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!”

The man we called quick feet: Simon Bugaba (1962 – 2021)

Early this year I received a whatsap message from a man known to many as Eng Bugaba of Uganda Communications Commision ( UCC). But for his classmates he was known as Quick feet. Our King’s College Budo class year (1977-83) had in appreciation of the education we received there long decided to sponsor at least one needy student every year. The man spearheading this class project was none other than Simon.

“Just contacted the Deputy,” he wrote. “He says he will give us a shortlist next week.” In the midst of a busy schedule as a top official at UCC, Simon had gone at great lengths to gather details of needy students at Budo.

A four person select committee he headed had decided that our next sponsor should this time be a girl. Simon came up with four names. When we met on April 7th, 2021 he had already done investigative work breaking down the students home environment, performance and needs. It did not take us long to agree on one girl. Once we presented her to the rest of classmates, there was immediate agreement to support her.

Job well done. That is why we called Simon, Quick feet.

I first met Smon in 1981 as a new A’level student (njuka) at Budo. Perhaps because of his soft spoken nature, and unassuming ways, he didn’t make a fast impression on me. For him he had joined Budo in 1977 coming from up country Primary schools- based at Sempa, Bulindo, Bamusuuta and one in Kiboga. Having excelled and being needy he was admitted on a Bursary scholarship, something he would never forget.

Besides enjoying his academics, Simon took on a past game at Budo, cricket, where he tortured opponents as a wicked batsman. Volleyball was another of his passion and he loved spurring on the opposite side of the net with his classmate, now Dr George Mutema. However, another even more consuming interest was that Simon was a very committed Christian.

In his first year at Budo, together with his house mate, Tim Sentongo, and Isaac Kronde, during one “contact” fellowship the trio committed their life to Jesus Christ as Lord and personal savior. “One of our earliest joint encounters was when Douglas Kisaka was heading Contact choir in 1977,” remised Isaac, years later. “Simon and I tried to join but were turned down..”

The young enthusiastic converts were not deterred. Simon, together with Tim and Isaac studied closely together, and returned for A’level, with him taking on the demanding PCM combination. On meeting him in Canada House, spite of my then indifference to his faith, we developed a healthy respect for each other, largely due to his genial character. Indeed, when in our final year he was appointed House prefect there was unanimous support for him, especially for those of us often at the wrong side of the law. I could count on him for bailing me out whenever I got into trouble, which was not that rare, to be conservative.

As prefect Simon took it upon himself to welcome and mentor those who joined Canada House. One S1 student, now Enoch Sebuyongo, would later recall how he was not only warmly received, but was encouraged by him to commit his life to Christ, just as he had done in SI. “One day he gave us a word of encouragement,” now Dr Enoch Sebuyongo would later recall, “from Psalms 34:8- Oh taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Simon was affected by the NRM led 1980- 5 guerrilla war which was perched in his home area of Luwero. Unable to return home the family of his friend Tim Sentongo took him in where he became an adopted son. After passing A’level both joined Makerere university in the 1981 class year, with Simon taking a B.Science degree; Tim going for medicine; while Isaac was admitted for a Bsc Agric. Admitted into Lumumba hall, he and Tim, who would later became Chair of the Christian Student Fellowship, were also roommates.

Around that time one of the most thriving evangelical church in Kampala was the Redeemed Church, just outside Makerere university main gate. Built of reeds ( kiwempe) the church preached fervently for any who cared to listen to accept Jesus as a personal saviour. Simon, along with Isaac, not only joined this church but soon bandied up with a number of university students, including Alen Kakuyo Kagina, later to head the UNRA and Jennifer Lubwama Musisi, later to head KCCA, to form the Restoration Band. “Simon played drums,” recalled Isaac, sometimes bass, but also sung. A famous song he led was written by Ben Kayizi, called “Bind man”!

Soon after graduating, in 1988, Simon took up employment with then Uganda Post and Telecommunications Limited ( UPTL). These days it is quite rare to find someone who works for virtually one organization for all his entire life, which was to be his case. He started out at the bottom in the regulatory department, along with one of his Budo classmates, Eng Miriam Wambuzi Kawuma.

In mid 1990s after the liberalization of Uganda’s economy, UPTL was broken up into Uganda Telecommunications Limited (UTL), Uganda Postal Limited (UPL) and UCC. Of the three splinter organizations, UCC, was certainly much smaller and perhaps with less prospects. In hindsight it must have been providence that led Simon to move to the unknown new entity, UCC, in 1998 as one of the first staff there. As Uganda’s telecommunication industry grew, Simon would grow with it, eventually making him as one of the leading telecommunications expert in the country.

In 1998 as a result of liberalization policy the radio industry had opened up to new private stations. I happened to be involved in starting one new FM station, Power FM, and often found myself dropping by his office, based at Communications house, which was responsible for regulating license.

It is there that I came to discover how Simon’s life had progressed since we had left university. In 1990 while at UPTL Simon had met a girl called Agnes whom he started courting. The two got married on 1st March 1992. Though many had since moved on I found Simon was still attending Redeemed church, where he was now one of the elders. In brief, there was little change about the unassuming person I had first met back at school.

As UCC grew to oversee the rapidly growing telecom industry, Simon also grew with it. He rose to be appointed in charge of Telecom Licensing and Service development as well as Service Quality compliance. Later he was promoted Head of Regional Operations at UCC..Finally he became Head of Estates Administration.

In October 2008 the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly ( WTSA) which is held every four years and sets Global Standards elected Simon to serve as the Vice-Chairman of Study Group 13 responsible for Future networks, including mobile telephony. In addition, he was also elected to serve as the Group Rapporteur. Later, the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) which coordinates standards for telecommunications and Information Communication Technology around the world such as cyber security, elected him to be the first Chairman of the Regional Group for Africa.

Two things about Simon’s working life. In all this time his career was never bloated with a single scandal. Once when he was unfairly made redundant he went to his church and shared how he had lost his job. But his Pastor assured him that the God who gave him that job would redeem him. Indeed, later found blameless, he was recalled. He would end up as one of the longest serving staff at UCC, by the time of his death.

And then, while he was a top official at UCC, Simon shunned the perks that many long for and become so attached to while in big positions. For him he preferred to drive his pick up to work, shunning the official SUV, and normally walked back from office to home, as part of his exercise regime.

Simon also remained a down to earth “simple dude”, as he once described himself. Simon’s friends would come to rely on him for a fast hand whenever in need. “When my university in UK required accreditation of my first degrew” recalled his old friend Isaac, who had since settled in UK as an engineer, “and I didn’t know where turn, once I mentioned it to Simon, despite his busy schedule, he made time and effort to retrieve my transcript. In 2014 Cathy my wife and I needed to process some new personal documents and he just said, “leave it” and in 3 weeks he had it dome.” A hard working man here in Uganda it was common for friends who had issues with their upcoutry land to turn to Simon to help sort out the mind boggling mess of squatters or how to start sustainable farming.

