The mood was jolly as speaker after speaker highlighted outgoing Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi's accomplishments in his nine-year reign.
This was at a farewell dinner for Orombi at Speke Resort hotel Munyonyo, on December 8. Most people hailed his oratory skills, non-confrontational approach to issues, construction of the Church House and influence on the Anglican Church in and outside Uganda that was propelled by his uncompromising stand against homosexuality.
"When I am asked about when the Church House will be opened, I confidently say 2013, if I was asked about that five years ago, I would have shied away because Church House was one of the most boring topics," said Rev Nelson Kaweesa of the construction that started under Orombi after close to four decades.
Talking of Orombi's attributes, Onesmus Asiimwe, the Archbishop's Chaplain who was also emcee, said that to some people, Orombi was an acronym for Organised, Reliable, Outspoken/ Orator, Mentor, Brave and Influential.
"With such qualities, it's a sweet-sour pill for us. A spirit is hovering over us that in your retirement, we will miss a ministry."
Dr Ben Mbonye, who chaired the committee that organized the dinner, said that the news of Orombi's retirement "was a bitter-sweet pill but we had to swallow it."
He said Orombi had set the bar high for his successor Stanley Ntagali: "His shoes will be bigger, but we will stand with you and we pray that you raise the bar even higher."
At the ceremony, the public learnt of Orombi's personal attributes hitherto unknown. Asiimwe revealed that Orombi always has supper at 8pm and that fish is one of his favourite dishes. The dinner at Munyono was served at 7:50pm.
Known for keeping time, former Prime Minister Prof Apolo Nsibambi arrived early and by 6:25pm when Orombi and Ntagali arrived, he was the only VIP at the high table with his wife, Esther. They were later joined by Bishop Kityo Luwalira and deputy speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah and his fiancée.
Oulanyah's fiancée was disclosed by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. While inviting Oulanyah to speak, Bahati let the cat out of the bag when he said that the lady who had come with Oulanyah was his bride-to-be. Their wedding is scheduled for this January. Oulanyah was seen gladly introducing her to Nsibambi, Orombi and Ntagali. Our efforts to get her name were futile.
"Wait when the wedding preparations start," said Bahati.
The fiancée declined to give her name too, but it is said that she has been abroad; her accent attested to that. When Bishop Stephen Kazimba of Mityana diocese who represented the Dean Bishop Evans Kisekka of Luwero diocese and the Dean of the Province of Church of Uganda, asked Orombi to receive a gift wrapped in an envelope, Orombi said: "It's only the Dean who can order the Archbishop to come down here."
In his remarks, Oulanyah said Orombi's above-average height contributed to his excellent public speaking skills. Oulanyah said, causing laughter: "I am not offending Prof Nsibambi but addressing a congregation has something to do with height. You have to talk down to the people, the reason there are platforms for speakers. So, he (Orombi) didn't suffer what most of us do."
He also revealed how as deputy speaker, he usually prays to God that some MPs speak.
"Sometimes I pray that a certain member doesn't stand up and God keeps them down. Other times I pray that other people stand up and they do."
Oulanyah asked Orombi to pray for politicians: "They may be pompous, but they are lonely."
Orombi said he was aware of the plight of the lonely.
"When you look at them, they look healthy, drive flashy cars, have security guards. One may think they are okay but you don't know the stress levels they go through," he said.
The dinner was attended by about 200 people, chiefly provincial staff, Namirembe diocese officials and friends of the outgoing Archbishop. Guests included businessman Gordon Wavamunno, Bank of Uganda Deputy Governor Louis Kasekende and Ignie Igundura, the Civil Aviation Authority spokesman.