Mourning Ainebyona: A tale of steely stares, soothing gospel

Thursday July 11 2019

Rest in peace. Mourners view the body of Arnold

Rest in peace. Mourners view the body of Arnold Ainebyona Mugisha after the funeral service at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero in Kampala yesterday. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa 


Arnold Ainebyona Mugisha, 26, yesterday drew in death a record crowd of mourners, who jammed both Kyaggwe and Nakasero roads.
The mid-morning traffic hold-up of mainly luxury rides stretched more than a kilometre.
Their destination: All Saints Cathedral Nakasero, whose perimetre wall fence borders Nakasero State Lodge in the leafy Kampala neighbourhood.
The casket with Ainenyona’s remains was rolled into the church as a dirge echoed through the cathedral.

Mourners huddled in the pews momentarily turned and cast their glances at pallbearers, who gently pushed the coffin through the isle toward the pulpit.
It was 10:30am. The church and outside marquees teemed with mourners. A battery of journalists scrambled for prime space for a bird’s eye shot.
Less of grief but more of shock paralysed mourners. There was no wailing. Just blank stares. Many cupped their faces in their palms. The silence was palpable.
Ainebyoona, the proprietor of Hickory Bar & Restaurant in the city’s upscale Kololo suburb, on Tuesday was a cheerful young man fraternising with friends and relatives. They checked into a gymnasium in Namugongo in Wakiso District for health fitness drills.
As he and two others powered back to the city centre, they stopped at the nearby Quality Supermarket to buy some water. Water is life, so goes the adage.

On Tuesday, a rapid turn of events unexpectedly converted their detour for water into a death dragnet. A cart they used to wheel out the consignment rolled and hit a vehicle of another, scratching it.
A guard on duty tried to prevent the trio from leaving until they resolve issues with the owner of the grazed car.
An altercation ensued and a colleague of the guard shot Ainebyona through the mouth, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the privately-owned Independent Hospital in Ntinda on the outskirts of Kampala.

The shock of the sudden horrifying killings still paralysed mourners yesterday, many struggling to make sense of the events 24 hours later.
The Rev Medard Birungi Bya Yesu, a close friend of the grieving family, cut an imposing figure at the lectern inside All Saints Cathedral Nakasero.
He spoke with theological cleverness and cited relevant biblical scriptures to clothe his poignant message. The centre-piece of his preaching was the danger of failing to manage anger.
Mourners nodded in approval right from start of the sermon through the highly emotional funeral service.

The blank stares that had occupied the service from the beginning, through the speeches and the laying of the wreaths, thawed into attentive gazes. It is a gripping tale of how a one Job lost his wealth, health and progeny and still had it in him to trust God.
“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” the recited scripture read.
“Job had a right to be angry with God, Rev Bya Yesu noted, but he restrained himself. Why? Because Job trusted God,” the man of collar said.

He added: “If it wasn’t for anger, this boy (Ainebyona) wouldn’t have died. This nation is a very angry nation.”
He held his breath as the church heaved in a painful suspense.
A man gifted with a holy tongue knows too how to navigate the murky political waters. Or, how to backpedal from potentially dicey and divisive utterance.
When the congregation yearned for his drift into contemporary governance afflicting the country, something that has characterised social media discussions following Ainebyona’s killing, the Reverend winged to the praise of President Museveni.
“If Museveni was a man given to anger, he wouldn’t have led this country for 34 years,” he said.

The sermon was as comforting as it was exhorting. “Your son is gone, but God isn’t,” the Rev Bya Yesu said.
If his messaging was attention-arresting, the Reverend churned out emotions with a concluding prayer aimed to soothe the grieving and aggrieved family.
Several mourners broke down, many sobbing uncontrollably.
Outside the church, people stood in small groups and spoke in hushed tones.
Pain visibly weighed down several mourners queued to view the body of the deceased, making a one final eye contact before Ainebyona would start his final journey to his permanent resting place in Ntungamo District, south-western Uganda, where he will be buried tomorrow.