Yet if there were anything that defined Simon was his service to his church, support for his former school and commitment to his family. He never left the church he joined as a young university student. Pastor Robert Kasaija , noted that when he received his first salary he quickly brought his tithe to see the Lord’s work prosper. This is a habit he continued to the end of his life. At King’s College Budo, where his eldest son Aaron Kibirige later joined, the headmaster, Bakka Male found him to be one of the most supportive parents. “Selfless service on house committees,” the Headmaster recalls, “and until his death fees sponsor to the needy.” Once on scholarship, Simon was always looking for students like him, to extend a helping hand.

When he married Agnes, she was still studying her ICSA. Agnes parents had cautioned him, before releasing her, that he commits to let her finish her studies. He never abandoned that promise. “Aside from being a good husband,” she would later testify, “he made sure that I completed my studies. He would drive me to school and wait to pick me up. After passing he accompanied me to UK for the award of my ICSA Certification.” Agnes now works in the Internal Audit Department of KCCA.

Early this year while chatting on the Budo 77-83 class forum Simon shared with pride, how their first born, Aaron Kibirige had graduated as a mechanical engineer. Sarah Namuggga, who follows, as an ICT specialist. Meanwhile Solome Nankumbi had just finished S6 at Gayaza High School, while the last born Samantha Nakubulwa, was in her P7 vacation.

At the start of last week Simon started feeling unwell. He took some medication to stem a serous bout of cough and flu. Describing himself as a “bad patient” he prayed for complete healing. After recovering from one long sleepless night, on June 14th he sent a message of praise to his friends on his church forum. With his energy returned he reported back to work. On our class forum that day he sent a message of condolence to Dr Frank Lule, who had just lost his father.

Simon had a full day at work up to Wednesday. However, on Thursday, he woke up weak and decided to stay home for rest. Later in the day, Agnes noticed him struggling with his breathing, and decided to rush him to Kampala hospital. By the time the car got to the hospital he had slipped away quietly to meet the Lord Jesus whom he had accepted as his Savior as a small boy, back in 1977.

Simon was a man whom you met and made you feel like a giant. He carried himself so simply and many would miss him as he walked back home from work, yet he was a global telecoms industry icon. He was looking eagerly for retirement, but the Lord had better plans.

“Quick feet” is now forever with his Lord and saviour.

What is killing you?

Early in life, I noticed a queer thing. I was not growing as fast as some of the boys I had joined school with. I mean in height and size. It all started when I failed to get into the school basket ball team. “No, you are too short!” coach said. “Try something else.”

Hurt, when rugby was introduced, my heart leaped with anticipation. I had this friend called Sembusi, with whom we excitedly started playing. In the first major game, on opposite sides, we both divided for the red ball. But before I could snatch it, my friend gave me such a rough push that sent me reeling over with pain.  I couldn’t fight back. Sembusi had suddenly grown huge and put on a lot of meat on his biceps. I decided from there on only to enjoy rugby as Sembusi’s cheerleader.

My lack of rapid growth in height and size came with a certain boom though. When it came to entering our dining mess, the smaller boys were given the fast pass. The Idi Amin reign of terror was at its peak, with food scarce and the meals so skimpy. So, you can imagine, how I flew the steps to get to my table and scoop out as much posho, before the bigger boys arrived.

Actually my being smaller never bothered me, for there was also an area where I seemed to have the last lough. As I look back my love of books could have started there as a way to beat the bigger boys. There was this guy, a head taller than everyone, who loved to gather smaller boys around him. Weak in class, he compensated by grooming a gang of followers. I didn’t join though, lost in my books. He resented me for that.

While for me it was books there was another smaller boy I shall call Shorty who just didn’t walk away from the yard to go hiding in the library. As others grew and he stood still, Shorty decided to squeeze his smaller fingers into one bloody fist.  All it took was one small slight and he would snap. Tiny as he was, Shorty would throw wild punches hard at the bigger boys, always aiming for the balls. Only the teachers who stop him by yanking him away, all bloodied, a tooth on the floor.

When later I moved to the US for further study and work, I noticed something which would take me back to my childhood. Being a Christian I joined a church perched in a neat part of town where I soon discovered I was the only black. It never bothered me or let me say I didn’t even think much of it. All I could see where people who laughed, quarreled at times and had their share of problems. Every Wednesday we would go out to invite new members, like Jehovah Witnesses minders. What I remember, the Whites would receive us eagerly, but for Black dudes, never. They seemed to resent the missionary Whites.

Yet, if they knew, here was a homely church filled with regular guys, who went about coasting a simple life. Many drove to church in rather ordinary cars and seemed to dress ever in the same suits and had on the same shoes.  In fact, I hardly remember the kind of SUVs  later to find back home, in Uganda, congesting traffic along potholed tiny streets.

In this church was a friendly family that would often invite me after service for a meal. We usually went to a diner, where buffet meals were served, and easy on the pocket. On some rare occasion this family would invite me visit them at home.  Home was a glittering house seated atop a hill overlooking Tulsa city. There your eyes where washed with what they call old money.  Seated, after a fancy meal, sipping coffee, you heard things like, “my kids education was paid for by our grandpa!” Excuse me. “Next weekend I will be flying to check on my factory in Australia.” Eh! But the guy had seemed so ordinary.

I had an apartment in a less affluent neighborhood. There was a way I came to know of some people visiting. In most of the cases, whenever you saw a sports car, rooftop open, and heard almost deafening juke box music blaring, you didn’t have to guess much which race was behind the wheels. The car drove fast into the parking lot, shining wheels spinning to an abrupt squeal. A guy adorned with all sorts of golden necklaces like an African chief jumped out, and sauntered about. He looked like me. Quite jet black.

At first you would say he was loaded. But no; in those parts there was such a wide berth of wealth between the largely low living whites and quite ostentatious blacks. What I came to gather is that while the whites, like those I went to church with, seemed to be at pains to exhibit their pearls; the blacks, once they collected a few, couldn’t just wait.

I had this black friend working on a night shift as a cook in a fast food restaurant. Once, while heading for class, he dropped by my apartment. “Come and see my new Ford sports car!” He pulled me out. There it was: a cool, polished white animal, with bright Michelin tires. He smiled. “I now will be working hard!” He had too. Those cars didn’t come easy on the pockets. Sometimes he would call me desperate for a loan to help him pay up the car loan installment.

This is when I started realizing that some of the problem in our lives are largely driven by trying to compensate something we feel we are lacking. We blacks being poorer desperately needed something to show off as finally somebody. We craved for respect. We needed to prove we had arrived. Of course there were many cheaper cars around my buddy could get, save on, and steadily build up a fortune. But there was that gap or rather hole he had to fill up.

I am sure psychologists have studied this phenomenon and given it a name; but here I will call it, the compensation paradox.

