It’s unavoidable and when it strikes it tends to leave a void hard to fill. This year it took away legends that had been with us for generations. The big, the small, the not so small; the grim hand of death reaped from us. Writes Robert Kalumba
Charles Sekyanzi; His art has few students or maestros in Uganda’s music scene. He was Afrigo band’s saxophonist and a celebrated one at that. He had blown the sax since the 60s and said his adieus to us in March when he died after succumbing to a long illness. To understand the scope of his death has had on the band, try and digest the fact he had been not only one of the founders of Afrigo having founded it with Moses Matovu in 1975, but he was also a composer too having composed some of the band’s well known hits like Rose Guma. Moses Matovu a fellow saxophonist summed up the loss when he commented during an interview with this paper that the stage will never be the same without Sekyanzi “because I was used to looking at my side and there he was blowing away. Now when I look, there is no one.”
Fred Masagazi; Death in design is cruel. Take for instance Masagazi’s case; he was still moaning Sekyanzi’s death and the next day it was his turn to leave the stage forever. How cruel. He was known as the grandfather of Kadongo Kamu music. He started his career way back in 1955 outing his classic Atanawa Musolo a song for those who grew up in that generation, that was hailed as a classic and catapulted Masagazi to superstardom status. He graced the stage till the 70s when his light started to dim a little. He however continued to perform till he left us. Masagazi has one interesting footnote that today’s artistes would struggle to achieve; he was the first Ugandan artiste to have his song played on BBC. It was in 1963 and the song was Kolazizo.
DJ Ronnie: He is credited to have been the catalyst for three couples getting married. They did so after listening to his show, the Late Date where he not only presented it, but multi tasked playing the counsellor as well as mediator on air to warring couples. DJ Ronnie’s death that happened in September during that period of the infamous Buganda riots caught many off guard. While the talk amongst many was about the riots, little did they know that among the casualties that would lose their lives that day would be the beloved radio presenter.
He had worked on Capital Radio since 1999 where he held many spots from presenting KT20 to doing the Evening Drive Show with Karistas, but it was when he took over from Roger Mugisha in 2003 on the Late Date show that he truly blossomed into the presenter most of Kampalans came to know. He was planning to venture into television as presenter in 2010 but his plans where cut short when he succumbed to multiple organ failure on Friday September 11.
Heath Ledger: Before he died Heath Ledger had two films in production; The Dark Knight, the latest instalment of the Batman franchise and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus but for the Ugandan movie buffs, it’s in The Dark Knight that Ledger was imprinted on their hearts forever. He acted as the psychopathic joker character whose portrayal in the movie borders on maniac.
This role disturbed the actor who described the Joker as a psychopath with zero empathy. His death happened in January catching Hollywood and his fans by surprise. He was found by the maid naked unresponsive and face down on the floor. His death was linked to a possible drug overdose.
Michael Jackson; He got a lot of flak from the press for his weirdness but one thing most didn’t count on was Michael Jackson dying. He had us all believing he was invincible. And for more than three decades the name Michael Jackson was synonymous with invincibility.
However. all that came to a halt in June reminding everyone that death knows no one. It was a massive jolt. From Mongolia to Mauritania, Michael Jackson’s death was headline news. His death too revealed elaborate plans of the singer’s walk back to invincibility a position, which for the last decade seemed to have been taken by upstarts in the music business. He died of heart complications linked to prescribed drugs. To many despite death’s cruel hand, these people are still are legends through their art. However, it cannot be denied that they will be missed on stage doing their thing, doing what made millions of us become converts to their talent.
Other Major deaths in 2009
In a year that saw President Museveni publicly agonise with a swollen finger for weeks following a freak bathroom fall; hunger killing dozens in the countryside, the wicked mutilating children for riches and Swine Flu surfacing to eclipse the worries, it appeared easier for Ugandans to die than live in 2009. The growing road carnage and collapsing buildings brought severe devastation to families as did a noxious grade of Waragi that killed or blinded dozens of citizens.
Saturday Monitor’s Tabu Butagira reviews the notable deaths of the year of Wild Polio virus and horrifying accidents that knocked on the door of the mighty and ordinary, snatching decorated former Army commander, James Kazini and Norah Oting, the mother of LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony, on the same day.
March 9: An illyushin-76 cargo plane, delivering supplies to African union troops in Mogadishu, disintegrates into a fireball shortly after takeoff from Entebbe International airport, killing 11 people. The crash in which two Ugandans perished alongside foreign nationals raised the red flag over domestic aviation safety. Government is yet to make public findings of the (Rtd) Col. Chris Mudoola-led investigations and say if the cargo carrier was hit by missile as alleged by its Russian owner Yevgeniy Zakharov.
April 9: Three Piswa Primary school pupils; Thomas Solimo, Martin Kibet and Siraje Chelangat in Kapchorwa District die in a classroom after a grenade one of them mistakenly ferried there, exploded on them.
