On June 5 last week, I woke up to one of those days when nothing seems to work as you wish. I decided to relax and read a little book. Then in came a phone call from Martin Iga Ddungu. Martin is very good with words and will often give you a great conversation garnished with humour. This time he went straight to the point, ‘owange, George affudde’ (my dear, George is dead!) It was unbelievable to say the least.
George Francis Walusimbi Mpanga (July 7, 1971- June 5, 2019) was such a great character. Like Martin, he was a wonderful conversationalist. Mpanga who among his friends went by the nick name ‘Sokolov,’ was such a joy to be around. He was very knowledgeable on a vast range of issues right from his profession of economics to sport, arts, culture, politics, science and much more. He was my go-to person on Kiganda culture and the monarchy. He knew most of the norms and practices and was well grounded in Luganda where he easily elucidated the proverbs and sayings.
Whether you were travelling with him in a vehicle or sharing a meal at the table, Mpanga never disappointed. His conversations were always interspersed with his characteristic laughter, which bellowed like it was forcing its way out of his (later) rotund belly. To say he glowed when he was talking about Liverpool FC; a team that he followed fanatically, is an understatement. He made friends easily. If he met you with a friend, soon that friend would become a mutual friend.
When I met Mpanga, he was a lanky fellow. We worked for Martin in his cottage printing business for which he paid us very well as young men. I recall opening up my first bank account at Barclays Bank on Kampala Road when the pay came through. I also recall going down-town to Owino Market with Martin’s brother Mike Ddungu and getting a few pairs of second hand jeans. In the printer, the atmosphere was great with so much humour and fun as we learnt to work. Mpanga was one of the reasons for that. He gave us stories from his granary of tales, many of which I recall with laughter to this day.
Many years later, we were neighbours in Ntinda where he stayed with his sweetheart Helen Kasaijja Mpanga. One day I visited and there was a spread on the table. I noticed that this time round, Mpanga was eating meat in rather huge quantities. (At Martin’s, Mpanga only ate beans and groundnut sauce because he was very allergic to meat.) He told me of some Chinese medicine he took that solved his problem with meat. I joked that he would bust with all that meat. Later in life, he went to well-over 110kgs and diabetes set in along the way. It was a complication due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels that eventually sent him to the Lord.
Since I also did not take milk because of severe lactose intolerance, I asked him to direct me to the China men to see if they could help. Unfortunately, all the concoctions (and they were many) they gave me did not work.
That was Mpanga for you. He always loved to learn, try out new thing and teach others to discover. His work as a trade services consultant was in tandem with his wandering spirit and whenever he travelled, he made it a point to make friends and also return with very great experiences that he narrated joyously. He was named ‘Ladit Otim’ by a group of elders who included the late Ambassador Julius Onen in Atiak.
Mpanga was a great family man and very loving father to his two children Audrey Bawoomya and Adrian Mpanga both of whom he talked very fondly about at every opportunity. He equally loved the other children associated with his family. He acted as their father and mother when Helen passed on very tragically.
Helen’s ailing, her passing and the aftermath was one of the most trying moments in Mpanga’s short life, as he confided in me one evening at his house in Naalya. But it brought to the fore, Mpanga’s resilience and fortitude in very difficult times.
As a staunch practicing Catholic, he had no room for bitterness in his heart and like Job in the Bible, he accepted what the Lord had brought him to. He remained faithful to the end and was deeply involved in matters of spreading the reach of the church of Christ to the very end.
Speaker after speaker who included his father-in-law, friends, relatives, Rotarians and colleagues at the four-hour long requiem mass held in his honour at St Mbaaga Tuzinde Church in Kiwatule, gave testimony to these good qualities and much more of this eloquent and amiable man.
Mpanga loved mankind and as a Rotarian (he was the Charter President of the Rotary Club of Kiwatule), he threw himself with gusto in the quest for service above self. He always spared a thought for the needy and vulnerable. Many will miss this son of George Fulugensio Walusimbi-Musisi & Christine Nakintu Walusimbi.
But as his father said before he was lowered into the grave, Mpanga did all that he had asked of him to do in life, so his father accepted what fate had dictated.
Fare-thee-well George Francis Mpanga and my the Lord keep you well.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.