This is how it plays out. Back to my childhood, which was filled with all types of crazy characters fidgeting around as Presidents of modern nations, aside from Idi Amin, there were two chaps who were never short of antics. Few of those who saw Presidents Omar Bongo of Gabon and Emperor Fidel Bokassa of Central Africa Republic, could ever imagine there were a bit petit, in life, for all their flare.

In the case of Bongo, diminutive in size, he compensated his lack of height by having on high heel  platform shoes, covered with some large bell bottom trousers. Meanwhile, Bokassa the Emperor of a country with starving orphans, compensated for all his deficiencies by strapping on a uniform filled with a suitcase of medals. When this caught the attention of an unschooled Amin, not to be outdone, the two forever, were locked in hot pursuit of each other, who has more medals.

For some these might appear like they were benign incidents, but what drove these chaps was the compensation paradox. For whatever they lacked our chaps leading independent nations had to find a way of compensating their deficiencies with platform shoes or just stuff themselves in such unconformable jackets packed with starry medals, for everyone’s attention.

But don’t think it is only individuals who struggle with the compensation paradox. Nations, especially poorer ones, struggle with that complex too. Just recently, I came across development statistics from East Africa. I found that my country not only has the least population of the three major East African nations but also the lowest GDP and per capita income. Then I found something puzzling. At 534 Members of Parliament, Uganda has the largest parliament of all and with an approved 80 member cabinet, it doubles the numbers of either country.

How do you explain this anomaly? Since she has the least economy, Uganda, must compensate for what she lacks by packing a tiny building called Parliament like a football stadium with infinite MPs, and feel some sense of greatness.

The problem with compensation paradox is that it can often lead one to make irrational decisions. I hate to report that my friend with a Ford sports car eventually failed to pay his dues, and at some point, lost his job, soon dying a miserable man. I saw the same fate befall many black families too who were always in a hurry to impress someone, take on outsized credit, only to default and be thrown out in the streets, as the whites they were trying to compete with cruised by.

Back home I have seen my poor nation struggle to pay its bills, yet take on more loans to buy a new fleet for her outsized Cabinet. What is killing us here? Meanwhile the lenders of Uganda, some of whose leaders find no qualms in riding bicycles to work, keep piling on her debts. Of course they are secretly laughing for not long they will come calling, mortgaged land titles in their hands.

The way I see it every life needs to overcome the compensation paradox, find peace, and start cruising peacefully in one’s God given castle.  It is what they call being comfortable in one’s skin. Those who fail to reach that point must get set for a rough ride. Never comfortable in his skin, fighting to prove he was still around, Shorty, desperately took on the bigger boys who made him loose a lot of teeth!

Will torture ever end in Uganda

At the height of the presidency of Idi Amin, one of the most terrifying experiences to happen to anyone was being summoned to the “public safety unit” at Naguru. There on arrival, you would be welcomed with a cup of some strange tea- chai!

Chai involved stripping you naked. Soon after an officer on shift with a broken old beer bottle would start shaving your head till it was soaked with dark beads of blood. After you would be thrust into a rusting tyre rim and the flogging would follow till the officer would tire of your helpless screams.

You were then thrown in a packed cell, filled with inmates locked up on spurious politically motivated charges. Somewhere at night, as your family swept everywhere for your whereabouts, names from a list would be called. If you heard yours it was the end. Those that remained behind would soon hear the screams of bullets unleashed from a magazine in the adjoining room being emptied all in your flesh.

Dr Colin Sentongo, an official with the Ministry of Education, who narrowly survived execution, in his memoirs, “The unique story of an African education economist (2020),” recalls while there a prominent Masaka based lawyer called Mr Mawagi being brought over and greeted with chai. He was a strong man and even after combing his head with a broken bottle and flogging him with his head stuck in a rim he didn’t utter a sound. The chief torturer gave up; he feared this new inmate to withstand all that pain without flinching had “juju” powers.

Left on a verandah, all soaked in blood, Mr Mawagi spotted Colin. Weakly, he called him, “This country is in big trouble. There is no law and order. What right do these people have to torture me like this? Have they charged me?” That night Mawagi was picked from his cell and executed.

In 1979 Ugandans were liberated of this terror by the soldiers of Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLA) with help of Tanzania. But the country would soon be plunged into another bloody orgy with political factions jostling for power. This would culminate in a guerrilla war perched in the Luwero Triangle of central Uganda.

It is there that one first heard of a new form of torture- kandoya! This one involved flattening you with your arms ringed at the back and then with your rib cages extended and bursting the flogging would commence. Meanwhile the basement floor of one of Uganda’s best hotel, then, Nile Mansions, was turned into a torture chamber, that once dropped there, you would flood in a sea of blood and be consumed by a din of woes.

In 1986 the National Resistance Movement (NRM) took over the reigns of government ready to turn a new leaf. A commission of Inquiry into violation of Human Rights was set up where every victim of torture was encouraged to come forth and share their past ordeal since 1962. One of the Commissioners was Mr. John Nagenda, the writer. I met and talked to him last year about its work. He expressed regret that given the nature of atrocities committed no one was put on trial. In the spirit of being magnanimous and extending an olive branch, President Yoweri Museveni ruled against pressing charges, no matter the crimes committeed.

If Uganda had any hopes of an end to torture these hopes would quickly evaporate once the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) army came on scene to wage a war against NRM government. I once had a survivor drop in my office, a student who somehow had made it to university. She could never recover from the nightmare; but who would! As a young girl she had been treated to seeing her parents thrown in a pot of cooking oil on fire by rebels accusing her family of loyalty to government troops. Victims would be mutilated, eyes gauged, ears cut, legs burnt, and noses scissored, raped and left with maimed bodies.

Come today. Many had thought we had heard and seen it all, only to be jerked with yet new gory tales. A headline story that run in the government-owned Luganda daily, Bukedde, early this week, February 9, 2021 had a young man called Ronald Ssegawa. After being abducted his captors started by plucking out his nails before flogging him with electric wires. Thinking he was dead they dumped his lifeless body at the Mulago hospital mortuary, where he was found. He is fighting for his life.

In 2012 Uganda aware of this macabre history passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act. One of the main sponsors was African Center for Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV). The story behind is that in 1983 Dr Samuel Nsamba having survived death from torture decided to start this human rights advocacy organisation to spare Ugandans from suffering the same ordeal.

For over a decade I have had a proud association with ACTV as a consultant. I have interfaced with its work in sensitizing state actors against torture. But in spite of all this torture with all its sadism and wanton meanness continues to elude this nation. “What are the courts for? Why are they still paying judges and the rest of court workers?” the Late Mawagi asked as he bled from his wounds. It is now 44 years since this galllant Ugandan querried and many in the country are still asking the same questions.

