

In subsequent years NAGRIC & DD became a staple of tabloid news with running battles involving allegations of land fraud under her custody. Big shots, including cabinet ministers, were reported to be grabbing some of her vast ranches. Still, Dr Dan Semambo’s old job was never restored back to him. Once he showed me a letter signed by President Museveni vindicating him. Further, his award was never remitted as mandated by courts of law.

Courts of law award punitive damages to employees unfairly dismissed to curb impunity by reckless supervisors. As this is a matter of law, the estate of Dr. Semambo is still duty-bound to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. Dan shared once with John Sebutinde his longtime singing companion how after the award he went back to his old employers and informed all, “I have no bitterness towards anyone here. But all I ask is justice!”

There is a saying that when one door closes, God opens a brighter new one. Harshly forced out of a job he loved, Dan moved on. Some friends urged him to move out of Uganda and take up an international job since as a leading Geneticist, he was eminently qualified. But Dan had long ruled out that option. His devotion to Uganda was total; he would not consider lending his skills anywhere else. In this new and last chapter of his life, I observed a certain entrepreneurial, cheeky and brilliant side of Dan I had never imagined.

One day Dan called and urged me to join a social marketing investment group. “If you invest and become a gold class member you will win a vacation in some luxury resort!” I wavered, raising my eyebrows. On another occasion I run into him riding some new wheels. “I drove this new car all the way from South Africa through Zambia,” he explained, beaming, as I gazed with certain incredulity.

No longer constrained by office he shifted back to his earlier life of going around the country teaching farmers modern livestock farming. At Uganda Christian University (UCU) he was engaged to turn around the university farm into a profitable enterprise. He started running farm clinics for schools like GHS and SMACK. He would regularly appear on TV and in papers offering farming tips. He practiced farming and during the Covid lockdown, he brought my family trays of eggs which he sold us at a bargain price.

The family also progressed: Dorah became a diplomat. One day Dan called me up to receive Nanjobe who after serving as Head Prefect at GHS was joining UCU law school. In 2021 she graduated among the top students of her class as a lawyer. On another occasion, Dan brought me Nakandi to give her tips for college life. That evening as he left us seated in a café at Acacia mall I asked where he was rushing. “I have to do practice with Joint Heirs!” He was always on a mission.

In the middle of December 2021, the country was shocked with the news of the untimely death of a new bride, Mrs. Joanne Namutebi Wabwire, daughter of the headmistress of GHS, Mrs. Robibah Kizito. I hurried for the farewell service at Ntinda church. I found there Dan ministering with the Joint Heirs band. Owing to the crowd I did not find time to say hello. But later I sent him a Christmas Greetings message. He didn’t respond, quite uncharacteristic, something I would only notice much later. Unbeknownst to me was that Dan was slowing down with a certain intrusive illness.

I only became aware of this in late February, after I got to understand he had been admitted at Case Hospital. At first I suspected Covid but after talking to Nanjobe it was ruled out. Feeling he deserved rest I postponed visiting. However, after two weeks of no apparent release from the hospital, I became very alarmed and decided to investigate what was keeping him on the bed. On Monday, March 7th, just as I was planning to visit, the most shocking news broke that Dan had passed on to eternity.

Dan touched people from all walks of life. Once I heard Dr. Coutinho share how he sang at his wedding. Well, he serenaded mine too with his Lucien Pavarotti voice! Almost he would sing at the wedding of every friend of his. A selfless man if anyone needed a ride after an event, he would offer to chauffer back one right to the doorstep. He was an evangelist who never lost the fire for sharing the Good News of salvation. “When I would travel with Dad and he happened to stop at a market place he would greet strangers with – walokka- are you saved!” Nanjobe, now at Law Development Center shared at the funeral. “If the answer was negative, Dad would light up and share the Gospel of salvation.”

Last year, when Jajja- Mama Abisaji Semambo having outlived the tragedy of her husband’s brutal murder, passed away at 94, Dan led the burial procession. He looked so buoyant with life. But Dan who has followed his mother so soon, had a favorite verse, “Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me praise his holy name for he has done great thing” (Psalm 104:1-2). Looking back at the example of his life, and the way he blessed so many people, one must be grateful for him.

His rich tenor used to glide through the Cathedral singing a favorite song, “Ekisa Kyo Tekitegerekeka”. Another favorite song was “Its well with my soul.” This song was written in 1873 by Horatio Spafford after losing four of his children while at sea. Dan used to sing it with such might, gusto and force whenever he had the occasion: “When peace, like river attendeth my way, When sorrows like billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well with my soul!” Till we meet Dan (RIP)!

Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile (1949- 2022) and the mixed legacy of Uganda’s economic reforms!

For a long time I had wished to meet  Mr. Emmanuel Tumusiime  Mutebile, the famed Permanent  Secretary/ Secretary to Treasurer, Uganda’s Ministry of Finance Planning and  Economic Development   (MoFPED). Seeing where Uganda was headed which  I regretted and despaired I had taken a keen interest in her political economy ending up writing a critical book, “Things Fall  Apart in Uganda” (2013). The opportunity finally came following the death of  Uganda’s fifth  President,  Godfrey  Binaisa, QC, and I  found myself deeply involved in his funeral arrangement. Somewhere along a kinder and gentler face emerged eager to assist in any way. This was none other than the famous Mutebile, much respected as the architect of Uganda’s Economic Reforms.

In 1979 after Mr. Binaisa became President he recruited a number of brilliant much younger men from all over Uganda to assist him as personal assistants. One of those was Emmanuel Mutebile, an Oxo-educated economist, formerly a lecturer at the University of  Dar es Salaam. When Mutebile heard of the death of his former boss, he suspended everything and rushed to assist the grief-stricken family.

He found us trying to figure out a matter of interest where we needed a well-connected person to link us to State House. About 1956  when Mr. Binaisa returned from England armed with a law degree he had teamed up with the veteran nationalist, Ignatius Musazi who had earlier in 1952  founded the  Uganda National Congress (UNC)to picket for  African self-rule.  When Musaazi passed on in 1990 and was buried at city square in Kololo as a national hero, he too felt he deserved as much.

To realize this request we turned to Governor Mutebile who enthusiastically took up the matter. As we waited for State  House clearance, suddenly  I  saw an opportunity to start engaging the Governor on some matter dear to my heart.

“How do you see all this disorganization in our city,” I asked, looking for a way to draw his attention to how the public sector had fallen apart leading to urban decay in spite of the much-vaunted  Economic reforms. The Governor looked at me disarmingly and then said, “you mean these beautiful slums!” He explained that the concrete propping up everywhere was a progressive sign of Uganda’s economic miracle. “Martin, why should you be concerned about order when people can now afford to build this much!”

“But what about rural areas?” I pressed him, unconvinced and casting doubts on his reforms.  “This is where 70 percent of our population  resides and the poverty there is  crushing!”

“We see progress,” he held his ground. “There are now more tin-roofed houses in all the villages across the  country than ever  before!”

For almost an hour we gently spurred but it was getting dark. This was not a good time to fight out an ideological debate when still anxious about where the deceased would be laid to rest. We drew; neither having given in to the other. Eventually, after repeated calls by him on behalf of the Binaisa family to State  House,  the request was not honored. We decided to lay QC besides Canon Ananasia Binaisa at Alexander Memorial McKay Church in Natete.

After the funeral, we would bump into each other frequently especially as he was a  regular visitor to my  Rotary  Club. Meanwhile, I found no reason to revise my views about Uganda’s fragile economy normally lauded as one of the best performings in Africa. With his passing, I have come across many deserved tributes in his memory, but there are certain aspects about the reforms he spearheaded that I strongly feel necessitate further reflection.

There is no doubt that Governor Mutebile played a herculean role in reviving Uganda’s sagging economy in the early 1990s, together with his able team. In 1986 Uganda’s economy can best be described as on a drip. After fifteen years of civil war and mismanagement, Uganda which in 1970 had the fifth highest GDP per capita in Eastern and Southern Africa, with inflation never above 5 percent, was paralyzed with poverty soaring at 56% and inflation galloping away at 120 percent. For foreign exchange the country heavily depended on coffee exports accounting for 70- 80 percent of total exports. Tax revenues averaged just 5.8 percent of GDP and foreign aid financed 50 percent of public expenditure. Uganda was listed as highly indebted nation.

