New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Too Modest for an MP

With the title MP come lots of stereotypes about people, but Fred Ebil has proved that someone can live a normal, quiet and simple life even when they are a legislator, Samuel Lutwama writes

In Africa, it is largely believed that the standard of one's house should be a reflection of one's station. So with the salaries and allowances, all one would expect of a Ugandan Member of Parliament would be an automatic ticket to a swanky dwelling, preferably in a bungalow with a swimming pool and fleet of vehicles in the compound.

But the home of Fred Ebil, the Kole county MP, located in the Naalya Housing Estate is different. His lifestyle is simple and just sufficient for his family.

On this Saturday afternoon, we are ushered into the home of Ebil where the legislator was elated to host us. He was so happy he could not hide it. His demeanor said it all. Unlike some MPs, Ebil does not seem carried away by the political titles and office that come with his stature. Instead, he is just a family man, who loves his children and their wellbeing.

Currently, he is his four children's mother and father, as his wife is away in Birmingham pursuing studies at doctoral level.

"In her absence, I juggle the roles and I love it. It gives me ample time to be with the children.

This has enabled us bond and also get to know each other better," he says with enormous pride and a smile beaming on his face, while he proceeds to the kitchen where he sorts the rice. "Cooking runs in my blood," he says. "My mother was a great cook, she often surprised our father with special dishes," he narrates.

He then summons the househelp to bring more spices. As the food cooks, we settle down in his living room, but the aroma from his special dish will not stop titillating our appetites.

The living room is resplendent with brown furnishings, from the brown leather chairs, dining table to a beautiful wall unit where the TV set sits. On top of the wall unit hang family pictures. In one photograph he poses with his wife, Eunice, at Kampala Serena Hotel at one of the Miss Uganda beauty pageant finals.

In yet another picture, taken during his swearing-in ceremony at Parliament, he poses with his wife and their first son.

How they met:

"We met in 1999 at a dance party. I liked her moves and joined her on the dance floor and that is how our love began," he says. He adds that the genesis of his romance with Eunice has influenced his life in more ways than he can spell out.

The couple has three boys and one girl with whom he has a special bond, particularly the girl whom he calls angel.

He says his children know everything that happens in the house. They inquire about the strange faces. Their father takes the time to explain to them why we had besieged their home.

The girl, with Primary Three inquisitiveness, asks lots of questions with wisdom that clearly surpasses her age.

On marriage, Ebil admits there have been challenges, but with great lessons learnt. "My wife and I had our fair share of challenges since we came from different backgrounds. She comes from an affluent family which is in stark contrast with my own family.

Consequently, we have disparity in our personal values and worldviews about marriage and family, but we have worked out fine," he narrates.

Ebil's tough journey:

The legislator describes himself as a child of diverse ancestral backgrounds. He is Langi by birth, but also shares a bloodline with the Baganda on his maternal side.

Born in 1976 at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, Ebil's father, Chance Ebil, worked in the Soroti Government Prison. His mother is Joy Nabukenya from Masaka.

"I wonder how my father, a prison warder, managed to put his seven children through good schools on a meagre income," he says. Unfortunately, when the late 1980s civil war broke out in Teso, his father lost the job and this marked the first day of the rest of Ebil's life. He now had to fend to earn a living so as to survive in school where he excelled and in 1996 was admitted to Makerere University for an arts degree.

"In the process of looking for tuition fees, I got into business briefly and also did several casual jobs," he narrates.

Some of these jobs included teaching English in primary schools on a part time basis. While at Lugazi Parents School, he met an Indian cotton dealer who wooed him into the business and that is how he got money to further his education. Later on, he joined the furniture business and the rest is as they say, history.

Today when Ebil is not at Parliament or in his constituency on official business, he is playing football with his boys or discussing science and world affairs with his daughter. His love for football is, however, passive.

He is a fan of Manchester United, an English Premier League club. The anxiety on his face is evident as he discusses matters affecting the club.

Joining Politics:

While growing up, Ebil heard stories of the mysterious disappearance of his grandfather, and many other people from his home area, who were picked up from their homes during the Idi Amin regime. His grandfather was never seen again.

"Sometimes my father used to wonder what befell his father," says Ebil, with great pains, trying to hide his emotions, "and there are no answers to this day," he says.

"So hearing all these sad stories and the atrocities that were committed to our people, I felt that I should join politics to have a positive influence in our society, thus my journey to Parliament," he explains. Ebil says Uganda People's Congress party runs deep in his blood.

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