In Uganda, “celebs” (celebrities) tend to dominate the entertainment scene and are talk of town. Such people or call them people with “swagg” are however not a new phenomenon but also existed back in the day.
In the 70s, for instance, there lived a notable “celeb” Christopher Kitakuule Mulumba whose lifestyle and dress code used to take Kampala City by storm. Tracing Mulumba, 67, at his Ben Kiwanuka village home, Lubaga Division, he recounts his old good days like it were yesterday and says today’s city dwellers can only dream of them.
“ Whereas we missed the likes of smart phones, laptops, internet or social media, ours was definitely the best period with no hazards to worry about such as HIV/Aids, and unemployment. Crime was at “all-time low” and revellers would party all night long without being bothered by thoughts of iron-bar wielding men who rule the city today.”
The slender light-skinned and soft spoken, Mulumba keeps repeating, “ Atakulaba akunyooma.” [“He who is unaware of how strong/handsome you were in your youth will likely laugh at you when your powers/beauty wanes].
In the 70s, he worked as a senior purchasing officer in the ministry of Defence at Republic House in Mengo where Bulange stands today.
“I worked under the famous Lt Col Langoya, then, director of barracks and stores. Our office was responsible for receiving orders and purchasing goods for all army barracks in the country in addition to upgrading and renovating them,” he explains of his work.
His job boost
Despite being a civilian, Mulumba rubbed shoulders with many senior army officers such as Col George Wilson Kamya, Hon Beti Kamya’s father.
“It was indeed a good job where I used to earn enough to cater for my needs, enjoy life and save a reasonable amount. My monthly salary was Shs390 excluding allowances which was a lot of money at the time,” he narrates. Mulumba’s good salary was boosted with expensive suits and good looks . He used to don classic suits imported from France and Italy and expensive types of shoes which only a few men of the time could afford.
Besides, Mulumba then had a fleet of posh cars. Notable among these, a Ford Capri whose model was among the only 10 available in Kampala.
“To acquire this vehicle, I parted with a cool Shs100, 000 which I gave to a prominent mzungu who was leaving the country,” he recalls.
Mulumba’s job and status often enabled him come into contact with the creme de la creme of Kampala.
“I remember shaking hands with president Idi Amin Dada who regularly used to come to Republican House in Mengo for official duties before and after taking over the presidency. I will never forget the day when he thanked me for being smart and told those around to emulate me, saying that working for the government required such appearances and standards.”
The party animal
As a notable socialite of the time, he used to enjoy expensive beers and wines in executive places around town such as New Life Bar in Mengo, Suzanna in Nakulabye and White Nile in Katwe.
“Munange nga ssente wekuba egonza”:[money literally can buy anything]. At the time drinking was not that bad.
“High profile people dominated bar patronage and they went to such places mainly for business meetings. While there, you would meet influential people and discuss business ideas unlike most of today’s revellers who find solace in drinking excessively to keep at bay life’s frustrations such as losing a job or a spouse,” says Mulumba.
He believes theirs was a unique era. “You would meet a stranger in a bar or disco and request to dance with them without their partners raising a finger. We used to dance with peoples’ wives without nursing evil temptations of seducing them like some men do nowadays,” he recounts.
They preferred squeeze and waltz to other types of dance as they swayed to British singer Cliff Richard’s hits such as, Move It, We Don’t Talk Anymore, and Devil Woman.
Mulumba’s socialite life and influence soon won him an accolade. In early 70s, Hadija Namale, a top musician, composed what turned out to be a hit titled, Mulumba Oli wala (Mulumba, you are a class apart!) which to-date is still lined up on “some oldies music” request programmes on radio and TV. An English translation of the song partly went: “So lucky must be the woman that brought such a wonderful man to this world... “Yarabi yalamina” (In God’s name), Mulumba you are such a wonderful man that every woman would fight to have...”
He was not surprised when the song hit the radio waves and Luganda sound bites.
“I hate blowing my own trumpet but during that time who else apart from the likes of Mulumba would the musicians of the day come up with compositions of praise?” Mulumba wonders.