Only time knows if this nation will ever outgrow this scourge of torture going on behind dark walls. The writer is an academic and works with Uganda Christian University, Mukono

Lessons from the attempted assassination on General Katumba Wamala

There is a saying that in life “never miss learning from a crisis!” In the wake of the attempted assassination of General Katumba- Wamala, there are important lessons, perhaps Uganda may pick up.

First, is the importance of being a good person in life and acting civil towards others, especially the less fortunate. The Baganda call it, “obuntu bulamu”! Those who have seen the video clip of the wounded Ugandan General being helped out on a boda – boda, may want to wonder, that, what if General Katumba had been known to be a bad person in life, would the crowds have extended a helping hand! Except for that blotch which shocked many of him landing blows on a fellow legislator filibustering against the removal of age limit in the 1995 constitution, many here recognize General Katumba as a personable Mzei.

Years ago, in 1979, I was a witness to the fate that befell some of Amin soldiers for defending an unpopular regime. There were soldiers sent by Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi to pop up his murderous regime, hanging around the Mulago power station. Poor fellows little they knew what they had been sold on. When saba- saba bombs started landing and they scattered no one was there to give them cover. When other Amin soldiers were also fleeing, all their once invincible ammunitions leveled to the ground, the crowds would sneakily point them towards the hidden troops from Tanzania, falling into a bloody nest, and quickly executed.

After Amin fell the soldiers that formed the new Uganda Army perfected themselves in sheer brutality. I once saw a soldier shoot a civilian matatu driver, near Makerere University main gate, only because the driver had lost control of his car and rammed into his. That image of the poor driver with blood spurting out of his severed neck has never left my mind. So, when the Obote regime fell at the hands of the Lutwa- Okello soldiers, when the NRM troops finally besieged Kampala, as before I saw crowds pointing them in the very direction of their enemies, where they were quickly slaughtered.

But people forget so easily. These days I tend to see some high-ranking soldiers and big shots, of a thuggish nature, riding carelessly in their fleets, bought at taxpayers expense, sirens blowing and pushing small people off the road, down into trenches. Think of it, a time may come, when these “big shots” need a hand from these little people as we saw when a General stood helpless in the middle of the road, with all those VIP vehicles passing by!

The second lesson is the importance of having a good national health care system. Again we go back to that video clip. The disoriented General is crying out for help and later before he embarks on a boda boda wonders which hospital they are speeding him to. Ugandans of today may want to be reminded that in 1969 when President Obote was shot in the mouth immediately hospital attendants at Mulago hospital were readied to receive him. Indeed, once there, he received expert care, from some of the best professionals you could find, in the world, and quickly got back on his feet.
But in this case the General was motorcycled off to a private clinic, and later, to a private medical facility, which thankfully saved his life. But still, remember, this is a four star General, a cabinet minister in charge of infrastructure, who is certainly privy to national security matters. Even our friends in the US in their zeal for the private sector know fully its limits. In October, 2020, after being diagnosed with Covid 19 President Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Military Hospital, not just any other medical facility.

I can guess too, if these private medical facilities, had failed to restore the General to full health, the next step.

Back in November, 2009 when the then Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Defense, Brigadier Nobel Mayombo’s health took for the worse, he, had to be rushed to neighboring Kenya, for treatment where he lost his life. In 2013 the late former Deputy Prime Minister, Eria Kategeya, was too evacuated to a Nairobi hospital where again he lost his life. It is habitual for many of our senior government officials and the well- connected to boast of having treatment in overseas hospital which costs the tax payer over $150 million annually.

The third lesson is, lest we forget, General Katumba is not the first person to be hit by bullets from a run away boda boda with concealed number plates. Back in July 2005 I lost a dear friend and prayer- partner called Mrs Robinah Kiyingi, then a leading attorney in Uganda, also hit by bullets from a runaway boda boda.

Common sense would long have dictated that this country regularize the boda- boda industry, which account for nearly 20 admissions daily at Mulago Hospital. One report from the Traffic Police Department indicate that over 7,000 people were killed in boda-boda accidents within a two-year period from 2015 to 2017! While in Rwanda you find all boda- boda riders have clear numbers, ride on one side of the road, and are assigned particular stages, here it’s a puzzle. Some of us have cried ourselves hoarse on this issue only to be deflected by perennial debaters. Friends, if a boda boda with concealed number plates can follow a General for that length, unbothered, then who is safe here, at all!

The fourth important lesson, I shall present in form of a question: “What became of all other assassination investigations and conviction of culprits- Joan Kagezi (2005); Felix Kaweesi ( 2017); Ibrahim Abiriga (2018); Mohammed Kirumira (2018); Moslem clerics!” Back in September, 1945, after World War 11vetaran, GW Senkatuka, aggrieved by the decision of Buganda Kattikiro Martin Luther Nsibirwa to sign away land at Makerere for the government, shot him dead; the British with astonishing speed had him arrested and hanged him in subsequent months. Many would imagine that any serious government desirous for the protection of her people, and even itself, would long have apprehended these unknown assailants and won some convictions too. For all we know the killers are still at large.

So, why should we wonder, if another gunman looms out of the shadow to pick up from the last assassination? Shall we now believe so much in government’s frantic attempt to institute an investigation, which seems a standard operation, with every assassination!

This week I received a very sad mail. In November 2020 after my old work colleague, John Kittobe, was gunned down during the riots, I wrote his obituary and pointed out that I doubted his death was by accident. The BBC Africa Eye investigation team analyzed over 400 videos of these shootings and found there was a link with security forces in the over 50 Ugandans who by admissions of government were assassinated. The son of my late friend sent me that report. It was like a healing wound being opened up all over again. Remember, there has never been any public inquiry into these arbitrary deaths of innocent Ugandans.

Many people are visibly disturbed by the murder of the General’s daughter and driver, for how could they not! But how can we also afford to forget that hundreds of other Ugandans who have been assassinated as much before? Their lives count as much. And yet justice, for some reason, is long incoming!

The final and most important lesson here is that when we willfully create a lawless country for our ends, manned by all sorts of paramilitary forces often behaving with impunity, fail to strengthen our law and justice institutions, averring to untouchable security organs, we end up with a country where no one is safe, including, sadly, the high and mighty.

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

The Manager and Staff Layoff

The coronavirus pandemic had a huge negative impact on X-Logistics, which with suspension of travel during the lockdown and subsequent decline in importation of goods was struggling to make ends meet. To survive, and give room for business recovery, the Board tasked management to cut payroll by a third. Immediately Kuma, the CEO, saught Mpetu, Head of Finance, how to go about by suggesting, “We need to start with the most senior positions to lay off taking a huge chunk of our money.

“I agree,” Mpentu nodded. “Otherwise they will be no effect.”

“Then proceed by finding the most expensive staff,” Kuma, already stressed with having to scout for finances, directed.

Once clear the decision was taken to senior management meeting for approval. But the moment Mpetu had presented his case with glossy slides showing the savings to accrue from slashing off so many heads, Ngozi, who was Head of Human resource, raised an objection.

