13 November 2007

Uganda: Parliament Mourns Omwony Ojwok

Kampala — Government and Opposition parties paid tribute in Parliament yesterday to state minister for planning Omwony Ojwok, who died of heart failure on Sunday morning, at the age of 60.

Prime Minister Prof. Apolo Nsibambi said the minister was the brain behind the conflict resolution strategy in northern and northeastern Uganda.

He also credited him for spearheading development projects in Karamoja and in the north.

"He has been instrumental in the pursuit of peace-building and conflict resolution in Karamoja, encouraging disarmament and the abolition of armed cattle-rustling," Nsibambi said.

He described Ojwok, who was also the MP for Labwor, as disciplined, honest, patriotic and dedicated.

MP for Soroti Alice Alaso appealed to the Government to improve the medical facilities in the country, which she called distressing.

Chwa MP Okello-Okello supported her plea. "Each time an MP dies, the House laments about the dire need for better medical facilities, especially in Mulago Hospital. When shall we stop lamenting?" he asked.

But health minister Dr. Stephen Mallinga said Mulago staff did everything possible to save Ojwok's life. He added that Ojwok's left coronary artery, which supplies blood to the muscle tissue of the heart, was closed. 'It is surprising that this was not picked up during the testing in India, because a by-pass operation could have been done."

Mallinga appealed for more funding for the health ministry. He complained that the sh100m allocated for drugs this year was too little.

Ssekandi, on behalf of Parliament, conveyed condolences to the widow and the family. A special message was also sent by the South Sudan government.

Peter Lokeris, the primary education state minister, who comes from the same region as Ojwok, described him as an outstanding scholar who, despite his high education, remained humble.

Vice-President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, who studied with Ojwok at St. Mary's College Kisubi, called him brilliant and an excellent debater.

"He was incredibly dedicated to the development of Uganda."

Bukenya recalled how Ojwok called him from Mombasa two weeks earlier. When asked why he was not resting, as recommended by the doctors, Ojwok told him: 'No we must work.' "That is how dedicated he was."

Finance minister Dr. Ezra Suruma hailed the late for his diplomatic skills.

"He was a consensus builder and we shall miss his role and contribution."

Prof. Edward Rugumayo, who had been part of the renowned "Gang of Four", called him a democrat and a man without prejudices.

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, said he was a committed leader. "That kind of death for a man who had a lustrous journey for the cause of this country is very traumatising to the family, constituency and country."

The cortege will leave today for Abim, where a night vigil will be held at the deceased's home.

The burial will take place tomorrow at Abim Town Council, after a requiem mass at his residence.

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