Kategaya was a man with an over-sized yet balanced personality
Posted Monday, March 11 2013 at 02:00
The Foreign Service affords a unique opportunity to study the human person inside the dignitary. When at a meeting, Kategaya was always in effective charge but away from officialdom
The demise of honourable Eriya Kategaya evokes nostalgia for the days when the National Resistance Movement was truly inclusive and many people yearned to be associated with it. Like Yasser Arafat, whose name was synonymous with the PLO, Kategaya’s name was and will always be associated with the original NRM/NRA.
It is a pity the ugly face of death has shown itself yet again within a short period of losing senior citizen Mzee Amos Kaguta and indigenous industrialist James Mulwana.
As documented in Sowing the Mustard Seed, he was an old schoolboy friend of President Museveni, whose loyalty was beyond question until him and Mr Museveni crossed paths in 2003 when the latter gunned for a third term, something that miffed him so much that he became one of the founder members of FDC.
He had by the time of his untimely demise learnt to balance his outsized yet likeable personality, popularity and respect enjoyed across a wide political and social spectrum with the dominant and overbearing personality of the Boss and the challenge of fitting in an outfit of personalities with outsized brains, ambitions and portfolios, all fitted into a narrowing political space.
One interesting bit of political prudence he came to learn was that you shouldn’t be a political principal yourself when you are in the positions he held; you probably need to put aside your own profile and adopt one that serves your boss, something which a few old-fashioned types of his genre failed to appreciate; went their own way and suffered for it later!
He made the adjustment from being a prominent historical NRM ideologue who disagreed with the occasionally peremptory NRM leader and temporarily joined a dissenting group, to being the proverbial prodigal son. Were it not for the intense back-channel talks that lured him back to the fold; the political dynamics, if not the political and governance infrastructure, of the country would have probably been different today.
More than any other story about his political instincts, and there are lots of them, Kategaya was an ideological democrat but exuded a deep understanding of intellectual revolutionary ideas and their applicability to universal and local democratic paradigms.
High profile personalities like him are human; they have upbeats and downbeats just like any mortal but these cannot be easily discerned at home because of the security requirements that go with power.
The Foreign Service affords a unique opportunity to study the human person inside the dignitary. When at a meeting, Kategaya was always in effective charge but away from officialdom, he put subordinates at ease and you felt you were talking to, sharing the frustration of losing your luggage in a foreign land as Mr Kiwanuka recounted, with a person with a deep sense of modesty and humility.
The last time I interacted with him was at Benghazi-Libya at a function, attended by dignitaries from all over the world Italian politician Berlusconi among them, for inaugurating the Great Man-made River.
The function was marred with a collapse of protocol and order when the hysterical crowds surged forward towards the VIP Stand prompting Colonel Gaddafi’s Deputy Major Jalloud to crack the whip! Major Amanya Musegacoached the delegation headed by Kategaya, on how to manoeuvre through an unruly crowd to avoid being crashed. I recall how, using the newly acquired tactics executed with the elbows, with a bemused Kategaya in the lead, we adopted a pincer-like formation and pried through a ‘human forest’, to the spotwhere the action was!
Mr Baligidde is a former Diplomat.