“I agree with the need to lay off some staff in order to save funds,” she said, “but we need to be careful how. I do not think we should merely look at how expensive a particular staff is but also what we lose by letting the staff go.”

“I know where you are going,” Mpentu turned to Ngozi. “But if we approach this task with some staff being untouchable then we can’t reduce the bloated payroll.”

“The issue is if we lay off some of these skilled staff,” Ngozi pressed her point, “not only shall we lose all the investment we have made in them and which, by the way, we are most likely to surrender to our competitors, but also the skill set we need to forge ahead.”

“So, what are you suggesting?” Mpetu asked with some impatience.

“I suggest we start by identifying the skills we need for our business recovery,” Ngozi said. “We have a business plan and unless we are abandoning all our plans ahead we need to see what skills are important to save us for the future.”

There is a paradox today for many companies that are caught in similar situations of scarce funds like X Logistics. Normally, in lean times companies tend to slash staff as one cost saving measure, for business recovery. The question often is whether the company should merely look at what it saves in the immediate short run, without considering what it has lost in the long run! There are yes certain staff ( or skills) that can easily be absorbed back once the operations return to normal. The market is not short of such. But there are those who are so specialized that to lose them, the business may never completely be in position to lure them back. Besides, as we see Ngozi arguing, it may be important to consider what has been spent in getting them to their level and if it is worth to just let go.

Then there are those highly specialized or emerging industries. The training of certain individual skills in such industries may have taken years and laying them off may mean losing them to the market, which leaves the business at the mercy of its competitors who may then take advantage and gain leverage. This may make it more difficult for the business to fully recover.

One of the truisms in laying off staff is first deciding what you can’t afford to lose. Or put positively, what is the most important thing you must save for business sustainability. Without bearing that in mind slashing staff may while causing a temporary relief completely seal the chances of full business recovery.

The writer is a Management Consultant, Associate Professor and Dean of UCU Business School. E- mail:

A letter to a university student!

“My dear nephew these days I have been traveling a lot on business and I am behind on a lot of news. However, I have just noticed that you students are back to your striking ways and you are now seated at home.

In between my busy schedule I just thought I might take a few minutes to share some thoughts of the little I know about life. And, let me first share with you that as a University student it’s of course well and good to be involved in student activities, including peaceful demonstrations, which is your constitutional right.

Almost all the great changes around us have all been inspired by students. It is students like Alexander Hamilton who led the American Revolution. This much tired government of yours also sprung out of student activism. I would be worried if students are not engaged and debating the issues affecting a troubled society.

But then be careful. I will tell you this story. In my days at the university we had two types of students. There were those who had demanding courses and then those else with less demanding. Once as I lay on my bed enjoying my free reading and wondering how to kill time I suddenly heard a battle cry calling for a strike. Students were fed up with bad food. My course was not that heavy, or so for me, and I tended to have a bit of time after lectures.

So once I heard the battle cry I quickly jumped off my bed and followed our platoon leader. We got to Main Hall and immediately invaded the Dean’s Office. The Dean was a man called Mr George Kihuguru. I was told he was the one causing all our misery. So we started banging on his door that he show up and explain himself. What I recall the government sent soldiers, soon, and dispersed us all, with a few beatings.

Something I noticed that day as some of us participated in this strike, is most of those of with more demanding courses, especially medics, were a no show. We actually looked down upon them and considered them betrayers of our student solidarity. I could not appreciate them at that point. But these days when I meet those that finished their course on time, went on to have successful careers, I certainly have only respect and understanding. There are those who had the time for play, like me, but some students, did not have that luxury.

Service above self

In later life I would meet the man we now called Uncle Kihuguru only to find he was the nicest man you could ever come across. Now retired from university I got to realize that he had actually been working hard for us students. During the war that removed Amin from power Uncle Kihuguru had kept the university going, looking for food and putting his life at risk. He had retired honorably because he hadn’t used his office to gainfully advance himself at the expense of the university, which as you may know is quite common to find among a certain class of public servants.

Well, let me tell you a thing or two. There are certain things you just don’t know when you are far from that decision making desk. Also, because there were honest men like Uncle Kihuguru, that is why you found that university still in place, which I hear a few of you students want to burn down to ashes because you are mad at something.

As you may know your grandfather not only emphasized education but had also the means. I never for once was sent back home for fees, because he paid all in full. Well, at university I found myself sitting next to students far much older than I. I was curious. Then I discovered for many it was not for lack of ability. School fees had always been an issue.

So as you strike remember there is that student who has worked himself up to where you are. He thinks he has now finally arrived. You know there are those among you privileged or just foolish and don’t care much if the university is closed. But for some students you are just robbing them of or derailing their dream.

Just the other day a close friend of mine invited me to a graduation party of a niece, whose parents had died. The family had paid her fees. Now they told this young graduate, “Since you have finished school go out and get a job. But always remember extending a hand to others. That is what success is for us! Not just looking out for yourself!”

The love of parents

And then there are the parents. I have worked most of my life in university and I want to share what you may not know. Almost every other day I get calls from parents.  There are anxious to know if their kids are on track and soon graduating. There is nothing as sad as seeing a parent who comes and finds his kids had not been attending lectures, and hence not graduating, in spite of all the money already paid.

Never forget those parents and the sacrifices they take for all of you. Many start paying for fees while you are still in diapers. Do you know some kindergartens are even far more expensive than university! They take you all through the most expensive schools they can afford. They deny themselves many things, dreams which they also had. These parents you see struggling in ramshackle cars have often deferred the pleasures of boasting a nice car because of you. Many have never known anything like taking a holiday and most are still renting. But because of you they want you to do well in life. If they have not had similar opportunities, like for some to go to university, they want you to enjoy them. You are their success. Think of them please as you all strike down there.

Universities are changing

As you strike do remember also universities have long changed. When I joined university we all would be ushered into halls of residence. The universities run our lives and they even gave us free money- boom- much of which in my case I spent on booze. These days what I know many universities are closing down residence halls for lack of money. Students are mainly admitted into private hostels and told to manage their lives. These students, unlike us, start managing their finances early, well knowing the value of a penny. Some even take up jobs to make ends meet.

I didn’t want to bring up this but maybe I should. Your other grandfather who went on to head this country sailed to England for further studies early in 1950s. Something happened with his fees and he found himself short of money. But other than return to the country with empty hands he decided to take up odd jobs. Among them was digging graves during frosty winter. Finally he passed and returned with his law degree from Lincolns Inn, an accomplished barrister and went on to become not just an Attorney General but also a Queen’s Counsel. We loved him telling us that story, including once of being a miner, seeing how far he had gone in life. So let the challenge of fees not derail you. Just like your grandfather do not give up. Go out and get a job and pay up if you must.

