Kategaya may not have been very rich but he lived a rich life
Posted Friday, March 15 2013 at 02:00
He was simple, of immense humility, a good listener who spoke rarely in meetings but firm and determined in action.
Eriya Kategaya was a dependable comrade, colleague and a above all, a reliable and valuable friend to many of us. A friend you could rely on in good times, in bad times, in difficult times and at times during seemingly impossible circumstances.
He was polite, calm, unassuming and never ostentatious. He was simple, of immense humility, a good listener who spoke rarely in meetings but firm and determined in action. He served in government for a long time, but was never involved in stealing or scandals. He was a team builder and believed in winning people over rather than name-calling, shifting blame, clique formation, backstabbing or undermining his colleagues.
He never suffered from political sclerosis. Although he was very senior in the Movement, the army and government in that order, he served diligently and humbly in positions that were lesser in stature than those occupied by people originally junior to him. He had no ego problem.
As the saying goes, “The bigger the ego the weaker the performance.” He was a fine and refined gentleman.
I met his parents and uncles who were gentle and welcoming to his friends.
It was the firm and disciplined way of bringing up their children that contributed to his character. While he never believed in being poor or opportunistically praising the peasantry, he never believed in amassing wealth at whatever cost and by whatever means or cost to society and comradeship. He may not have been very rich but he had a rich life.
He retired from elective politics while he was still young, popular and able in order to create space for others.
He believed and actually served in other capacities. He went on to firmly oppose the amending of the Constitution under a milliard of spurious arguments, one of them being that all Ugandans had a chance to stand and be elected on and on and on, as long as they were popular and the people wanted them.
Advice to fellow Ugandans in position of leadership, temporal, spiritual, business, etc: Eriya never believed that opponents or those vying for the post, position or office you hold, or those challenging your ideas or thoughts, however brilliant they may be, are necessarily your enemies to be fought, disorganised or chastised or derided. They are worthy people to take on, listen to, win over or create room for a continuous dialogue.
We should fight this emerging thinking and practice that such people are enemies. What is the point of causing so much confusion, misunderstanding and hatred just because somebody disagrees with you or wants to democratically challenge you. What is the point of fighting hatred, exclusion and intolerance based on tribe and religion and then replacing it with one based on political parties, however big or small - some of which are difficult to circumscribe.
For example, when Eriya disagreed with his childhood friend (as they are regularly described by the press), some young cadres in the Movement went on a mission of abusing him and calling him all sorts of names. This was not only unfortunate but totally uncalled for and not within our cultures. Some of us took the courage and went to the President and called upon him to address this shameful behaviour.
He clearly told us that he did not know, and was not responsible for them. We pointed out that although we agreed with him, the public thought he was in the know since these young enthusiasts were either working in government or the NRM secretariat. We called upon him to use his offices to bring to halt this uncalled for, disrespectful, uncultured and shameful behaviour.
We were grateful and still are that the insults stopped. Let us respect each other irrespective of the different political positions and opinions we hold.
The positions we hold or businesses we carry out are not personal to holder. As one thinker said, a mind once exposed to a new idea never regains its original dimensions.
Finally, respect is never granted, conferred or decreed, they are earned the hard and long way. Eriya, you earned your respect and honour we give you today.
Fare thee well our comrade, colleague and friend.
Mr Mushega is an eminent citizen.