There tends to be a misunderstanding that the Economic reforms that followed were pioneered by the  Museveni government,  which couldn’t be any further from the truth.  In the  1980s  the  Obote  2 government was the first to embrace  IMF/ World  Bank  Structural  Adjustment  Policies  (SAP), but only with limited success largely due to the ongoing  Luwero Triangle war. After the Museveni government came to power, with  Dr. Crispus Kyonga as  Minister of Finance, the country suspended these reforms and imposed strict controls on prices and foreign exchange, which only worsened the economic malaise.

The Museveni government was in a quandary.  According to its  Ten-point program, it was opposed to foreign interests interfering in Uganda’s economic development and advocated for state control of key sectors of the economy. These leftist policies quickly failed to revive the economy exacerbating inflation which simply soared to 240  percent in 1987. After flirting with barter trade, the advice offered by technocrats based at the Ministry of  Finance, led by a  one Mutebile, won the day.  They argued that the economy should be liberalized and embrace once again the World Bank/ SAP policies.

From what we gather  Tumusiime Mutebeli was born into a  deeply religious family that has roots in the East African revival Born again movement. This explains his “Tumusiime” name -given to thank  God for life. His education journey saw him attend Butobero High  School and later Makerere  College School before joining  Makerere  University to study economics and politics.

In 1972,  as guild President at  Makerere University, he risked his life by openly opposing the  Amin government’s decision to expel Asians. Pursued by soldiers he fled and ended up at the University of  Durham in UK  for a degree in politics and economics,  and then on to  Oxford  University for a  Master’s degree. A first-class honors student he had started work on a doctorate in economics when he joined the war that led to  Idi Amin’s fall in 1979.

After the fall of President Binaisa,  he served briefly under his successor, Mr. Paulo  Muwanga, who had overthrown him. During the 1980 General elections, Mutebile sided with Uganda Patriotic Movement  (UPM) and once survived an assassination attempt on his life. A skilled networker not only did he remain behind unlike many of his old party comrades who fled either to take up arms against  Obote  2 government or take up jobs in the diaspora,  he moved to Ministry of  Finance where he gradually rose to become Chief Economist. In 1985 he was appointed Permanent Secretary by President Obote and when his old comrades took over the government a year later, was confirmed by President Museveni.

Although once a socialist radical, by then he had apparently become a proponent of free markets. There is a story to that. At Oxford University he was tutored by development economists like Professor Frances Stewart who preferred redistributive economic policies to fight inequality. But at  Dar es Salaam University it is possible that his firsthand impression of the failure of  President  Nyerere’s socialist Ujaama policies made him embrace neoliberalism, a philosophy that advocates free markets and limited control of the state in economic management.

In the 1970s virtually all  African economies were near total bankruptcy reeling from the effects of the collapse of the commodity market and oil prices that rose throughout that period.  Yet most of these governments, like Uganda, had initiated vast public sector enterprises which were hardly productive but sucking the treasury and leaving nations heavily indebted. Something had to be done. The consensus was starting to emerge to cut unstainable public expenditure.

Founded in 1944 World Bank and IMF were Bretton Woods institutions whose primary goal was to preserve US supremacy by promoting the dollar as the currency of the last resort. Shortly after Uganda secured her independence in  1962, World Bank advanced credit to help her build or renovate major schools and hospitals. The early loans were not conditional but now with many developing nations desperately out of funds for her, under the influence of supply-side economists, to write a cheque it became a condition that beneficiary countries restructure their economies and embrace fiscal discipline by limiting public expenditure.  The term “home-grown solutions”  was a plague to their ears.

Initially, not everyone within the  Museveni government was convinced and there was a stubborn  element  which  opposed opening  key  sectors of the economy to foreign  control  through  privatization. But the  once socialist Museveni  finally  yielded to  the  neo liberals  led by  Mutebile,  especially  as inflation  soared,  with Uganda  constantly  devaluing  her currency  and becoming  even more  indebted.

Almost  immediately  once Uganda adopted a programme  of fiscal discipline, macro stability to tame inflation and liberalized the foreign  exchange and commodity  markets Uganda’s faltering  economy was  finally  revived. Some time later, while visiting  a cousin who had taken  up a job with  World Bank up in Washington  DC, she confessed to  me, “I  am so  happy  everyone here is talking  of how successful Uganda reforms are!” However, all this was coming at great cost to average Ugandans.

One of the requirements of these reforms, as way to cut back public expenditure and balance the budget Uganda was tasked to half the size of public service, which was dismissed as too expensive payroll.  So, Uganda, from 320,000 staff in 1990 she rushed to cut down staff to  156,803, by 1995.  Long serving civil servants were given little choice through a process that was colorfully termed as retrenchment. In far off more developed nations with booming economies such forced terminations could easily be absorbed as there were other jobs.  But  in Uganda, for most of these  traditional  public servants, left  to contest in courts  for their  full terminal  benefits,  this was traumatic.

Between 1992-  1998, as  part of  these conditions  there was also  a recruitment  freeze.  Almost everyone  would  agree  why a developing  nation  like Uganda trains  her people  is  to create  employment, so that those armed  with  skills  can develop  the nation. In 1997  after a decade away  of studying  and  helping  the US develop  as a teacher of public schools  and  manager of  a  major enterprise; I  returned home and  went  straight  to Makerere University  where  I applied for  a job  as a Lecturer.  Though   well qualified I was turned away because government of  Uganda was under a recruitment  freeze.

I could  have  immediately  packed my  bags except  for Prof  Akiki Mujaju (RIP), my  former teacher, who  once he got to  know  I was back, immediately  contacted a colleague, Prof Joy  Kwesigwa, (current  Vice  Chancellor  of Kabale University) then  head of the  new Department  of  Gender Studies,  to find  a way  of  engaging me. The  Government  of Uganda  had paid for my  full university  education  but a foreign  organization had decreed educated Ugandans like me should  be locked of the job market!

Another condition of these  reforms was privatization of state enterprise. This was a standard  prescription that never  took into  concern  the socio economic  reasons  behind  the formation  of some of these state enterprises, albeit  their  failures, especially  in  supporting  indigenous founded enterprises. In some  nations like  Malysai, when  it  became absolutely  necessary,  the  nationals  would be  given  first options to  buy shares  in privatized companies.  Uganda, for  some  reason, took  a wholesale nondiscriminatory approach quickly disposing off  over  105  state enterprise,  which  incidentally  had  been  set  up  from national  savings.  A number of these state enterprise were sold  under dubious  circumstances due  to   internal  wheel dealing.

Perhaps we need to digress to explain why so many state enterprises had become crippled. These enterprises, most  which  were founded by Uganda Development  Corporation,  had been  successfully  run through the1960s under the leadership of  Semei  Nyanzi, becoming  a source of employment  to thousands.  Like other sectors of the economy they had suffered from the disastrous Amin Economic war. This worsened under Obote 2 when they became victims of patronage which denied them of able managers. What was needed was thorough restructuring. As William Pike note in his memoirs, “Combatants”, one of the few survivors of that massacre was the New Vision Printing  Company. As Chief Executive given free latitude he turned it around into a profitable company now listed on the Uganda Stock Exchange and employing hundreds. The other case is that of National  Water & Sewerage Corporation, which, under the able management of  Dr. William Muhairwe as later narrated in “Making  Public Enterprises Work” was also turned around and now employs hundreds of  Ugandans.

The most controversial sale turned out to be Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB), which had been founded in 1964 to deepen financial literacy and extend credit in the largely rural population, a  market hardly of interest to foreign-owned banks.  Although at one stage  UCB  was on the verge of illiquidity (there are stories where customers could not access their money until someone later deposited an equivalent figure),  even after she was restored to profitability under the leadership of  Prof  Ezra  Seruma,  the reformers insisted she is put on the market.  After some drama, it was sold to a South African bank. It was later reported that within the first year of trading, this once national jewel having sold off the famous  UCB tower to a  savvy tycoon,  the investors recovered all their purchases and have never made a loss since.

