The scripture, “The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot,” taken from Proverbs 10:7, is what immediately came to mind as the news of the passing of the legendary politician Boniface Byanyima was relayed. Life is predictable – yes, at least everyone that’s born of mortal man and is sane, knows they’ll die some day and wish to do so gracefully! Therefore, we ought to live well and leave impactful legacy to people around us.
How purposefully and profitably do we use our God-bequeathed gifts and / or honour our callings? Quite many people, especially those in positions of power and authority, live seemingly oblivious of the fact that they’ll ever die, recklessly destroy self or harm others. Such people usually die young, miserably and disgracefully. If they’ve been leaders, they may die in despair in prison(s) or exiled!
But people like Mzee Byanyima, albeit human like any of us, nonetheless defied the odds of common privileged leaders that’s often synonymous with abuse of power/authority; misuse of public resources; lack of principles to say the least.
For his death, any credible citizen regardless of their political affiliation, tribe or creed, more to merely mourn his passing, should be saddened that the values he espoused uncompromisingly, especially in national leadership – in truth and justice, are now being out-rightly violated even in his own (Democratic) Party, judging from the incessant squabbles flooding the local media!
Although not an Angel, Mzee Byanyima will be remembered as a credible leader who effectively illustrated that one didn’t have to plunder their country but work to be wealthy; scoff at and scorn political rivals to be influential; compromise one’s principles and ideologies to remain relevant, etc. Whatever the source, reminisces about Mzee Byanyima present him as a consistent and astute revolutionary leader; civil citizen; intelligent and passionate teacher; man of impeccable integrity; gentleman; soft spoken but no-nonsense person; successful farmer; inspiration to all particularly with an incredible thirst for the empowerment of the girl-child; and enormous other qualities!
Personally, I admired Mzee Byanyima for four things, two of which I heard him speak about while for the other two, I saw with my eyes. I grew up in Ruti in the outskirts of Mbarara Town, where Mzee Byanyima’s home is. I used to see him drive his youngest daughter, Olivia Byanyima, aka Kombozi to St Aloysius, which neighbours St Lawrence, where I studied both primary schools on Nyamitanga hill, about three kilometers from Ruti.
Ever so gracefully, he drove Kombozi in his sparkling clean Hillux pick-up van. He ‘spoiled’ her with love. At her school, as at our side, many envied her!
As a little boy in December 1990, I escorted my mother to Maj Napoleon Rutambika’s wedding back in Buhweju, my country home, where the Byanyimas also originally came from. Speaking as the groom’s God-father, Mzee Byanyima emphasised that he had personally suggested the name, Napoleon, so that the young Napoleon would be inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte of France! No wonder at his death, he had attained the rank of Lieutenant t Conel!
I also one time heard Mzee Byanyima explain that he strategically took his daughter, Winnie Karagwa Byanyima to Kings’ College, Budo so that she could challenge the boys! She did! Winnie became Uganda’s first female Aeronautic Engineer; a close confidant to now President Museveni in the NRA Bush struggle; later joined politics and defeated seven men to become Mbarara Municipality Member of Parliament. She was a legislator of grand prowess.
Winnie is currently heads Oxfam International and is married to former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye,
As it were, at 97, for all his noble works and personality, Mzee Byanyima achieved his dreams: His memory shall always be a blessing! Fare thee well, Boniface Byanyima!
Mr Katagata is an advocate,