24 February 2013

Uganda: Amos Kaguta - How Will Ugandans Remember Him?

Amos Kaguta, the father of President Yoweri Museveni, died Friday morning at the International Hospital Kampala (IHK) at age 96.

Kaguta, son of Kashanku, was a man of simple ways despite his elevated position. He abhorred grandiose. Last week, he was admitted to hospital after complaining of abdominal pains.

"He seemed to be in stable condition for a while but unfortunately, his situation deteriorated last night, leading to his death earlier today," read a brief official statement from Information Minister Mary Karooro Okurut on Friday.

"His sad passing is a colossal loss to the country. Mzee Kaguta has been an inspiration, God-fearing and resilient person, a disciplinarian whose vision, wisdom and guidance will be missed by his family in particular and the country at large," Karooro said.

Many The Observer spoke to, eulogised him as an amiable man who preferred an ordinary lifestyle, deeply steeped in the primordial culture of his cattle-keeping Bahima community. The proprietor of Fountain Publishers, James Tumusiime, recalls that Mzee Kaguta used to be his neighbour in Rushere, Kenshunga the sub-county where Rwakitura is located.

"He was a warm, friendly and down-to-earth old man who respected the traditions of the Banyankore. He uncharacteristically did not exude the airs of a first father. He was not arrogant and never showed off that he was the father of the country," said Tumusiime.

He also recalls that Mzee Kaguta lived in an old house near the president's countryside home in Rwakitura.

"He was a cattle farmer by tradition. For his age, he lived what you would expect an old man of his age to be. He was enlightened to the extent of somebody who didn't go to school but acquired modern ways of life," Tumusiime said.

The current deputy secretary general of the opposition FDC Augustine Ruzindana, who formerly served Museveni's government, recalled Kaguta as a simple man.

"I usually met him in the presence of his son [president]. The last time was in Kisozi some years back. He was with his son. We just greeted and that was it. I didn't know him personally but he appeared a simple man. His house was still a normal house like that of the other ordinary people. You can see it on the way to Rwakitura," said the former government ombudsman.

The former head of Political Intelligence at State House Charles Rwomushana told The Observer that the late president's father was fond of him.

"He was my personal friend and the president used to go along with me to visit him. The last time I met him around 2007, he asked me why Parliament could not debate one thing and finish it. I failed to give him answers. He said lay people like him, therefore, cannot follow Parliament's proceedings," recalls Rwomushana.

The former State House aide says Mzee Kaguta was well versed with history and he " found him much more intelligent than Museveni."

"He was very simple and down-to-earth. He ate matooke from his garden and in his house in Rwakitura, he used plastic cups and plates. By virtue of his position, he could have been rich but I can challenge anyone if he did have any money on a bank account," says Rwomushana.

Rwomushana also recalls that Kaguta had a dislike for whites.

"He would often ask the protocol when he wanted to meet the president if there were whites at State House. If they were there, he would not come," says Rwomushana.

Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo's father Sam Mwagalwa was one of Mzee Kaguta's closest friends. Ssekikubo says Kaguta was such a nice man that he even pleaded for those he thought were being victimised by his son (the president).

"I personally grew up seeing Mzee Amos and Sam, they had a closely-knit relationship. Even after the takeover of government, Amos could come and visit his friends in Lwemiyaga. In our school time and holidays, we could go to his home. It was our second home."

Ssekikubo also recalls that during the turbulent times when Mzee Kaguta was hunted down by government operatives and was not allowed to visit any health facility, he would consult his father (Mwagalwa).

"We shared the bad and the good together. It is that bond that is exemplary. Before and after the 1980s he [Sam]was his [Amos] personal doctor. They shared their personal relationship and I trust Mwagalwa has lost a real brother to him. They used to argue. My dad is 107 years. Theirs is a rare generation. This is the passing of a rare quality of man," eulogises Ssekikubo.

He also says that most of Kaguta's friends were not fellow Bahima. He recalls that when Museveni became president, his father remained down-to-earth preferring to live in the countryside than at Nakasero.

"When he [Kaguta] later came to stay at State House, they were accusing him of making the place accessible to many people and yet for him he loved his people and old friends. One time he provided a chopper for his friends and their sons to travel together," revealed Ssekikubo.

But the lawmaker says it was difficult to visit him in the last days because you had to go through protocol. When contacted, Ssekikubo's father Mwagalwa said: "This [Kaguta] was my brother, father and mother. We were like brothers. We met long ago before the war when Museveni was still teaching. When his daughter was sick, I went to treat her because Kaguta was not allowed to visit health centres. My only wish is to allow me lay a wreath on the casket."

In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, the president writes, "By the time I was born, the clan system had broken down to such an extent that we, my parents and I, were living alone in my father's kraal. Sometimes his brother's kraal would be joined with ours but then they would quarrel and separate their kraal."

He further writes, "When I was growing up my parents and their children all lived in one hut. It was not until I was 16 that I had my own hut, about that time I went to boarding school. The three of us did all the chores. My father would look after the cows and my mother and I would do all the other tasks together."

The president also describes his late father as a polygamist who embraced a modest brand of Christianity. Museveni recalls his father was kind, recognised the value of modernisation and took his children to school.

"Consequently, Mzee Kaguta, a traditionalist, was after converting to Christianity baptised as Amos around 1944," writes Karooro.

According to historical accounts, Mzee Kaguta, was a nomad who first settled in Rukungiri then later moved to Ntungamo where Museveni was born but later on strayed to Isingiro, then Kashaari and finally settled in Nyabushozi. Mzee Kaguta was due to be laid to rest yesterday at Rwakitura, Nyabushozi county, Kiruhura district.

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