In 2001 Mutebile moved to the Central Bank as Governor, a position he would hold for over  21 years. Again as part of the economic reforms Bank of Uganda was empowered to close banks that failed the liquid test.  Over the course starting in 1993 largely indigenously founded banks without the financial depth of foreign-owned banks would suffer most.  In 1993, Teffe Bank,  founded by  Baganda elites, was closed due to insolvency. In 1998 International Credit  Bank, founded by an indigenous entrepreneurial family, was closed due to insolvency. In 1999 Greenland  Bank,  founded by  Muslim elites was closed due to insolvency.  In 1999 Cooperative Bank, founded by national cooperative societies, was closed due to insolvency.  In 2012, the National Bank of Commerce, founded by Kigezi elites to help with the development of  Mutebile’s mother district by mobilizing savings, was closed due to insolvency.

Free marketers argued that a bank should only be retained on technical reasons revolving around her financial viability.  This means raising capital inaccessible to most nationals in a small economy like Uganda. At the end out of 26 commercial banks, four would survive where either Uganda or local investors had majority shareholding. The rest ended with foreign shareholders as the majority, meaning Ugandans as well explained elsewhere by  Prof  Seruma are left at the mercy of foreign capital. This partly explains the exorbitant 15-20% bank interest rates, compared to the 0.5- 2% interests charged in the developed countries, hindering ironically the very development of the private sector.

Indigenous founded banks and locally founded strategic industries were abandoned in favor of foreign-owned banks and foreign investors, more keen at scooping profits for the benefit of their external shareholders. Ultimately the Economic reforms took something out of Ugandans, a certain sense of self-confidence, especially as some of these foreign-owned companies came with their own people, including askari- guards, leaving nationals out in the cold! In a  liberalized market foreign shareholders could own 100% of the company. Where we  lost  UCB  now we had  Kenya Commercial  Bank  and  no wonder  there  is  a creeping  talk  you  come  across  in town  that “we Ugandans can’t manage!”

Here we must pause and point out that the 1990 Economic reforms were not a universal failure, altogether, and did some plausible good. Those of us who lived through the 1980s scarcity are forever grateful. Like one of my friends who for his wedding had to hide crates of soda underneath his bed, having secured the scarce soft drinks mysteriously. At our Kampala suburban home the taps were constantly out of water and load shedding was normal. I personally had to require a recommendation chit to secure foreign exchange when first traveling out, courtesy of a hand written note from my muko (in law), Professor Apollo Nsibambi (RIP). The liberalization of the commodity market invigorated our farmers who cut out expensive bureaucratic middlemen with better prices and production shot up.

These gains do not deny that there are areas of misgiving. In fact, going over some actions one wonders if in the mind of some the  Republic of  Uganda was about to shut down! Was it really inevitable,  as happened, to  “sell”  public houses built from national savings to seating tenants as “pool houses”! This was a clear conflict of interest as in profiting from one being in a decision-making position.  Look at Makerere University which retained that infrastructure and how the younger generation has lived to profit from the property she retained. By selling off  “pool houses” senior public servants would later scamper around for places of abode,  sometimes finding themselves locked in slums with impassable roads.

And, much as the public service numbers were halved, they would quickly jump back to over 300,000 anyway; but then without the promised pay reform to make public service more efficient. If anything the culture of  “workshop allowances ” and “ghost payroll” these reforms had promised to eliminate soared. In the absence of state enterprises, the nation would return them back under the guise of government agencies, with bloated salaries for the beneficiaries,  further weakening traditional public service.

In as much as the reforms saw Uganda’s economy grow ninefold, our GDP per capita only rose to $900,  more due to inequality.  For all the progress in thirty-plus years, Uganda is yet to attain a middle-class economy.  The poverty rate has stagnated at  21%; and our tax revenue, at  14%  of GDP remains one of the worst-performing in sub-Saharan Africa.  Uganda ranks 159 out of 189  countries in the Human Development index. Even the NRM government manifesto points out “the majority of Ugandan youth aged 18-30 years are either unemployed or employed in the informal sector. Less than 15% had formal jobs.”  Because there are no commensurate jobs created by a thriving industrial and agricultural sector,  the country has turned to export them.  Presently there are about 300,000 Ugandans working in the  Middle  East with over  120  labor exporting companies.

If imposing fiscal discipline was the heart of  Economic reforms by cutting down public expenditure; Uganda has now perfected the pork and barrel politics of patronage with  84  cabinet ministers, a 529  Parliament and 131 districts. According to the Auditor General, Uganda’s national debt to GDP has galloped to 47 percent “which creates a risk of reaching unsustainable levels”. This must evoke back bitter memories when the country was listed as Highly indebted and gave foreign lenders leeway to enforce their harsh policies. And as for the weakened public sector, in the very week of Governor Mutebile’s death, a  national daily paper reported “there is only one dialysis machine for 15 public regional hospitals”!

Hence my observation and conclusion that the Economic reforms Governor Mutebile led have a mixed legacy. Just before we  parted, when  I  debated him over his economic policy,  I also shared a wish that it would be good to honor his old boss,  President  Binaisa,  with a memorial lecture, as the bank did for  Governor  Joseph  Mubiru.  His eyes lighted and he asked me to follow him up on that. I regret and apologize I never did.  However,  my simple request to  Bank of  Uganda is that the bank honors this great man with  Memorial lectures,  which would be a great avenue to critically discuss the reforms he inspired and their impact on Uganda’s future for the benefit of posterity. May he RIP.


Christopher Sembuya (1935 – 2022): The Story Of A Visionary African Industrialist Ignored By His Own Government

Mr Christopher  Sembuya, the co-founder  of  Sembule Steel  Mills, once one of the  leading  industrial conglomerates in  Uganda, that threatened to become the Samsung  of  Africa except  for lack  of imagination on our economic  planners, as  I will  explain,  led a life that  was heroic but also  tragic.  It  was  heroic that coming  from  humble beginnings  he at midlife helped found a family business that  manufactured  sophisticated electronic household  goods which  became a  source of pride  to Ugandans. Tragic  that  when the business run through financial difficulty due to  bad debts it  was ignored  by  the government which  it  had once supported  to  come to power  in spite of  passionate  appeals.

When Sembuya passed away this week at 87, he would not be feted as pioneering industrial  giant in the  manner  of some.  In fact, at  some point, after losing  his business and  most  of  his property, he  had bitterly  cried out to a deaf  government  to honor him too  as a  national hero,  with just  a heroes medal. In  death  Sembuya  except  for  the Buganda Kingdom  government, represented  by once  his  former employee,  ex Kattikiro  Mulwanya  Ssemwogerere, some  others  did  not show  up to laud him as  a  great  pioneer  of  African  business, as should be.  And yet there is so much that  he gifted the nation of  Uganda and  did to  the  pride of Africans.

Sembuya was born into a well renowned entrepreneurial family from Bukunju, in Kyagwe province of Buganda.  His father, Yafesi  Magula, was a successful cocoa farmer. After attending  St Leo’s  secondary  school, Kyegobe in  Toro, he started a government  career  that  saw  him rise  through  the ranks to the  position  of  Assistant District  Commissioner in the Ministry  of  Local  government  for Moyo  and  later Karamoja Districts. At  some  point   he moved to the Ministry of Finance, where he served as Senior Finance  Officer  and then Principal  Finance officer.

In 1972 this career civil servant took the unusual decision  to leave a stable government  job and plunge into  the uncertain waters of  an  entrepreneur   career. “I owe everything to my father the late Yafesi Mugula,”  he  shared  in one interview with  New Vision, the government  owned paper. “He told me as long  as  I worked in  government  I would  never  get  richer, not even reach him. That haunted me. I was Undersecretary then at Ministry of Finance and they were preparing me  to become Permanent  Secretary. I resigned from the government job.”

Sembuya  had a younger  brother, Henry  Buwule,  who was  already  in business. Buwule  had set  up  a  shop  in  Ndebba,  in 1964,  close  to  Katwe, where most of African owned business were based at  a  time  when  businesses were dominated by  Asians. The shop dealt in hardware products. After  joining  his  brother  they  decided to  go  into nail   production. Borrowing  from  their  two  names  they  started Sembule industries which as it expanded in  1974  became Sembule  Steel  Mills.

The company grew relatively fast. “In a few years,” reads a message from the company website, “ it had grown into one of the largest wire-nail manufacturing companies in Uganda. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the company continued to grow and increase its product lines from wire nails to welding electrodes…” The company would go on to produce Roofing sheets, Welded Wire Mesh, Round Iron Bars, Galvanized Barbed Wire, Steel Pipes and multiple hardware products. Along the way also employed thousands. When I left  university in  1987  a number  of  my  colleagues, like  Godwin Kihuguru (RIP) joined Sembule Mills  and  I  must say I felt  a  bit envious.