Now another thing as a university don which I have seen and also shook me is to see the growth of online education. Do you know that actually many universities are now shutting down because parents, scarce of money, have decided to have students secure their degree through virtual learning. We in University are all wondering how our industry will thrive in the future. One thing I know is that in the very near future most of the students will not be going to physical campus for their degrees. Why? Because they can get those degrees online, and at far less cost.

There is in fact a young man I know already. His parents wanted to take him out once he was done with high school. But he asked for the money and put some in a commodity exchange business while undertaking an online degree. He has had some missteps. But tell you by the time some of you eventually graduate he will not just be armed with a thriving business, but also with a finance degree from Open University, UK.

A new generation

If I may conclude with something useful let me talk about the nation you belong to. Forget all the rosy stories you hear and read happening in this nation of yours. It is in auto pilot mode amidst turbulence. I have seen here services break down in a way I had never imagined. We are heavily indebted to daylight robbers.  Our once beautiful city has been reduced to a slum. I see all you young people fleeing the country in droves, being abused as maids, because there are no jobs here. Look at the type of public hospitals around you all in shambles

Now if I may ask, are you guys meeting and talking over these health and infrastructure challenges which are facing your nation! How can you help put this country back together and make it a source of pride among the community of nations, as it used to be. What new frontiers of knowledge are you exploring?

Or consumed by what is going on, you have decided to be another self-absorbed wasted generation bemoaning how hard your life has been and how the world now owes you so much! Are you also in a hurry to go out and loot the treasury as you commonly hear!

How I wish some of you are using your time wisely and coming up with classic novels like Ngugi who wrote “The River Between” in those residence halls. Isn’t it sad that we still have our children dying of malaria for lack of a vaccine. What are you doing about it? Don’t you feel sad that our people still eke a living while still using a hand hoe! Are some of you students dreaming up the latest Facebook business, started in dormitory rooms? Or just thinking of going out and breaking more windows, piling abuses upon your Vice Chancellor because he has told you to go back to class!

I believe every generation comes to have an impact. Some of us older folks are now waiting on you, having seen all the havoc those amongst ours have caused. Believe me it breaks some of us. But may be yours will be a blessing; stand for good and not evil.

Have a purpose

Now, just before I sign off I want to take you back to that day when I jumped off my bed to join in a strike. If you had happened to ask me why, all I could have told you is, because others are doing so. I didn’t have any clue what was important to waste time fighting for. Yet before you realize your university days will be over. And you have a whole life ahead of you. So just know where you should put your time. Have a purpose.

Send greetings to your mother and siblings. Tell them to stay in school. Always say your prayers, honor God in all you do,  keep out of trouble, work hard at your books and excel. You have been a good example to all and we are all proud of you. And the future is bright.”

The writer is Dean, Faculty of Business & Administration, Uganda Christian University, Mukono

The assault on Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga and the trials of Buganda’s Premeirs!

A long time ago the good people of Buganda came up with a saying, “Basiima ogenze!” Loosely translated, it means, “a worthy servant is appreciated when long gone!” Observing the bashing of the sixth Katikkiro ( Buganda premier) to serve under Kabaka Mutebi, ever since rumors of the Kabaka’s failing health started circulating, the old saying certainly is most appropriated.

Although he has been a long and dutiful servant of the Buganda kingdom, a man who has vested almost all his working life in promoting kingdom affairs, to some out there Mayiga has suddenly become Buganda’s number 1 enemy. But should you be surprised! Apparently many of those who proceeded Katikkiro Mayiga in the most important office there is in Buganda after Kabaka, and labored so much to build a great Buganda, were treated as much, if not worse.

It is interesting to recall how the very man whom Katikkiro Mayiga succeeded, Eng JB Walusimbi, was treated so disdainfully before. To begin with some people may remember it was  Walusimbi who stood valiantly to ensure the Kabaka was granted safe passage to  the province of Bugerere, in 2009, when relations with the central government were at their lowest. This was a pivotal do or die issue as no other; indeed it sparked off ugly riots.

Prior to that Katikkiro Walusimbi had also while serving as Omwamika (Treasurer), promoted charity contributions in the form of purchasing a Kingdom certificate to help out with the kingdom’s revenues. The Buganda kingdom without executive power lacks tax powers and is often scarce of funds. This innovation therefore helped sustain the kingdom operations.

In spite of this and many other worthy contributions, it did not prevent the quick tongues to start circulating rumors that Walusimbi was a mole of the central government. In some of these circles it was alleged the central government was returning the favor by lavishing his engineering firm juicy State House contracts. Hurt, as he was about to vacate the office, the soft spoken Katikkiro Walusimbi gave a blistering speech to the Buganda Parliament- Lukiko, where without mincing words he pointed out the kingdom has many people full of “enkwe” ( duplicity)!

This sober truth was once shared to me by none other than the long serving  Katikkiro J Mayanja- Nkangi. “It is a delicate job serving in that office and managing all the intrigues,” he, on one occasion revealed to me, as I queried why some people even though their track record in serving the kingdom is undisputable, had fallen out of favor. A case in point is how the man Nkangi succeeded in office, Katikkiro Micheal Kintu, fell in 1964.

When a young legislator called Appolo Milton Obote was first presented to Ssekabaka Mutesa 11, by his old Budo schoolmates at Bamunanika palace, and urged him to bless UPC party with an alliance with KY, there was one man who resisted these entreaties. Katikkiro Kintu, suspected a ruse, and would not bring himself to trust the unknown Obote, trying as much to dissuade the Kabaka from committing. He was ignored. At the Lacanster conference where the 1962 constitution was debated he put on a spirited fight for Buganda’s independence.

It did not take long for all his premonitions to come true. Events started playing out soon after independence with UPC insisting on holding the Lost counties referendum, against the spirit of the alliance. Once Buganda had lost the two counties following the referendum, whom do you think was blamed! A mob quickly descended upon the Lukiko and demanded Katikiro Kintu’s immediate resignation.

Some years ago I happened to talk to one of Katikkiro Kintus grandchildren about his latter life after he was unceremoniously booted out of office. “Having been pushed out like that he quit Buganda politics altogether,” the grandson told me. “Whenever people approached Kintu for some comments about the situation in Uganda he would just shrug them off!”

Katikkiro Kintu had succeeded another premier who had been equally shown the door, without much credit. In 1953 Katikkiro Paulo Kavuma while serving as premier faced the unpleasant challenge when the British took the decision to deport Kabaka Mutesa who was opposed to their intentions for an East Africa Federation, which the kingdom felt threatened. Immediately there are those who started suspecting Katikkiro Kavuma was involved in the plot. They expected him to resign. But as he explained in his memoirs, Crisis in Buganda, he felt it was better to continue holding on to the reins of government. His standing in must have paid off; in 1955 the Kabaka returned safely to his throne.

Well, what happened? Quickly he was relieved of the premiership, with many still convinced he had been part of a scheme with the British to rob the king of his power.

