Farewell Barbara Allimadi, a woman of great passion, knowledge and humility

Tuesday May 5 2020

Gone. The late Barbara Allimadi during a

Gone. The late Barbara Allimadi during a meeting of Alliance for National Transformation in Gulu District last November. PHOTO BY TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY 

By Andrew Karamagi

Dear Barbara Allimadi,

I have the rather Herculean obligation of discharging a friend’s duty to a departed comrade.

But the fact that you lived fully, loved beautifully, and led by example will make the task considerably lighter. As those of the learned profession say, res ipsa loquitor—the facts speak for themselves.

For most of our Ugandan folk and beyond, you rightly epitomised bravery, wit and fortitude.

Often at great risk to your security and safety—armed with truth and passion—you tirelessly confronted injustice in your quest for a better society.

In the still and quiet of your homely abode, you spent hours reading voraciously, learning, and exercising your intellect with ideas about how to improve our collective condition as citizens.

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Yet your brilliance and wealth of knowledge never tampered your ability to care and empathise with others, regardless of their station in life.

When our mutual friend and sister Doreen Nyanjura sustained horrific injuries from an accident and required treatment for several weeks, you spared no effort to nurse her back to health.

Because of their sheer number, it is not possible to enumerate the case of each of the dozens of activists you visited in jail, stood surety for and whose families you comforted with selfless acts of solidarity. On numerous occasions, I have been a witness in the first degree of this largesse.

Two unlikely text messages I have received in the past 48 hours further confirm as much: one is from a case officer from the Family and Child Protection Unit who was surprised by the composure you maintained as we helped her record the details of an incident of child abuse we had witnessed and reported. The second is from my barber who, as I just learnt, followed you on social media and admired your courage. Both messages conveyed heartfelt sympathies and raw emotion.

Any attempt to describe you is not complete without acknowledging your cerebral exploits and abilities. Anyone who sat with you in a boardroom for a meeting and watched you make a presentation, or sat through your guest lectures in Uganda and beyond can attest to this fact.

On each occasion, your prowess and clarity of mind shone through and left no one in doubt of your grasp of the issues at hand. It did not matter whether you were discussing ideology, engineering, advocacy, governance, history, or your latest pet subject, economics.

One such remarkable instance is when you used Newton’s Laws of Motion to illustrate the Separation of Powers, and the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism. I remember you left the professor who had invited us to give the talk so amazed that he was momentarily speechless. A student of Humanities like myself had never imagined that such a connection could be made, let alone explained in such simple terms!

The force of your example did not just shine through your word and deed—it also showed up in difficult moments and at tough decision points.

Moreover, you never once suggested that you knew it all; in fact, you often asked and consulted before drawing conclusions or taking actions. This trait is a rare, yet invaluable attribute for leaders. Today’s current and aspiring leaders would do well to borrow a leaf.

In a society that is rife with gender stereotypes that manifest through the suppression of the rights of women, your presence and participation helped demystify and bring down chunks of the revolting edifice of patriarchy. 

Because of the prevailing contagion, scores of people who would have come to give you the befitting sendoff you more than deserve were unable to; it is therefore my singular honour to have the privilege of eulogising you in a leading daily publication.

The weight of the task is not made any easier by the fact there is so much more I could have yet there can only be so much space.

Notwithstanding the foregoing paragraphs, a loss like yours is all the evidence needed to confirm the inadequacy of the English language. The void I feel cannot be fully captured but rather than sulk, I choose to end on a high note and celebrate the few but consequential years we marched together. 

As you join the revolutionary ranks of our country’s warrior daughters, please give our love to the two-year-old-baby, Julian Nalwanga, who was shot dead during Walk to Work protests in 2011, Rita Nalubega whose life was ended two months ago by criminals in Police uniform and the dozens of unnamed Ugandans whose crime was and has been to stand up to corruption and misrule.

At an opportune time, with the permission of your family, we will make the trip to your resting place to pay our respects.

As you look down on us from lofty heights, please send more wind to our sails as we learn to navigate these waters without your expert stewardship.

You lived, you loved and led!

Ever yours,

Andrew Karamagi

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