Diversification is a business strategy advised on the simple premise that it is better to have your eggs spread out than have them all lay all  in one  basket. Companies  that are thriving  normally  use their healthy cash flows to diversify  into  new fast  growing  markets, so as to  lessen the  risks of  depending  on a limited and perhaps diminishing  market. Given her business growth it was only natural for Sembule  Mills to enter into  new growth lines  of  business. “In 1985, a small deposit-taking private company was started,” recalled the Observer  newspaper. “In 1991, it was granted a banking license as Sembule Investment Bank, and a fully-fledged commercial bank in 1996. A year later, after securing new investors for the bank, it was renamed Allied Bank International, which later became today’s Bank of Africa Uganda. At the end of the 1990s, Sembuya started Pan World Insurance Company.” This later became Lions  Assurance, one of the  leading   insurance  company  in Uganda today.

Sembule Mills did not stop with diversifying in the financial markets but using her manufacturing knowledge now veered  into the world of  electronics.  By the mid-1980s, the group had diversified into electronics, including the production of street-lighting systems and the first Ugandan-made transistor radio, the Sembule radio, which came in brands like “Makula”. The company drawing  on local engineers and workmanship went  into assembling TV sets, bulbs, desk  telephones,  traffic  lights and even computers.  Sembule revolutionized the Ugandan airwave by introducing FM technology. In 1992, she established the first private TV channel, Cable International Television. Who is that who was not aware of  all these  developments then  and couldn’t  be proud!

Unfortunately  as the  company  expanded tragedy  occurred  when  Henry  Buwule  passed on in the mid 1980s This loss would  affect  the company  as it  had been  up until then a successful and productive partnership. The woes of   Sembule cannot be traced to mismanagement as their  history of  rapid expansion  shows expertise but  started when they took on expensive financing  for some of their diversified projects. After  securing  a loan from  several financial  institutions  the  company  failed to service it adequately and the  lenders  sought to auction her property. Faced  with  the  threat of  losing  his business  empire, now at an advanced age in his late  seventies, Sembuya, who  passionately  believed  in the capacity  of Africans to  run successful industries  as he  had already  proved  himself , went  out of the way  to directly  appeal  to  government  of  Uganda to bail him  out. “I appeal to the government of Uganda to help  us with this  situation,” he cried out  in an interview  that can be found on Yutube. “The company we  have  built  is one   of the  largest managed  by Africans in East   Africa.”

In the history  of industrialization  in Japan and  South  East  Asia we know that their iconic industries like  Samsung  and  Toyota which  are  now  major global household  brands grew not solely  on the  abilities of  their  founders but  also due  to the  cooperative  efforts  of their  nationalist  government. It  is well documented  that  family  founded firms  like Samsumg, Hyundai, LG, collectively  known as chaebols,  were backed by  their  government.  For  example, Samsung  was  founded in 1938  by  Lee Byung Chill as  a grocery store but heavily  relied on government  protectionist policies. Samsung would  move into  finance and  other  major  industries, the  most  recent  being cell phone  and  pharmaceuticals, which  I have visited. Today, we know in China, too, companies like  the  family  founded Huawei, and  all these “CCCC” construction firms, have prospered  because of  government  tacit  support.

Unfortunately, this truth  was not  shared  by Uganda’s leadership, and  Sembule Mills, an indigenous founded  company  that gave us radio  and color TV sets  bearing  our African names was left to die an ignominious  death. The man who once helped  fund  the  war that  brought the  present  government to power now  resorted to  write  over  200  letters to  President  Meseveni appealing  for salvage. While  the  President who once used  to cite Sembule as a case  study of his economic recovery  miracle  can be  excused, the  same  cannot  be said of   planners   at  the  Ministry  of Finance  where  once  Sembuya worked.  Had Sembule  been  rescued there is all the  possibility  that she besides producing computers she would now have entered  the  lucrative cell  phone manufacturing sector and car manufacturing, which  Uganda  is  lately attempting at  Kira motors.

Bailing out stressed but  promising  companies is  not  unique. In 1980 one  of the top three  car  manufacturers  in the US, Chrysler  Motors, was rescued from  bankruptcy  when  the  government  bailed it out with  nearly $1.5  billion dollars  in  loan  guarantees.  In 2008  the  US government  again  injected  over  $700 billion  in key  financial  institutions like  JP Morgan, Goldman  Sachs, Citgroup stressed by  the  financial  meltdown. Had  the  US government  merely stood  on the side  their  collapse would  have resulted into a catastrophic  and systematic collapse of  the US financial  industry, leading to millions of jobs lost.

In fact, there are many other  business in  Uganda that  have benefited  from government  bailout, as  well. The  revival  of  the Madvhani  Group in the  1980s was not solely  based on the  abilities  of the returning family members but  because of a financial  capitalization from  World  Bank  and  other  financial institutions, backed  by Government  of  Uganda. “The government has helped many people including Sudhir (Ruparelia) and Hassan (Basajjabalaba), I don’t know why they have not helped Sembule,” once moaned one of Sembuya’s son in a  press interview. For while it  is true  that the collapse of  Sembule  Mills  was not to result  into a “too  big too fail”  economic   collapse of  the Ugandan economy,  when one  considers  that  hundreds of  Ugandans  today board  planes every day  to go out  to scavenge for jobs  in the  Middle  East, then how could  we  let  such  a proven  industrial conglomerate collapse! Someone needs   to answer!

In his business  career Sembuya helped to mentor many leading business  personalities like  Mr  Emmanuel  Katongole  of  Quality  Chemicals, who once  worked  under  him. One  of his  mentees,  Engineer  Fred Mubiru, in  a  Facebook post,  soon after  his demise, recalled  how  after Sembule  Mills had executed  successfully  a  street  lighting  contract  which he had overseen as KCC infrastructure  engineer, he  urged him  to  quit  government  and  enter the private  sector, which  he  eventually  did   after a lot  of  pushing  from him. “That decision was one of the game changers of  my  life…I gained freedom and  control  of  my life.”

Sembuya  was a passionate  believer  in African  run business and he  wrote  a small book, “The  other  side  of  Amin  Dada!” In it he noted Amin emancipated and supported African businessmen  like  him start industries.  It “pained” him ( his words)  that part of his  business empire  was sold  to  Asians, which  is  the  very  Economic  war  African industrialists  had embraced. “What the Asians and Europeans can do, Ugandan investors can do,” he  wrote. “Ugandans should therefore be given first  priority  and probably  full  support  thereafter. Government  should  protect  the local  firms  from the  big ones  that come  in with plenty of foreign  money  and end swallowing  home grown initiative.  This way the country will see many of its nationals succeeding.”

Early last year Christopher Sembuya was pictured being recognized by Bank  of Africa, which he helped  found.  He looked fail.  On Tuesday, January 11, while sitting on the sofa at his Windsor Crescent home in Kololo, his wife Ritah shared, he collapsed. He was rushed to nearby Kampala Hospital in Kololo, but unfortunately, he died at around midday. May he RIP!

Patrick Bakka Male (1961-2021): “Aspire, inspire and leave” the man who lived serving others!

When you are new to a school and someone directs you- “That one is the Head Prefect” for some new students, the resolution might well be to keep as far away as you can from this enforcer of law. This was my impression when I first met Patrick Bakka Male, introduced to me in his white shirt and black slacks with a badge beaming “Head Prefect.” Immediately my idea was, to avoid trouble, keep away from this chap who imposed himself as the law. You see he had quite a number of stern prefects roaring below him, with a certain fundamentalist religious streak, quick to book and even lead any student who dared them to expulsion.

So, aware of my sins, which soon involved breaking boundary rules to explore village liquor hangouts at night when others were lost in prep work, I decided not cross paths with him. But as I would find out Bakka was the gentlest lad you could ever meet. Raised on the outskirts of Entebbe town, he had gone to Kiwafu Primary School, from where he joined King’s College in 1976 and assigned to Nigeria House. He embraced Budo unreservedly. Isaac Kironde, an Engineer now settled in UK joined a year after and recalls, “Bakka was always smartly dressed and orderly. He took me under his wings. Because of that, I’d follow him on several occasions to beat the drum ( KCB’s alarm clock) as school time keeper!”