Earlier on Kattikiro Kavuma had succeeded the son of Katikkiro Appolo Kagwa, Kawalya- Kagwa, who too had been pushed out like his father.  In 1926 Kattikiro Kagwa had been forced to resign when he failed to secure support in his battles with the British for supremacy in the region. The war of the “beer permits” where  Katikkiro Kagwa felt he had the final say on who to license permits, which the British deferred, ultimately led  him  to quit his 33 years hold on to the premiership.

Kagwa had done so much for Buganda and Uganda. Certain revisionists tend to be more preoccupied with Kagwa’s land acquisitions or even ancestry. Yet it is important to note that it was Kagwa who welcomed the introduction of major cash crops like coffee and cotton which formed the backbone of Uganda’s young economy, prevented White settlers invading Uganda and taking over land as they did in Kenya, inspired Buganda government to start schools like Kings College Budo which has given this nation three heads of state, welcome missionaries who build hospitals like Mengo hospital, inspired the construction of magnificent cathedrals like St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, presiding over a calm period of progress after the turbulent religious wars of the late 19th century.

His unceremonious departure hurt him deeply. A sad man, a year later, he collapsed and fell dead in a train while in Nairobi.

For his son Kawalya- Kagwa, who became Katikkiro in 1945, he started losing support when he fronted the idea of introducing electricity and piped water to the region, by blessing the British plans to construct Owen Falls Dam. As ridiculous as it might sound to some there was a huge public outcry in Buganda against Katikkiro Kagwa for welcoming this developmental initiative, precipitating his fall in 1950.

But if there was any Katikkiro who was so resisted for his initiatives it is Katikkiro Martin Luther Nsibirwa. A protégé of Katikkiro Kagwa who had mentored him into the Buganda government service, he was first forced out of office when he supported the Namasole ( Queen mother)  to remarry which earned him the ire of many traditionalists. Succeeded by  Katikkiro Samuel Wamala, the latter’s term came to an abrupt end after the 1945 riots, of which he was accused of sponsoring.  Katikkiro Wamala along with a dozen Baganda chiefs was arrested and exiled to the Seychelles, written off as a mad man, where he soon died.

It is important to note that as heroic as Wamala’s fight against British domination was, even to this day, he is rarely mentioned nor much honored although he lost his life in Buganda service.

After being recalled from retirement to succeed Wamala, Katikkiro Nsibirwa drew ire from the public when he signed off 200 acres of Makerere land for the British to expand the university. This was a decision of remarkable courage by a man clearly ahead of his times. When you fall out of favor among certain Baganda, they start questioning your ancestry. “Oyo ndaba si Muganda”- loosely translated: “Of course, he is not an indigenous Muganda!”  He was written off by many. The day after signing off the Makerere land, while about to enter Namirembe Cathedral for morning prayers, Nsibirwa was shot dead by a one Senkatuka!

Today, like many of his predecessors, Katikkiro Mayiga is under assault. He is accused on some forums of being a central government mole and of course, guess what, his ancestry is also questioned, just for the usual dig! Much like Walusimbi, baseless rumors are also circulated of self enrichment from kingdom projects, We are not sure where this tide will end, if it will sweep him with a forced resignation, like others.

I first met Charles Mayiga  in 1978 when together we joined St Henry’s College, Kitovu as carefree students, un aware of all the demands later to fall on our generation. As Katikkiro for some of us he has not disappointed. For the record it is under Katikiro Mayiga’s leadership and prior roles serving in Buganda government  that remarkable feats have been realized. As Personal Assistant to the Kabaka he was pivotal in the restoration of Kabakaship; since then, he has seen the finishing the construction of Masengere, launching of BBS Television, return of considerable Buganda government titles, assembling a full time cabinet, launching a university, establishing Ganda provinces in the diaspora, defending the Ganda culture, and more. He has done all this at the expense of furthering his professional career as an Advocate. But for now, all that does not matter. Basiima ogenze!

All which leads me to conclude here by asking, if and when Katikkiro Mayiga leaves, as some are bent on seeing his back, which Muganda will the Kabaka find, so unblemished. But then I am heartened because one thing I know of  Kabaka Mutebi, is that unlike the flippancy and total lack of appreciation found in so many, he is a listening and decisive king, who knows to give due where is due!

The writer works with Uganda Christian University.


The Manager and Apologizing

“No you can’t apologize!” Chris, the Legal Advisor warned Father John, CEO of Kimeza mission hospital who was anxious to issue an apology following revelation that there was a mother who had received a different baby, only for the hospital to realize the error, soon after she had left. The mother had to be recalled and told the mistake. Appalled, at first she insisted against exchanging the lovely baby she had just got attached to. But once the facts were made clear, and she heard there was another mother expecting this very baby, she relented. In fact, when she saw her very baby she calmed down with relief. But, still, she wasn’t amused. “Is this how do things here!” Clutching her own baby she stormed out of the hospital in disgust while threatening never to return.

Initially there was an attempt to seal the matter as an in house issue. However, someone got the incident out into the local press. Soon the story was making rounds on talk show radio, going viral on socio media. “It is not the first time with Kimeza hospital,” one caller on a popular talk show volunteered. “Switching babies happens there all the time.”

“Those people are so cruel!” an anonymous account on Face book lambasted the hospital. “They do that all the time.” Meanwhile Whatsap forums were on fire with many questioning what type of hospital is that with such a sloppy baby identification system. “I bet they also mix up bodies!”

Once he got hold of the issue Father John, the CEO, felt that being the custodian of the public relations of the hospital it was incumbent upon him to issue a public apology. As a godly man apologies came natural with him, since he also earned a living by listening to people repent their sins. Moreover, this was a private hospital and Father John knew the success of the business depended on retaining the confidence of customers. So why not issue a press apology to calm down temperatures.

But just as he was about to the legal officer came up to his office and protested. “It will be like an admission of wrong which might be used against us in court to seek punitive damages!” Chris cautioned.

Organizations, whether there are involved in services or manufacturer of goods, will inevitably make errors. This is also true in the management of their very staff. There is a case of a CEO who once received certain information about a staff that was alleged to be involved in unethical behaviors. Trusting the source the CEO acted fast and dismissed the staff only to realize later that he had acted on wrong information. He then wondered if he should recall the staff and apologize remorsefully. Yet the Head of Human Resource ( HR) cautioned him against. “But why?” asked the CEO.

“Next we shall be having a suit of wrongful termination,” was HRs point of view.

Now, from a human point of view, offering apologies is what is considered good breeding, especially once one concedes of having made a honest mistake, which everyone does, every once in a while. However, when it comes to managing organizations the issues could be far more complicated. In the above case if Father John proceeds to issue a written apology, there is all the possibility of the offended mother and possibly others with similar experiences to seize upon that confession, launch a suit, where this “public apology” is used as evidence against the organization.