May 2: Calamity befalls Kampala city as Pte Nicholas Mucunguzi, a soldier attached to the Presidential Guard Brigade, guns dead 8 people in random shooting, allegedly after being de-toothed by a call-girl. The horrid incident raised questions about safety of the Head of State whom the PGB guard.
May 12: Up to 26 people die in two separate bus accidents (in South Sudan & on Mbale-Tirinyi Road) and five children drown in Lake Bunyonyi as road carnage rivals HIV/Aids in taking lives of Ugandans.
May 25: Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the voice of Africa’s pride and redemption, falls silent. Taju, then secretary general of the Pan African Movement and deputy director of UN’s Millennium Campaign, perished in a motor crash in Nairobi, en-route to Jomo Kenyatta Airport. The magnetic intellectual prowess and mobilisation skills of the ex-Rhodes/Oxford scholar, demonstrable in his previous syndicated postcards, have left a chasm for work colleagues and admirers.
June 6: Forum for Democratic Change party’s motor-mouthed activist, Tom Julunga, is murdered in cold blood. Police initially linked the death in Ndeeba, a city suburb, to a botched robbery but later, and rather embarrassingly, retracted the statement after medical experts said the poor fellow was shot.
June 9: Kyambogo University student, Sam Buyinza, allegedly kills and stuffs girl friend Grace Rubanga’s body in a television box. Nothing macabre had been heard earlier in the year of such foul ending to youngsters’ romance.
June 26: A huge tremor shook the musical world as pop star Michael Jackson is pronounced dead weeks to a highly anticipated set of thrilling comeback concerts in London. His classic – and sometimes soothing – releases jumped record sales, making the legend even richer, posthumously.
August 16: When evictions from land became a political fodder, catapulting the recent enactment of the 2007 Land (Act) Amendment Bill, tenants, apparently drawing on perceived executive endorsement, assumed boundless powers. In Kayunga District, some residents of Kayonza Sub County chopped their landlord Sam Kubo and set his body and pickup truck alight after he tried to sell off his land on which the attackers were squatting.
September 10-12: Buganda, central government quarrels erupt into a volcano and security agencies shoot dead, according to official statistics, some 27 civilians while quelling pro-Kabaka riots in and around Kampala. It’s a sad history written in blood, certain to haunt incumbent leaders for life.
September 17: Up to 17 African Union troops, including Burundian army officer, Juvenel Niyoyunguriza, the Force’s overall deputy commander, die when Al Shabaab hardliners wrecked the soldiers’ Mogadishu headquarters with car bombs. Since then, Uganda has been on tenterhooks following threats by the Islamic radicals to attack us at home, turning the UPDF sacrifices in lawless Mogadishu to a foreign policy and security nightmare.
October 5: Lt. Aggrey Mwondha, a UPDF soldier and commander of the Kyabazinga Royal Guards, is suspiciously knocked dead by a trailer at the peak of public altercation over replacement of late king Muloki Wambuzi, throwing Busoga kingdom into perpetual disarray.
October 26: President Museveni’s adviser, Fr. Albert Byaruhanga, 58, is snatched by death in an accident in Mubende on Kampala-Fort Portal highway, which also claimed lives of two pedestrians. The linguist and amiable character is being missed for his even-headedness at a time when power, especially political, seems to intoxicate leaders.
November 4: Enock Ssebanga, Uganda’s poster-child for torture, succumbs to leukaemia at 21 years. His parents; Mr Charles Kayongo and Ms Regina Nabakoza, who locked and starved him for days in an abandoned store, are out after serving their jail sentences. The Monitor’s August 7, 2000 cover picture of Ssebanga’s scraggy body is a rude reminder of sorts about ongoing parental wickedness in our society.
November 8: Vice President, Professor Gilbert Bukenya’s son, Byran, a UPDF Officer Cadet trainee, dies following a reported accident at Bbira-Bulaga on Kampala-Mityana Road.
The family later disputes the official account that the UK-trained lawyer perished in a motor crash, raising the stakes in ongoing secretive investigations by both the Police and army.
November 10: Norah Oting, the mother of Joseph Kony, the world’s most-feared living warlord, is pronounced dead at Mulago Hospital. At 83, she, by Ugandan standards, lived life to the fullest. But her wish to see Kony out of the bush remained unfulfilled.
Former decorated Army commander, Maj. Gen. James Kazini, 52, is found dead at the house of Lydia Draru, a lover half his age, in the slum of Namuwongo, a city slum. Hailed indisputably as a war hero, voices of disapproval largely greeted the manner in which he died, however brutal. Investigators will have to establish, as conspiracy theorists allege, whether Draru, the self-confessed killer, could have been assisted to snuff out the army general.
November 30: National debate returned to the status of disintegrating roads and reckless driving as Budiope constituency MP, Henry Balikowa crashed into a Scoul sugar cane-delivery tractor at night in Mabira forest.
Saturday Monitor shares the grief of families that lost dear ones and pleads for discipline on the highways this festive season and beyond.