This was the same impression Dr George Kaleebi, who is settled in US, had of him too. “Patrick was one of the first students I met upon arrival. As I got to know him I admired him for being a model student: neat, well groomed, orderly, well organized and punctual.” He had a penchant for wearing clean vests “Bakka Male had many white vests,” recalls David Sseppuya, a housemate who later went on to edit Uganda’s two leading dailies, New Vision and Daily Monitor.

It came as no brainer when in his S2 he was appointed time keeper, progressing on swiftly to sub-lumper and market mayor. Isaac Kironde again recalls, “In S3 he was our Treasurer Agriculture Club as well as house gardener- directing all junior to maintain the House flowers.”

No one goes to Budo and fails to come across Born Again Christians- the Balokole! One day, in his S2, on 5th July 1977, Bakka stumbled into the School Christian fellowship meetings referred to as “Contact fellowship.” Dr Francis Owori who was a class above recalls something that happened and would forever change his life. “Bakka Male literally got saved in my hands..!” It was the best decision of Bakka, and he would never look back.

In 1980, after he returned for A’level to do PCM combination, he was nicknamed “Backhouse”- after the mathematics textbook that he frequently carried around! Budo had a long tradition of appointing as Head Prefects often the tallest student who could impose order, like Herbert Wamala (RIP), Head Prefect 1977 and Ben Wakiro, Head Prefect 1980, who easily towered over the rest. When Bakka decided to stand as Head Prefect for some because of his rather much smaller stature he stood no chance. But, “There was something magnetic about him,” recalls Dr Timothy Sentongo, a US based medical doctor. “He did not weaponize his voice with verbosity. His words were always few, simple and deeply illustrative.”

“The moment he opened his mouth and amplified his deep voice,” George Bamugereire, the former Deputy Inspector General remises, “he immediately became the front runner.” Most of the students were already aware of his work ethic and they elected him by landslide. He would be deputized by Jennifer Lubwama (Musisi), later Kampala City Authority Director. Isaac Kironde recalls, that soon after his election, Bakka started joking, “one day I will become Head Master of King’s College Budo!”

Prefects at Budo tend to suffer an intended consequence of spending so much time supervising students, returning to theirs much later. In the case of Bakka he found he needed to attain a better score at A’level and would only join Makerere university together with the class of 1983.

At Makerere University he was assigned to Lumumba hall. That’s where he spotted a beautiful girl called Molly.

Molly was the daughter of the famous Abbey and Florence Kibalama, a singing maestro family, known as Eschatos Bridal Choir. She had gone to Gayaza High School and had been admitted to study Geology. She too had made a decision to accept Jesus as a personal Savior back in August 14th 1977, while at Gayaza. Bakka attended St Francis Chapel where Molly was also a member. Late one evening while returning from a church sponsored mission trip in Namutamba they made a stopover at Molly’s house. Bakka would recall “I was struck by the way Molly interacted with her parents. After making the necessary consultations with God and prayer I proposed.” She said, “Yes!”

In 1987, the new Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, who had earlier shot to power with blazing guns presided over his first graduation ceremony at Makerere University as Chancellor. Dressed in graduation gowns in that cohort was Bakka graduating with a Bsc degree in education. If graduates are supposed to look forward to a bright future after toiling through school up to the famous hill, by then after years of war and economic mismanagement, Uganda’s economy was in doldrums. Perhaps the worst casualty of these times was the teaching profession. To survive, those who graduated as teachers would quickly pack off for Kenya, Southern Africa or elsewhere other than Uganda. This was their chance to escape a life of misery, that was the misfortune of being a teacher.

But Patrick was different. He had already decided on a career as a teacher. Other than flee for greener pastures across the borders, he lingered and soon the Ministry of Education posted him to Namilyango College as a teacher of Physics and Maths. Meanwhile, his relationship with Molly had matured and on 24th September, 1988, which happened to be Molly’s birthday, they tied the knot at Namirembe Cathedral.

If there was one rocky start, full of test, here was one. Soon blessed with a baby girl, the child died at just three months after a short illness. Then they had a boy. At eight months while crawling he picked up an object, put it in his mouth and choked to death. Patrick was out of town when he received the devastating news of the loss of his second child!

Such trials can tear apart a young family but Bakka and Molly’s love and faith was of true mettle. They weathered through it all. And then a life changing career move took place.

For much of the first half of the 1900s, Budo would attract back her best students to return and serve as teachers. The list is endless and reads like a Who is Who in Uganda. Among these one finds: William Senteza- Kajubi, later twice Vice Chancellor, Makerere University; Erisa Kironde, later Chairman of Uganda Red Cross; Joshua Zake, later first post independence minister of Education; William Kalema, later Minister of Commerce in Obote government; Sarah Ntozi, first Uganda woman graduate; Appolo Kironde, later first Ugandan Ambassador at UN; David Sentongo, later long serving Makerere University Secretary. In the late 1960s a former student called Elizear Kizza Bawuba had returned too, before going to Ohio University, US for postgraduate studies.

But the 1970s were harsh, as Uganda spiraled into an age of darkness. Budo lost the bulk of her expatriate teaching staff, many graduates of Oxon- Cambridge. Teachers struggling to survive abandoned the once most coveted profession and, the school, which at one point threatened as the best in East Africa, became like ordinary. There was only one old Budonian, Rev Laban Bombo, who stuck to the trade but had no ambition to serve beyond being School Chaplain and maths teachers.

In 1980, desperate for a successor, the Board led by Mr E M K Mulira, a veteran politician and writer remembered there was once a teacher called EK Bawuba. They approached him and found he was interested in returning as Head Master and help revive the school. Coming as a man on a mission within the first year of arriving back, he resurrected the Budo model of excellence, and that year she was announced as the best performing school in the Secondary exams. Bawuba preached to his students, “only the best is good enough.”

Unfortunately, by mid 80s, Bawuba’s health had started to suffer, after being diagnosed with cancer. Not wanting to see his dream perish he went out with characteristic energy to entice back some of his old students as teachers. Once he got wind that Bakka had been placed at Namilyango College, he maneuvered his way around and had him move to Budo. In fact, earlier he had had him back for his teaching practice but this time he was a confirmed teacher.

In 1998, Mr Bawuba passed on, but with his mission accomplished. There was now a new crop of graduate old Budonins as teachers. These included: Prossy Sengoba, Edwin Dhauke, Henry Semwanga, Lawrence Semkube and of course Patrick Bakka Male. Mr Bawuba would be succeeded by Mr Sam Busulwa, a superb educationist, who maintained the school at its top, in spite of reluctance by certain Budonians to embrace him because he was not a former student. Of course this was a moot point. All the first7 white headmasters none had studied at Budo but went on to serve the school excellently.

Bakka and Molly happily settled in Budo and after walking through a tunnel of fire, the Lord opened the floodgates of blessing. They saw their family grow to three boys, Peter, Paul, Joseph and a girl, Rebecca. Every Sunday he fellowshipped at Namirembe Cathedral, where he was a church warden.

In 2000 as Mr Busulwa’s term drew to a close the question of his successor took center stage. Bakka had quickly progressed to Deputy Head Teacher but there was a small problem. His experience was virtually limited to Budo and some considered him too young. An opportunity emerged in 2002 when an opening emerged and he was posted as Head Master of Muntuyera High School- Kitunga in Ankole.

Budo has a history of exporting her model of excellence to other schools. In 1926 a former teacher at Budo, Ernest Calwell, left and started Nyakusura school in Toro Kingdom along the same model of education. In 1991 the once Ag Head Master and old Budonian Stephen Kamuhanda was posted to Ntare School which had lost its luster and helped revive it back to its place of glory. Started in early 1960 as a church founded school, Muntuyera High School, had already produced notable alumni, including Gen Mugisha Muntu, Justice Yorak Bamwine, Attorney Enos Tumusime. However, the school had lately started to disintegrate due to persistent strikes.

Bakka saw it as an opportunity to prove himself outside the shadow of Budo. He exported the Budo clockwork system of excellence and not only did the culture of strikes cease but the school suddenly became an academic power house in the West. Now noticed he was moved to Mengo Senior School, one of the first schools in Uganda. There not only did he see it become one of the best performing schools but also set out to build an administration bloc.

Encouraged by his progressive leadership, come 2008 and there was a switch for him to rejoin Budo as Head Teacher, replacing Mr George Semivule who was moved to Mengo School. Upon return Bakka found one hot issue awaiting him.

