About a month ago, Dr Francis Ssenoga received a most shocking call. The man on the line, one of Ssenoga’s relatives told him his father, Mr Thomas Aquinas Kaggwa Jombya, was alive. Ssenoga could hardly believe it. He had last heard of his father several years ago. Jombya’s family were convinced he had passed away and now here was someone telling Ssenoga that the man was alive. Was this a prank call? Was someone trying to con some money out of him? It was none of the two. Mr Jombya was actually alive, albeit unwell.
The reason for Ssenoga’s shock is understandable. It was in 1978 that Jombya suddenly disappeared under mysterious circumstances. There was a search for him, but it bore nothing. Ssennoga and his relatives concluded that Jombya might have been kidnapped, murdered and afterwards his body gotten rid of by the assassins.
But the whole mystery was solved about a month ago when information prevailed that the man whom everybody had assumed dead, 36 years ago was still alive and living in Buvuma Islands in Buvuma District. “It was one of my relatives who called me and informed me that that my dad had been found alive but sick in the islands,” Ssennoga says.
For a person who had actually never seen his father, this news rather than bring joy, created all sorts of questions for Ssenoga: “Where has he been all this time? What is the point now that he is still alive? What difference would it make since he had not been there throughout my life?”
Ssennoga says that it was probably because of these looming questions in his head that he did not feel any kind of emotion upon hearing such an update about his father.
Despite his misgivings, the 44-year-old made the necessary arrangements to have him transported from the islands to Kampala. Within a few days, Jombya was brought to the city and taken immediately to Mulago Hospital for treatment.
Doctors diagnosed him with bilharzia. After spending a week in hospital, Jombya was discharged, after which he went to stay with one of his deceased brother’s wives in Mpererwe, a suburb in Kampala. All these arrangements had been done in Ssennoga’s absence because he had travelled out of the country. “I had gone for a business trip and had given them some money to take care of everything,” he says.
And so one of the first things he did after returning, was to go and pay his father a visit. As he was driving from Entebbe to Mpererwe, Dr. Ssennoga could not help but rather feel perplexed that his father had been found after so many years.
When he arrived at the home, he was welcomed by relatives and ushered into the sitting room. A few minutes later, Jombya who was dressed in a checked shirt and a pair of grey trousers emerged from the bedroom and shook his son’s hand firmly.
“He also cried uncontrollably after seeing me,” says Ssennoga.
Unlike his father, there were no tears in Ssennoga’s eyes. He was calm and composed. As much as he kept on reassuring him how everything was going to be fine, he also made it a point to ask his father what his wishes were now.
“I want to go back home with you,” was the old man’s reply to his son.
It would not be possible at that point as Ssenoga had to arrange for his stay first. He promised to pick him up the following day, which was January 14, this year.
The promise was honoured. The 72-year-old was picked up, taken for further medical check-up at Kampala Hospital and finally to his new family home in Namugongo, a township in central Uganda. Ssennoga now says he intends to look after his father until the time he breathes his last breath. Meanwhile, he says that they are starting to bond through the many conversations that they have on an almost regular basis.
How Kaggwa Jombya left without a trace
Dr Francis Ssennoga was only eight years old when he learnt of his father’s disappearance. At that time, he was under the care of his maternal aunt and her husband. He was staying with them right from the time he was one-year-old.
“It was my mother who handed me over to them. They wanted to raise me as a son of their own,” he says. The other reason was because his mother was still so young at the time (20 years) and the relationship between her and Ssennoga’s father was rocky.
His aunt and her husband showered him with love and affection and it is this family that he lived with till he became of age. Ssennoga’s biological mother always made it a point to go and check on her son. “She would bring for me nice clothes unlike my father who never visited me. I would only hear about him but never got the chance to see him,” he says.
It was during the last funeral rites of his grandfather in Mpererwe when the then eight-year-old was informed by his relatives about his father’s disappearance. “They said that my father had gone to collect fresh produce from Buluuli, a county in Nakasongola District and sell it in Kampala. This was during the time his father had been sick. He wanted to raise some money for treatment. However, he failed to return and his father died,” he explains.
Brief sightings of Jombya
Afterwards, contradicting stories began emerging about Jombya’s whereabouts. Some said he had been sighted along the shores of Lake Kyoga and others said he had been seen in the islands of Lake Victoria. “Our family had tried to follow up all the leads but all of them came to naught,” he recalls.