21 January 2014

Uganda: Death Silences Farmers' Voice Anthony Kanyike

Ugandans on Monday woke up to news of the death of the former Buikwe West MP Anthony Kanyike, who ardently advocated for the development of the agricultural sector. Kanyike was well regarded in Parliament, according to those who worked with him.

"This is a great loss to the nation," said Agriculture Minister Tress Bucyanayandi. Allan Kanyike, one of former MP's sons, described his father's death as devastating. "He was a great caring father who will be greatly missed by the family," Allan told The Observer yesterday.

Born 71 years ago in what is today Buikwe district, Anthony Kanyike was a trained agriculturalist. Before joining Parliament, he worked in the ministry of Agriculture immediately after university. He also worked as managing director for Total-Uganda and Mitchell Courts as well as a human resource manager for Uganda Sugar Corporation Limited.

"I was a senior person in the ministry of Agriculture by the time Kanyike joined and what I can exactly remember is that he believed in teamwork and this is what whoever had a chance to work with him will tell you. In my capacity in the ministry he did not supervise me but those who worked with him used to bring this to our attention," said Bucyanayandi, who has served the ministry since 1962.

Bucyanayandi said Kanyike's death was a great loss to the agricultural sector because he had been a keen advocate for increased funding for the limping sector. In Buikwe, Kanyike was famous for sensitizing farmers about good farming methods to improve productivity.

"He was not only a trained agriculturalist but a farmer who got trained and became an agriculturalist, and ... when he was working with the ministry of Agriculture, he would lobby for farm equipments for his people," says Baker Ssali, the current MP for Buikwe West.

Kanyike's continuous interaction with farmers in Buikwe endeared him to many in the area, culminating in his election to Parliament.

Life in politics:

Kanyike first represented Buikwe West in the Constituent Assembly in 1994. But it was not until the Sixth and Seventh Parliaments that he rose to prominence. "I worked with him during the ten years he served in Parliament and I remember him as one of the best backbenchers, who used to guide the House on matters of agriculture," said Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo.

Dombo's account is echoed by Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera, who remembers Kanyike as an honest and transparent person. In Parliament, Kanyike worked as vice chairperson and chairperson of the committee on Agriculture, which authored many authoritative reports about the sector.

"During his leadership, I remember that the budget to the agriculture sector was increased from 1.3 per cent to close to 4.5 per cent," said Bugangaizi West MP Kasirivu Atwooki, a former chairperson of the committee.

Valley dams:

In 1999, Kanyike chaired the select committee of Parliament that was set up to probe the construction of the dams and valley dams in the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. The committee authored a report that pinned the then Vice-President Specioza Wandira Kazibwe for the mismanagement of the valley dam project.

Kasirivu, a member of that committee, vividly remembers Kanyike's contribution during the investigation: "He was steadfast, transparent and thorough during the investigation process and without doubt in my mind he played a very big role in the process besides being the chair," he said.

While the committee report on the misappropriation of funds meant for the valley dam project was adopted by Parliament, the Executive did not implement its recommendations, which included holding the culprits accountable. However, in his submission of April 1,1999, Kanyike said: "The responsibility of the committee, Mr Speaker, was to make a report and recommendations to this House which it has done.

But, Mr Speaker, Government has now come out with a statement that they would like more time to consider the matter contained in the report and also the recommendations in the report. We have not been given the purpose for that request. This is an important matter which I think the House might want to consider...we have in our Constitution the separation of powers.

After this Parliament has considered the report, the Executive will have to take action if it is intended that Government takes action on the report and this recommendation after it has reviewed them.

I think for the purposes of unity, for the purposes of good governance, for the purposes of democracy and for the purposes of national unity, that is a request that this House should, I think, consider favourably -(Applause)- because at the end of it all, ours are recommendations and a resolution that has to be implemented by the Executive. It is important that the work of Parliament and the work of the Executive complement each other and I think this is where I talk about good governance because we as Members of Parliament are also responsible to see that this country is run in good manner."

In 2006, Kanyike was defeated by Norman Muwulize, who later lost the seat to Baker Ssali. Ssali told The Observer that his constituency and Buikwe as district will always remember Kanyike for the enormous contribution he made in the socio-economic and political transformation of the area.

"He will always be remembered as a father, husband and great son of the area who not only demanded what Buikwe did for him but lived to make a contribution to its growth and development," Ssali said.

Kanyike is survived by a wife Robinah Perusio Abooki Kanyike and children. Kanyike's body will lie in state in Parliament today for a tribute session, ahead of his burial in Buikwe district on Friday.

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