In 2006 Budo had celebrated her 100th anniversary. Among some of the activities leading to the celebration was fundraising and opening up a swimming pool on the school premises. The earlier pool based at Nansove, known for its environmentally unfriendly bush, had long fallen into decay. A prominent section of Budonians settled in the diaspora focused on raising funds. However, by 2008, in spite of all the money, except for a few dormant blocs, there was no pool!

This lapse had created a toxic atmosphere of restlessness within the Budo fraternity and it was an issue that needed to be addressed head on. Using some of the skills he had picked up along the way in fundraising and financial management, Bakka, who had by then gone back to school and acquired a Masters degree in Public Administration and Management from Makerere University, got the job of raising a swimming pool, finally accomplished. Buoyed by this success he moved to the next building project and fundraised to build a new administration block, which he also completed to success.

However, not all was well. The job of being Head Master of Budo is one of the most challenging in Uganda largely due to high expectations from Old Budonians. In 1977 Dr Daniel Kyanda had resigned as the 8th Head Master, spent and exhausted by a barrage of criticism, especially by his contemporaries unappreciative of his work to maintain the school in a turbulent time. Many Budonians, accomplished in their right, are unsparing in their criticism the moment they sense the school is sliding below number one, which is taken as a right. Upon release of national exams various sections of the Budo community habitually sit down in cafes, bars, gyms and invade social media chat rooms to analyze every last detail. Woe behold, if the school is not among the top three! The wires are going to ring off the hook the whole day. “The man is killing our school!” so goes. “He must leave!”

Bakka’s work would be complicated by another challenge. In 1997 Uganda introduced Universal Primary Education and the primary leaving population soon jumped from 5 million to over 7 million. Once PLE and UCE results were released throngs of anxious parents would queue up begging for a place in a school meant initaially for a population of 500 at the most, but which had since doubled but with more or less the same infrastructure. Much as he pleaded lack of space, often going at great length to squeeze in as many, Bakka always stood hurting someone who he failed to admit his child.

Bakka could be forthright and rather blunt in dismissing off some of the requests. Once he confessed to a highly placed official disturbed about his relation with his schoolmates he had spurned, “There are two Budonians,” he shared. “There are those who love the school and never left and are always involved in school projects. Then there are these other Budonians who left but only return and start demanding that I admit their kids. I have little respect for them.” And in one uncharitable mood he went on record to say, “Budonians, already made, should learn to give others a chance!”

Feeling slighted, some of the Budonians started a campaign to have him recalled, especially when his health suffered complications. They called up Ministry of Education and went on to complain to Church of Uganda as well. But there were two things which made such a campaign a dead start.

First, while Budo is a government aided school, except for the salaries of some of the staff, it only receives paltry funds from government of Uganda for its maintenance. With the school charging some of the least school fees in the country, government officials aware of their admission lists too, knew that the man was up to the job as through all his years Budo’s attained a 95% average first grade pass, while still engaged in building projects. By then he had started renovating and expanding teachers houses, which had also fallen in decay.

Secondly, because of his selfless service for Church of Uganda, Bakka was now one of the most influential lay leaders. He was not only head of laity at Namirembe, but had since served as Chairman of Namugongo Museum construction. He sat on Boards of various church owned institutions, including Uganda Christian University. Bishops all over appreciated his work.

Yet, if Bakka was facing challenges with his fellow Budonians, none could match as when he decided to build a school wall and fence off the vast school land. While in 1980 Uganda’s population was at 12 million, growing at over 3%, by 2008, it had risen to over 30 million. This had led to scarcity of land and encroachers had started laying claim on Budo land, too, often using a combination of farcical historical claims or bogus state military connections. Among some of the claimants was also a certain group of old Budo acquaintances and their beneficiaries. The moment he started land fencing they took to fighting him personally, hurling all kinds of insults and threats.

It is without saying all this must have had a stress effect on Bakka’s already fragile health. Not a man to give up, helped by the ever available and indefatigable Counsel Jimmy Katende, President of the Old Budonian Club, he calmly soldiered on, and helped secure back 90 percent of the land on top of hill.

Early last October after clocking retirement age his successor, Mr Fred Kazibwe, formerly of Mengo School, was named. A number of Old Budonians, including this writer, proud of all Bakka had done started putting together plans to host him for a job well done party. He had done us proud, simply. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Somewhere about Sunday, November 7th, a sudden rush of discomfort brought Bakka dowm. After being rushed to Mulago hospital he was admitted to Intensive Care Unit. After receiving the news, early in the morning of Tuesday, 9th November, I called up Molly to inquire how he was doing. Her answer was not very encouraging. I sensed all was not well and assured her we were praying. About 30 minutes after hanging up I saw a message that Bakka had passed on, just one month into his retirement.

When he was in S2 Bakka served as school time keeper. The time keeper at Budo is the chap who wakes up before the rest and rushes even through the rain to sound the drum that wakes the school up. As I often lay in my bed catching up on my sweet sleep and usually the last to rise, I had this curiosity what kind of kid was that who instead of enjoying his sleep decided to deny himself and serve the rest. For all his life, Bakka was a time keeper, serving others.

His whole life has all been about building up people. For all the criticism he faced, Bakka was most appreciated by one constituent that in the end mattered the most. It was his students who looked up to him as a fatherly figure. Bakka was a man of aphorism and loved to share folksy stories with his students whom he ministered to in the chapel and at school assemblies. He believed in a holistic education and one of his inspiration saying was “aspire, inspire and leave”; meaning that after all life’s accomplishments one would leave all behind for posterity.

When he had moved off the hill and was residing in his personal house, critics often charged that he wasn’t around to ensure school discipline. Yet the reason he had moved was because the old Head Masters house was in a bad shape due to tear and wear. According to the Chair of the Board of Governors, his classmate, Dr Charles Walaga, “In preparing for succession he knew the new Head master would need a house and therefore decided to build a double storied house which he was never going to sleep in!”

Yet, Bakka, did not just live for serving others at the expense of his family. In spite of all the fears that those who ended up as teachers in Uganda were destined for a life of poverty, using his managerial skills, entrepreneurial acumen and networks he gave his four children the best education and has left all qualified in their respective professions. He had long planned and built a beautiful house with an orchard and a banana plantantation up on Luwungu hill, past Masaka road.

On Friday, November 12th, after laying a flower in his grave, driving back to Kampala, not far from the Equator, I reflected on his life. I remembered what President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of Defense, Edwin M Stanton, said after he breathed his last from mortal wounds inflicted by an assassin, John Wilkes Booth in 1865, dying aged just 56. Stanton looked up and said, “He now belongs to the Ages.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is not the amount of years but the life in them that matters”! Some would say at 60 Bakka has gone too young. But at an early age he found his purpose in life- “Become Head Master of King’s College Budo”- and when the door opened he lived up to the bill. He used that opportunity to serve humanity and improve his society. In a time where integrity is a scarce commodity he maintained the Budo brand of excellence and service above self. Because Bakka lived his life impacting others, many decades, if not a century from now, he will still be living in all those whose life he touched and built.

The writer is Associate Professor of Management, Uganda Christian University and writing a book, “The Budo African Headmasters.”

The Enigmatic Son of a Priest from a Split Uganda and Kenyan Family – Aggrey Awori ( 1939- 2021)

In the early 1998 I became the second host of Spectrum, the long running current affairs Radio 1 talk show. One of my regular guests to discuss the days events was a man I scarcely knew much about before called Aggrey Awori. But with his winsome smile and quick wit, any might strike a friendship with him. Once I also discovered we had passed through the same school, King’s College, Budo, we hit it off. Yes, of course, I did have other interesting guests. There was Winnie Banyima, later to head the global relief organization Oxfam, who had also passed through the same school at one point. Once I recall Winnie wanting to put questions in my mouth, leading us to draw into a stalemate. But that was never with Aggrey. He exuded  a certain gentle confidence, that long after the show came to an end, we carried on off air discussing Uganda, and generally life.

The late 1990s were an interesting time in the political development of Uganda. In 1995 Uganda had drawn up her third constitution (within a space of just 33 years) after a tense debate between Federalists who longed for a return to the 1962 constitution and the Centrists certainly sympathetic to the 1967 republican constitution. Aggrey had participated vigorously in the writing of that constitution, leaning with the Centrists, as a Constituent Assembly delegate. A few years back he had been plucked from exile by the Museveni government, eager to secure a mandate and lend credibility to its shaky regime that had overthrown the Obote 11 regime in 1986.