He attributes his popularity then, to hard work, and dressing smartly unlike today where some individuals steal government funds or rob others to make a name at parties and earn celebrity status.
It was around the same time that another Kampala socialite Tereza Nabachwa was recognised by veteran singer Christopher Ssebadduka who came up a song titled, “Tereza owe bbina eddene”. One did not have to pay for celebrity status or be sang about. You had to lead a unique life to be celebrated.
Born in Lubaga Division, the present day Ben Kiwanuka village on October 29, 1950, to a former World War II combatant, Christopher Mulumba Kitakuule and Omumbejja Solome Nasuuna, Mulumba was the third born out of 10. His father was a top maintenance engineer at ministry of Works frequently moved around with his son to work as he went about his work.
“I first learnt about plumbing from my father when I was about eight. During school holidays and at the weekend, dad would take me along wherever he went to work. His aim was to make me observe and learn what he was doing. I learnt and mastered plumbing from my father.” To date, despite his age, Mulumba earns from plumbing in Lubaga and its vicinities. He calls upon parents of today to borrow a leaf by guiding, training and giving professional skills to their children for they should not expect everything to be learnt at school.
His childhood memories
During his school days, Mulumba proved to be a talented footballer and used to captain teams in schools such as Chwa II Memorial School-Kitebi, Mackay Memorial-Nateete , Lubaga Junior School, St. Francis Tutorial College-Mengo and Caltec Academy.
He studied at Caltec Academy before it was sold off to Brothers of Christian Instruction. Mulumba had childhood friends such as now Monsignor Charles Kasibante, Vicar General of Kampala Archdiocese with whom he used to play football. “Kasibante possessed fierce shots but I would always keep him at bay with hard tackling and fouling ,” he recalls.
After school, Mulumba landed a well-paying job at ministry of Defence at Republican House Mengo from where in 1975, he was transferred to Coffee Marketing Board as quality controller. This job at times required him to work as CMB offices at Mombasa Port in Kenya. Towards the end of 1976, Mulumba was transferred to the ministry of Finance headquarters in Kampala to work as a general duties officer. It was here that he worked closely with then minister, Brig Moses Ali. After the fall of Idi Amin’s government in 1979, Mulumba quit public service and later retired into private work.
Mulumba met his wife Venerand Nabaale Mulumba in 1971 through a relative she was studying with at the ministry of Health midwifery training school in Entebbe.
“The first time I saw her, my heart skipped a beat. Something straight away told me she was my dream wife. She also seemed interested in him but was reserved like most ladies.” I waited for her to complete her studies, besides taking time to study each other.” They had their first child in 1976, started living together in 1978 before wedding at Lubaga Cathedral in 1988.
Mulumba describes Nabaale as the most lovely and understanding woman in the world. They have five children namely: Mark Kitakuule, a mechanical engineer working in New York, John Kibuuka,an engineers based in Denmark, Simon Mutyaba who lives in New York while Oliver Najjuma and Babra Mulumba both are businesswomen in Kampala.
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HIM
“I have known Mulumba since childhood. After school, he got a very good job and made a lot of money. He is one of the few rich men of the time I knew who stuck to one wife. In our childhood, he was a very good footballer and used play with village mates such as the now Kampala Archdiocese Vicar General, Msgr Charles Kasibante. I have never seen fighting or quarrelling.”
“I admire the Mulumbas because they are very religious. They were brought up as staunch Catholics, a virtue that they passed on to their children. Mulumba is a shining example of those family heads that have educated their children turning them into useful citizens. Besides, Mr Mulumba is very friendly.”
Nnalongo Oliver Namirimu, Information secretary-St Jude Sub-parish, Lubaga
“Mulumba is very informed on many issues because he is always reading newspapers. When we meet, he always tells me something new he has heard on BBC World service or other radio stations. At his age, I wonder how he gets time for this and yet he finds time for his drink as well. When it comes to politics, he argues very intelligently.” Douglas Nsubuga,