An important point to note here is that there is a distinction between offering an apology in a personal capacity and that one in the name of the organization. In those situation where one is only offering personal apologies that might be a non-issue. But where one speaks for an organization the consequences of that public apology is beyond the person. The organization may later be put to task.

So, if one must to, one way of going about is where a manager is advised to proceed but with a carefully legally worded statement where responsibility is not owned up. There are cases where matters can be left to die of their own without stalking fire by exciting someone eager to pick on words. In other situations an apology can be issued because management has weighed there will more damage done with bad publicity arising from the incident. The organization decides to take the risk hoping the apology will calm temperatures and let the matter rest.

The writer is a Management Consultant and Associate Professor of Management, Uganda Christian University, Mukono. E- mail:

When the free became slaves again!

No one could ever forget the night when slaves in Bulaya revolted. A hated slave owner, Mr Smith had just retired to bed when the slaves stormed his six-bed room mansion.  The slaves had long tired of being worked day and night in the cotton fields and sugar plantations suffering whips under a scorching sun and moreover without pay.

For some days rumors of an impending slave rebellion had been circulating about in Bulaya. Sensing danger, Mr. Smith, a nasty large scale sugar plantation owner, had taken to the habit of going to bed armed with a loaded rifle, which he rested next to his pillow case. However, when the slaves struck, he was fast sleep. By the time he awakened the slaves were banging hard at his door. He reached out for his rifle. But the mob had already pushed inside. They seized upon him and savagely cut off his head.

From Mr. Smith’s compound the slaves, marched on, torching slave owners’ homes, catching most unawares. They would go first for the men, particularly those with a reputation of being task masters, savagely slicing off their heads, and then move to decapitate their wives and children too. It was bloody. By the time reinforcement arrived from the Bulaya Protection Command Post, twenty slave owning families had perished.  The commander of the rescue forces later commented he had never seen this much bloodshed before.

After rounding up the vanquished rebellious slaves and quickly executing them, the terrified Bulaya slave owning community sat down.

“We are having so many slave rebellions!” one slave owner who had lost his entire family moaned. “Almost every year there is an uprising. We must find a way to end this business.”

“We were wrong to haul these people from their continent to work for us here,” confessed another grieving slave owner. “But since we have now machinery we can do without them. I suggest we agree to send them back and use our machinery to farm.”

A number of slave owners protested, insisting they owed nothing to these “darkies who have now ungratefully killed our own!” But a respected elderly church pastor rose and urged to free the slaves. “We have been using these people for centuries without paying them a coin for their labor.  We have grown rich from their sweat. I suggest we are kind enough not only to send them back to their country but put up a development fund to help them develop their new country.”

After a long debate the majority voted in favor of this proposal.

And so the nation of Baddu was born, formed of ex-slaves!  From among the returnees, Mr. Washington, who was the most educated of all was elected President of the new found self-governing nation. Mr. Washington had no other memory other than growing up as a slave and the task was formidable.  A prayerful man, he started well by nationalizing all Baddu land and mineral resources to save them from ever being snatched by people from Bulaya.

His nationalism pleased many who still felt bitter towards Bulaya.  But, when President Washington started preaching reconciliation with Bulaya and establishing good working relations, he was opposed.  “We still need these people,” he urged his countrymen, the ex-slaves. “They have the capital and technology which we need to tap into for our development.”

There were those who wanted to sever all relationships with Bulaya because of the old history of exploitation.  When President Washington decided to protect the Development Fund created by Bulaya, earmarking it only for long-term development projects, he lost more support. “Let’s use these funds to build the future by investing them in quality schools, modern hospitals, good roads, and save as much for the future of our children.”  He pleaded.

“Saving for the future!” Members of Baddu’s parliament cried in protest. “When we were in slavery we suffered so much. It is now our time to eat and enjoy life. The future is here already. Let’s have our money.”

Matters came to a head when parliament came up with a budget proposal where it sliced for herself a huge allocation for new cars, free medical care and allowances for unlimited trips back to Bulaya where the standard of living was much higher. The moment the bill came to President Washington’s desk he vetoed it without hesitation. “As a developing country we must learn to live within our means!”

That very night President Washington was overthrown in a coup, led by the head of the army, General Mathews, also an ex-slave. He had been contacted by some of the ex-slaves unhappy with President Washington’s policy of monetary fiscal discipline. In his first address General Mathews, accused the former President of corruption. To ease  his grip on power he decided to shed off his military uniform. He then organized elections which he controlled all the way. After winning handily, he was sworn in as an elected civilian President.

One of President Mathews first act was to recall the bill passed by parliament which his predecessor had vetoed and sign it into law. Of course, as President Washington had feared, the budget expenditure ballooned. Not long Baddu was struggling to finance her budget. It is then that someone reminded President Mathews there was the Development Fund. “Our money is sitting there and yet we are suffering,” one of the ex-slaves pointed.

President Mathews did not need much prompting. He raided the fund and started re-allocating money for the army and Members of parliament whose support he needed. He raised their salaries to become the highest in the world.  He bought for the army and his supporters in parliament brand new SUVs.  He sent his and their children to schools in Bulaya. Whenever any would fall ill the government would fund them to go back to Bulaya for medical treatment.

All of this started affecting Baddu’s development as essential sectors like agriculture were neglected for lack of funds. Once food secure, Baddu became a net importer of food. In fact most of the foodstuffs were now imported from Bulaya where farmers now used modern machinery and no longer cared for slaves. Baddu was actually helping Bulaya prosper as most of the household goods were imported from her.

It didn’t take long before the Development Fund run out. President Mathews now raised taxes. Yet people had no money to pay. So his government started printing money to help pay her bills. This led to sky rocketing inflation. Anyone who worked now found wages almost useless. Besides, because there was lack of investment, there was no one investing in building factories to create jobs. Since agriculture was neglected the youth who were the majority migrated to urban centers in search for jobs. But there were no jobs; so they  spent most of the day playing board games or loitering about aimlessly. Many occasionally engaged in petty crime.

One day something happened that caught the attention and saddened many good people in Bulaya and Baddu. A group of young men and women, grandchildren of ex-slaves, after finishing school and looking for jobs to no avail, happened to hear they could be trafficked to Bulaya where they could find jobs.

So, they saved and borrowed to pay the traffickers. After trekking through hills and forests, they led them to a boat down at the coast. The long trip started at night and took a slow and winding but sure path against the ocean winds to Bulaya. It was about dawn as the boat was fast approaching the coastline, with the youths on seeing the Promised Land their hearts pumping with joy, when a severe storm came from nowhere and knocked the boat aside.  All the occupants were lifted and swept out. None had a life jacket on nor knew how to swim. Sinking in the water the youths helplessly screamed out for help.

A rescue ship was dispatched. But by the time it got to the scene all the youths- grandchildren of ex-slaves had perished on the high seas! They had been fighting to go back to the country where once their grannies had lived and hated life as slaves!