Aggrey had lost his job as Uganda’s ambassador to the US and later Belgium, following the National Resistance Movement (NRM) coup. Apparently angered he decided to form an outfit called Force Obote Back Again ( FOBA). It was mainly composed of  ragged youths he readily supplied AK47s directing them to attack and blow up government offices. This was around the time when  Eastern Uganda which had long proved as one of the most stable support of the UPC  government was spawning all sorts of rebel movements. Alice Lakwenya had started here in 1986 with her Holy Spirit movement before she was forced on the run. Her outfit however had given birth to the Lord’s Resistance Army ( LRA) under a one former Catholic Catechist called Joseph Kony who took his battle theater to Northern Uganda. In an attempt to end these wars, in 1993, after a reconciliatory meeting with President Museveni, in New York, Aggrey, decided put aside his guns and return to Uganda.  He then settled into a long career as an opposition politician.

In the debates we had on Spectrum and off air, sometimes later on the terrace of Speke Hotel, Aggrey was unapologetic in drawing the government of President Museveni to account. Once he shocked parliament by revealing that  the Presidential jet flew a daughter of President Museveni to give birth in Germany costing taxpayers $50,000. Another time he pointed out how Uganda was funding a US lobbyist at an astonishing fee of $300,000 for some fuzzy trade deal. He always came to the studio armed with lawyerly facts and I sensed government was on high alert based on calls that I fielded to refute his claims of alarming corruption in NRM. A formidable debater, I personally wasn’t much surprised when  he was voted the best legislator of the sixth parliament, and possibly ever in Uganda.

Yet, what is interesting here, and of our politics, is that when he stood to be reelected in subsequent elections he lost his Samia- Bugwe North seat to a relatively unknown novice. While on the national scene Aggrey was exposing high level corruption, on the ground, back home, he was losing out. The days of able debaters in Uganda’s political evolution were quickly coming to a close, soon to give way to a crowd of comedians taking center stage.

Perhaps I am being rather harsh to point out that Aggrey enjoyed being in the limelight. For me it did not come as a surprise when out of seeming political oblivion he decided to bounce back and take on President Museveni during the 2001 elections. It was pure comedy as Aggrey kept boasting of his connections with world leaders and distinguished East African family roots. To prove his financial muscle he ordered a helicopter; but which only arrived in the wee hours of the election. He lost, rather ignominiously, polling less than 2%.

By then I had lost touch with him, though I kept following his politics. Sometime later I read he had crossed from his UPC party to join the party still led by the man whose policies he used to habitually question during our radio programmes and off air. Later in 2009 he was appointed by President Museveni as ICT Minister, which I thought was a reward for his crossing over to the ruling party. But in 2011, the Museveni government having exhausted all his usefulness, no longer of much threat, casually dropped him, sending what was once the most feared opposition politician into political limbo.

I must here pause and question if Aggrey’s crossing to NRM from his traditional UPC, was a sign of political maturity or an unprincipled move by a humbled politician eager to stay in the limelight? There are many other UPC politicians, like his classmate at Budo, Peter Otai, once State Minister of Defence in Obote 11 regime, who never warmed up to President Museveni’s famous advances to the very end. Although ideologically, Aggrey was closer to NRM, which was anyway a breakaway splinter movement from UPC, by the time he made peace with it, the party had long meandered from many of its earlier nationalistic pretenses.  For example, in 2006 it had abandoned the two- term presidential limit at the core of the 1995 constitution. By then there were cries accusing NRM of sectarianism, especially in favor of the Western region.

So, how could he join NRM then? This is why to me Aggrey comes off across as an enigma.

Perhaps to get a better understanding of this rather complicated man we need to start with his roots. Aggrey was a sixth child of an Anglican pioneer priest, Canon Jeremiah Musungu Awori and his wife Maria, a nurse and community. This Basamia family strode along the Kenya and Uganda border, two nations arbitrary created by the British. The Aworis were an amazing couple who would raise over 16 children. But because of their settlement along the border lines, part of the family was cut off on the Uganda side. It is said Aggrey grew up with an elder sister over in Uganda and after attending Nabumali High School he joined Budo where he starred as an athlete. At one point there was interest by the British who took notice of his athletic prowess to take him to Sandhurst Military Academy. But Canon Musungu, who ensured all his children get a good education, dissuaded his son.

Instead Aggrey secured a scholarship to Harvard University where he initially enrolled to study nuclear physics but later switched to political economy. After doing post graduate work at Syracuse University in journalism, he returned to Uganda and was shortly thereafter appointed a Director of Uganda Television (UTV).

There are some unverified reports that he had long been enrolled into General Service Unit (GSU) as an intelligence officer by its head, Obote’s cousin, Akena Odoko. In any case accounts from that period do indicate that he was a partisan Director very committed to UPC  Centrist ideology. Reports I never verified with him mentioned that he was very belligerent towards those for a federal arrangement, particularly the Baganda, who had been sidelined after Obotes’s 1966 coup, forcing a number into political exile.

According to some, why Aggrey was placed at UTV was to use his office and spy on journalists. Indeed, from what he would later share, Aggrey had an advance tip of the 1971 Amin coup. He made frantic efforts to alert President Obote but to no avail. Once in power Amin detained him. He might have been killed, like later his Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Alex Ojera. But Aggrey had army contacts and through the intervention of Col Nyagweso, he was freed. He quickly escaped to Kenya.

Aggrey had married a Liberian national, Thelma. The two had met as students at Harvard and had a young family.  At that point in life, he could have renounced his Ugandan citizenship and taken on Kenyan citizenship,  joining the majority of the Awori siblings. In Kenya the Aworis had proved to be high achievers, becoming firsts, in many different specialties. For example, there was Professor Nelson Awori, who was the first Kenyan to carry out a kidney transplant. Engineer Hannigton Awori had established himself on the board of many blue chip companies. And then there was an upcoming politician called Moody, years later to emerge as Kenya’s Vice President.

Aggrey would not renounce his Ugandan citizenship, though, in favor of Kenya, whose independence fortunes were strikingly far much rosier than Uganda. It is possible that he might have had regrets especially as he saw Uganda, the country he had adopted, descend into a bloody orgy with hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, pouring into Kenya where authorities would hound them. Simply he took up a job as a lecturer at Nairobi University.  In 1979 he was one of the “Moshi revolutionaries” who joined hands leading to the overthrow of Amin regime. After President Binaisa took over he joined his government to serve as one of his Assistants. In 1980 he stood for Parliament under UPC party ticket but lost. He was then posted to the US as Uganda’s envoy.

Last year, early one morning while going through the papers, I noticed that after the 9th parliament had decided to further increase the size of Uganda’s already oversized parliament to 524 members, with also elderly MPs, which was causing heated debates in some of my circles, Aggrey was offering himself to stand as one of the elderly candidates representing Eastern Uganda. In the past I could recall he would have been the first person to question the soundness of such a decision for a strained economy like ours, unable to pay doctors a motivated wage. But now he was part of the whole gravy train. For some reason, I could no longer recognize, the man I once knew.

Ambassador Aggrey Awori’s life was heroic but also one which leaves some of those who knew him bewildered. At Harvard University he smashed records, becoming the first person in heptagonal track history to win concurrently three events, setting records that stood for years. He was a man destined for greatness, and there is no doubt he towered over his generation in many ways. But in deciding to join a party which for long he despised,  at its very low moment, one can only give him the benefit of doubt. Rest in peace, Aggrey!

The writer is Associate Professor of Management, Uganda Christian University, Mukono.

Curtain gently draws on one of Uganda’s most illustrous houses: Dr. John Nsibambi (1930- 2021)

On 24th May, 1966, Prime Minister Milton Obote having already arrested five of his rebellious cabinet ministers who had sided with those moving a vote of no confidence in his government, prompting the Buganda Lukiko ( parliament) in retaliation to issue an ultimatum for him to vacate his government from Buganda, his forces, led by a one Idi Amin attacked. They run up to the Mengo palace where President Mutesa, also the Baganda King, calmly, lay waiting. A trained military officer, Mutesa and Idi Amin’s forces wasted no time in engaging fire after fire for the next 12 hours.

