Before Dr Warren Byabashaija lifted off from Entebbe Airport in a Dubai-bound Emirates flight at 3pm on February 3, his wife Jennifer, saw him off with the following words; “Peace be with you”.
Ms Byabashaija expected that in about a week’s time, her husband would come back through the same airport carrying chocolate, perfume, handbags and all sorts of presents, the type he usually brought back to her and their four children when he travelled.
But the former dean of the Faculty of Entrepreneurial Studies at Makerere University Business School (Mubs), will return in a coffin, having died aboard an airplane.
Dr Byabashaija had changed flights at Dubai to connect to USA, where he was to attend an academic workshop at the College of Business of the Southern University in Baton Rouge, but between Dubai and Dallas in the US, the Emirates Airlines crew discovered that one of their passengers lay lifeless.
The flight was diverted to New York, where local police took up the matter and the body was later taken into a health facility.
Pearl, one of Byabashaija’s daughters, says her dad developed heart complications in November last year, but he had received treatment, which seemed to have steadied his condition. At the beginning of the year, Pearl says, her dad was “healthy and lively.”
In fact, the family had had a happy January, with Byabashaija and his wife celebrating 30 years in marriage on January 29. However, what started as a good year for the family has turned tragic.
Prof. Wasswa Balunywa, Byabashaija’s former boss said, “I have lost a personal friend,” adding that the dean’s death had dealt Mubs a heavy blow particularly in the areas of doctoral studies and research, where they do not have enough personnel yet he was a “focal” person.
Prof Balunywa said he first noticed Dr Byabashaija when he taught him in the Masters in Business Administration class in the mid 1990s, before Mubs moved from Makerere University main campus.
On completing his Masters degree, Prof Balunywa offered him a teaching job and later “handpicked” him to pursue a PhD at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA, which he completed in 2008 before being elevated to dean in 2011.
Prof. Balunywa himself terms Dr Byabashaija’s rise through the ranks of the academia as “meteoric”, having become a dean within just 10 years.
Dr Byabashaija was appointed full time lecturer at Mubs in September 2001. He was also a member of the Mubs governing council representing the academic board since 2008.
By press time, Mubs management was still working with the Ugandan Embassy in Washington to retrieve the body.
Jennifer, Dr Byabasaija’s widow, had not yet seen the body of her late husband when we spoke with her in their Kanyanya home where the family is keeping vigil, but she was happy to direct to her husband the same words she saw him off with when they last saw each other; “Peace be with you.”