Eriya Kategaya was a principled man who served country above self
Posted Friday, March 8 2013 at 02:00
Consequently, he joined the opposition and was among the founders of the Forum for Democratic Change. He has been criticised and castigated for re-joining government.
I met Eriya Tukahirwa Kategaya when I joined Senior Five at Ntare School in 1965. We stayed in the same Baker House and the same room during Senior Six. I knew him firsthand for 48 years as a friend, colleague, a comrade and a brother.
At school he was precociously political and closely followed events at national level, which identified him as informed and therefore a leader. I must own up that I learnt a lot from him in the area of politics and I owe him a lot for my ideological path in politics.
When we parted and went to different university colleges (he Dar es Salaam and I Nairobi), the political group he belonged to frequently interacted with our political group in Nairobi.
So, when we graduated and Idi Amin soon took over in January 1971, we were able to liaise and chart out a common course of action. We soon formed Front for National Salvation (Fronasa) and whereas some of us immediately went for military training in early 1972, Kategaya stayed behind and together with Akena P’Ojok, Zubairi Bakari, etc., facilitated the transit of virtually everyone who went for training until he was himself in danger and left the country in early 1973 and proceeded for military training.
During that period, one of the groups under training overstayed without active deployment and we faced a mutiny. It was during that mutiny that I witnessed Kategaya’s calmness and firmness.
Even though he was impatient with fools, throughout his life he has shown this calmness and forthrightness in challenging circumstances as a strong part of his character.
During that pioneer period, Kategaya was, among other things, in charge of liaison with some of our friends with regard to financial matters. Without the pioneering experience of the 1970s, the 1980s Luweero war would probably have taken much longer.
Subsequent to the unsuccessful September 1972 invasion by exile Ugandans, including Fronasa, from Tanzania, the Mogadishu Agreement and the Addis Ababa Accord between Uganda and Tanzania required that Ugandans cease hostile activities from Tanzania. Thus Kategaya went to work in Zambia, Yoweri Museveni went to teach at the Cooperative College in Moshi and I worked in the Tanzania civil service and others went to refugee camps in Tabora and elsewhere.
He remained active in Zambia until Amin provoked Tanzania by annexing the Kagera salient in 1978 and war broke out, leading to the Moshi conference and the overthrow of Amin in April 1979. We all came back in 1979 and Kategaya became an active member of National Consultative Council and a minister.
During the 1980 elections, he stood in what is currently Ruhaama on the UPM ticket against Rwaboona Kagurusi of the UPC and subsequently joined the new liberation war in 1981. For quite some time, he was moving in and out of the bush until he relocated to the external wing where he continued again to move in and out of the bush. He actually often faced more dangers than those who were in the bush as he narrowly escaped capture in Kampala several times.
By the time the issue of the removal of term limits from the Constitution became an issue, he had decided to retire from elective politics in 2001.
But when he expressed his honest opinion that one of the expected NRM legacies was to see to it that for the first time a president would hand over to a successor peacefully after the expiry of the stipulated two-term limits, he was dismissed from Cabinet without warning.
Consequently, he joined the opposition and was among the founders of the Forum for Democratic Change. He has been criticised and castigated for re-joining government. Before he met the President in Mbale, he informed me and I advised him to go with a witness and he did.
Subsequently, he continued discussions and joined the government on the understanding that he served in a position that would enable him to serve Uganda without compromising himself. That is why he only served in the East African docket.
Other than his physical location in government, he remained true to himself. We continued interacting and I do not think he abandoned his principles. We have lost a principled, consistent man who served the country above self.
Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.