Among average Baganda an attack on the Kabaka is personal. Once they heard the thunder of bombs and staccato of shots fired at the palace, thousands rushed out to defend their Kabaka. They were poorly armed though and the superior forces of Amin easily overpowered them. Losing edge, Mutesa who was determined not to surrender like his grandfather, Kabaka Mwanga 11, who had been taken captive by the British aided by their collaborators, against overwhelming fire, scaled up a high palace wall. He fell down with a thud, and in pain. But with his back hurting, holding on to a rifle, he disappeared.

Mutesa’s nemesis, Obote, wanted him dead or alive. At Mutesa’s heels, accompanying him, was one of his most loyal men, Augustine Musoke. Musoke suggested they take cover in the trusted home of his sister, Eva Nsibambi. Mutesa knew she was the wife of a religious man, Simeone, described to some as “Omulokole”! And there they went.

A son in that home has left us an account of what happened. Once he arrived, panting, “my parents prayed for him,” later wrote Apolo, “and gave him lunch. Later on, some people whom we greatly suspected to be Obote’s spies visited our home.” But the Nsibambi artfully lured them away. “It was decided we take the Kabaka to Canon Kigozi’s home across the road,” Apolo adds. This was none other than Peter Kigozi who in 1941 had caused great controversy throughout Buganda when he consented to marry the Namasole ( Queen Mother), the deceased wife of Sssekabaka Chwa, something considered by many as a taboo. But Kigozi had now become a Mulokole ( Born Again Christian) and was under the discipleship of Simeone Nsibambi. From there Mutesa would walk down to Burundi, and make his escape to Britain.

Who was this Simeone Nsibambi? Born in 1897, to Sezi Walusimbi Kimanje, a Saza chief, he started his education at Mengo school. But when World War 1 broke out in 1914 he went to war and served in the African Native medical corps. For his service he was promoted as a sergeant. The war over Simeone joined King’s College Budo, to continue with his education. At Budo his teachers quickly recognized him for his leadership qualities and made him Head Prefect.

After he left school he joined the Buganda government as a Chief Health officer. It is said that following a disappointment of being turned down for an overseas scholarship Simeone committed his life to Jesus. In the late 1920s, after a deep and personal religious experience, he teamed up with a British missionary, Joe Church, who was based in Rwanda where a movement calling on the Anglican church members to repent and embrace salvation had started. The pair now stormed the church, considered cold, with a revival message of “repent and get saved”!

This was the birth of obulokole ( Born Again) movement in Uganda. Their revival message soon fanned across the borders, extending to the rest East Africa and eventually all over the world. In Uganda it was headquartered in the home of Simeone and Eva. Back on August 25 1925, Simeone had married Eva Bakalubo, the eldest daughter of Elasto Bakaluba, a magistrate in the Buganda government.

Eva and Simeone’s first child was a girl born on July 5th 1926, whom they baptized as Janet Nakku. She was followed by a boy they baptized Phillip. Then came John.

Those who knew something of Simeone’s leadership capacities could imagine him ending up as a Kattikro, ( Buganda Prime Minister). However, once he committed his life to Christ, he gave up his government career, even after being offered to become a Deputy County Chief. He was now a fulltime preacher. But as an educated Christian he knew the value of being schooled. In 1938, his third born, was sent to his alma mater, King’s College Budo where he would remain up to 1949.

Among those in John’s class year were two brilliant boys going by the names of Mayanja. One was Mayanja Nkangi, later to become Buganda’s Prime Minister and a Central government minister. There other was Abu Mayanja, later to become a founding father of the nationalist movement in Uganda, Buganda government minister and once Prime Minister of Uganda.

John carried some of his father’s leadership qualities and, at Budo, was appointed a Prefect. When the eighth born child of Eve and Simeone, joined the school, called Apolo, everyone could notice a lot of his father in him. He was highly organized, a strict time keeper, and very forthright. Like his father he was appointed Head prefect.

John left Budo to study medicine at the London University, which had an extension at Makerere University. After graduating as one of the early African medical doctors in East Africa, following his specialist studies in UK, he returned and joined Mulago hospital. These early African Mulago doctors were highly exceptional individuals who all excelled in their specialties. For example, to cite a few, there was Jovan Kiryabwire, who had studied in Britain to return home and become the first African neurosurgeon in East and Central Africa. There was Sebasatian Kyalwaazi, who would became the first African surgeon in the region too. For John he was a dermatologist, certainly one of the first in the region, just as well.

A young doctor fresh from Britain was easily an eligible bachelor. Unlike some of his brothers, like Ezekiel Kimanje the fifth born who had become a famous journalist, or the vivacious Pilkington Sengendo, ninth born, who became a professor of art, John was much quieter. According to a story told to me by my Aunt, Lillian Binaisa Mukwaya, after noticing he was single and seeking, “I decided to connect John to Solome!”

Solome Nabulya was the beautiful daughter of Taata muto (Uncle) Bulasio Mukasa Kavuma, a leading Buganda government official, Omuwanika ( Chief of the Treasury). A little while back Solome had returned from her studies in Britain. She had something in common with John. She was a nurse. The arrangement hit off. In 1961, John and Solome, were joined hands in marriage at Namirembe, their parents on both side witnessing the event.

The couple were soon blessed with three children: daughters Rose Nanteza and Gertrude Zawedde; and a son, who was named after his grandfather, Simeone. In the 1970s following the breakdown of Uganda’s medical infrastructure the family was forced out into exile. They moved to Kenya and Ethiopia but their heart was ever in Uganda. After the fall of Amin, in the 1980s, John returned home, with the family, but this time decided to set up a private clinic, that specialized in skin care.

Osler Clinic, based at Namirembe, became renowned for treating skin disease. Many children taken there suffering from seemingly incurable ailments, like eczima, where amazed, at how through Dr Nsibambi’s skillful hands the pain of their skin was relieved. He normally sat behind a desk and calmly kept receiving patients through the day. In an adjacent room sat Solome, eager to assist. The two were inseparable.

Early one morning in 2018 Solome, called me with the sad news that Zawedde had passed on while in UK. In the evening I went to attend prayers in the very home where Simeone and Eve had once sheltered Kabaka Mutesa. At that meeting the brethren gathered could not help but express some of their joy at a rather difficult moment. In attendance was also Apolo, who after a long exciting academic career culminating as a Professor of political science, had just retired as Prime Minister of Uganda, and lived across the road.

“John and Solome we are all grieved at the death of your beloved daughter,” Zebuloni Kabazi the leader of the fellowship said. “But there is something I want to say here.” Although he had as a little boy confessed salvation in Christ, somewhere, John had backslid. Apolo, too, who had also confessed salvation in Christ, as a little boy, somewhere, had also backslid. But then over time John had recommitted his life to Christ. A few years back Apolo had returned to the fold. “For a long time the Balokole fellowship used to pray for both of you John and Apolo to know Jesus personally as Lord and Savior. We could not imagine that the fellowship your father founded could be true to itself without you being there. In fact our hearts were always heavy without seeing any of you. Always we had seats reserved for you. But we are now gratified that you the heir of Simeone and the former Prime Minister of Uganda are all members of the Balokole. How we praise God!”

The service broke into the old revival song, “Tukutendereza Yesu!”

Although devastated by the loss of their daughter, John and Solome, now in their eighties continued to work side by side, at their Osler Clinic. But early one morning of 3rd December, 2019, Solome awoke feeling chest pains. John rushed her to Nsambya hospital and she was admitted. But then, suddenly, she passed on.

At Solome’s funeral service at Namirembe, John, shaken, wondered aloud, how he was going to cope without his wife of 58 years. He lost the energy to continue on with his clinic and, at 89, the calm skin doctor who was still in high demand closed shop, and quietly retired to his home in Bulange. With his son Simeone far away in the US, Rose, who was based in UK, decided to relocate, to attend to her ailing father. His health weak, in September, 2020, John received a blow when his eldest sister Janet, passed on in the US, where she had since relocated to be near her son, the famous musician Samite Mulondo.

Out of the 12 children of Eve and Simeone, John was now the only one living.

On Saturday, June 26th, 2021, at about 3 pm, John, slipped way, in the very house where Simeone and Eve would once gladly receive the brethren from all over Uganda and the world to strengthen them in their faith journey. It was an end of a great chapter. And knowing the faith of all those who passed through that house, who had gone ahead, there is no doubt there are all now singing praise, “Tukudereze Yesu!”