It is not easy to talk about the Lake Katwe Salt Project and miss Engineer Misaki Bwambale Syahuka’s name. Bwambale stayed longer than many at the now defunct salt project even when he had the qualifications needed to get a better job elsewhere.
Born in the mountains of Ihandiro in 1943, Bwambale was one of the first engineering graduates in Kasese District. At the Lake Katwe Salt Project, he was the only chemical engineer who stayed to see the project materialise.
Bwambale died on July 10, 2000, by that time, he had steered a feasibility study with an Egyptian firm to rehabilitate the Lake Katwe Salt Project. Despite his dedication, 20 years later, little to no documentation exists about the project.
The father of four was energetic. For instance, a week before his demise he had been splitting his time between Kasese and Kampala attending to his daughter who had been admitted to Kampala International Hospital on July 6. This was, until she was discharged on July 9.
He had spent much of the day chatting with different people who came to welcome his daughter from hospital. At 10.30pm, he saw off the last group of visitors and later had a meal with his family.
On July 10, at about 2pm, he developed a persistent cough and sweated profusely – shortly after, he collapsed and seemed to struggle catching his breath. He died on their way to hospital. A postmortem later revealed he had died of acute heart failure. One of his blood arteries failed.
Supportive of wife
Husband to then Woman MP Kasese District, Loice Biira Bwambale, he is said to have been her pseudo public relations personnel over the years, from supporting her political pursuits during which he attended many of her fundraising and social activities.
Loice had been an active politician having been appointed deputy minister for Women, Youth and Culture in 1992.
The two had met when Bwambale had just returned from Germany where he had gone to study chemical engineering while Loice was a third year student of Education at Makerere University. She says Bwambale pursued her for three years and when she was posted to Kabale in 1977, he followed her there. Eventually, they got married in 1979.
The couple had four children, two boys; Milton Baluku and Moses Bwambale and two girls; Hannah Biira and Flavia Muhindo.
Memories of dad
Bwambale liked it when those around him excelled, for example, Loice says he was so supportive of her education pursuits, yet in the same way, his daughter Biira remembers how he would buy them gifts when they performed well in class. Besides, he always corrected their mistakes in English.
But Biira’s fondest memories of their father include disciplining them and above all his transparency.
“Dad encouraged us to give since he was selfless.”
For Baluku, what stands out is their father’s parting words. Weeks before his death, their father visited him and his young brother at Mbarara High School in 2000. He gave them some money for upkeep and the transport fare to take them back home at the end of term.
“When I requested to return the money because I thought it was too early to give me such cash, dad insisted that I take it,” he recounts. This was after he had promised to send them more money later.
“After telling me that he would send more money, should I spend the transport fare prematurely, he warned us, ‘do not waste that money, it is possible I may not be able to send the money by the end of term’.”
Little did Baluku know that those were the last words from his father.
“I have never edited these words in my mind. From then on, I have believed that most times, as we get closer to the exit of this world, God sends us the signal but we fear to share with our loved ones in the name of care,” Baluku says.
Lessons from dad
Baluku and Biira concur that their father was such a strict parent and because of this, there were many lessons to pick.
Baluku says their father always focused on what made his family, friends, relatives and himself happy.
“I have learnt over time to embrace the same,” he says.
Biira says she has learnt to live by his virtue of transparency, thanks to the fact that he used to trust her with home finances even at a tender age.
“Through him I have learnt to be selfless and my neighbour can never go hungry if I have surplus food.”
Baluku also says he never bragged about his achievements or wealth that many were even surprised of learning about the assets he left behind.
“I took such a wonderful trait [humility] and over time it has kept me at peace with my potential enemies. I did not learn to enjoy the company of the bar like he did and I am comfortable that way,” Baluku says, adding that his early demise also brought him closer to God.
Stories about dad
Mandela, as they used to refer to him, was described as loving and one that did not have trouble with anyone. He wished those around him well and encouraged his children to be selfless, especially towards their disadvantaged neighbours.
These are stories that Biira says her children will definitely know about their grandfather.
“I will tell my children to put their families first and be principled just like their grandfather.”
Baluku, who is a father now, says he is already inculcating the values he picked from his father into his children.
“For example, apologising when in wrong, using words such as, please, take it easy, and excuse me.”
He also wishes to be exemplary to his wife, just like their dad was good to their mother Loice.
“I have not only told them but also demonstrated that fighting your wife (mother) is not a characteristic of the wise. I strongly believe this is a trait that should be taught to our children every now and then, to keep them in line of proper upbringing.”
July 10, marked 20 years since Bwambale was buried at his ancestral home in Bwera, Kasese.
Bwambale was born in 1943 at Ihandiro to a prominent Kasese elder Paulo Muhindo and Naume Kabugho.
He was fondly called Bamwendyaki (why are you bothering him?) because he never bothered anyone. Others simply referred to him as Misaki wa Paulo because of the relationship he had with his father.
Bwambale attended Kitholhu Primary School, Bwera Junior Secondary School and Nyakasura School where he completed Senior Six in 1966 before proceeding to West Germany, where he graduated as a chemical engineer.