Uncle Kato: The gods longed for comedy

What you need to know:

  • He of many trades: On Wednesday morning, social media was awash with news of Kato Lubwama’s death.
  • Kato Lubwama was a household name in arts circles, having gained stardom as a drama actor before he later tried his teeth at politics – that he was sadly bad at. How can we best remember Kato Lubwama?
  • As an actor, playwright, comedian, director, radio presenter, singer or politician?

In the 2004 Troy Movie, Brad Pitt playing as Achilles remarks: “The gods envy us. They envy us because we are mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” We are doomed because Kato Lubwama will never be here with us again.

There is no better proof that the gods envy us than in the passing of Kato Lubwama, aka Lubwax, aka Uncle Kato as he preferred to be addressed. Come July 2023, Uncle Kato had promised us the biggest of drama plays at Serena Hotel.

 He had gathered several legends in what was codenamed Cease Fire, aka Katemba Mu Serena. It is the preparations for this play that took up most of his final days on planet earth. He had made it categorical that the theatrical was not targeting the broke and poor. He had come to dread anything that reminded him of poverty, or anything that carried symptoms of poverty. 

For this reason, he had introduced us to Team Luseke. Luseke is the Luganda word for a siphon. To escape poverty, one needed to constantly be out on the move with their luseke. One needed to find rich friends that could constantly be siphoned. Kasuku, his regular host, had taken this message to heart. 

The actor getting annointed by Pr Bugingo. 

Mortal man’s life has been defined in threes. Man has the morning of their life, the afternoon, and the evening. Kasuku had formed a big part of Uncle Kato’s evening. For the evening of Uncle Kato’s life was defined by one purpose, to live a life of no regrets. Rather than regret the loss of his parliamentary position, Uncle Kato had chosen to retreat to what he knew best, making others laugh and making a mockery of life. For the comedians, the dramatists, they mock life, they dare it with jokes, they dance on its graves, asking but one thing; ‘life where are your claws?’ And that is what Uncle Kato did. 

His fans would regularly respond with the same mockery asking him to handle ‘their heart’ with care. It was ‘their heart’ because they had fundraised for Uncle Kato’s heart operation shortly before he joined politics. But he could hear nothing of those allegations, he dismissed them and went on to use his heart to its fullest. At one time, he came short of exchanging blows with a one Promoter Bajjo on a live TV show. In recent times, he had taken a swipe at Alien Skin for encouraging Ugandans into insanity. 

“Banange this Alien Skin, how do you keep singing those songs? Simanya Twayiseeko Dda, then Totya Danger. Why are you fanning the madness of Ugandans?” Uncle Kato complained. He would then proceed to shadowbox as he further threatened to deal with Alien Skin. 

The only other team he always dealt with, or pretended to deal with, was the National Unity Platform (NUP) and its leader Bobi Wine. Uncle Kato had this theory that the NUP wave had been responsible for his failure to win a second term in Parliament. He would always make fun of them as ‘Obwana bwa NUP.’ Yet, it is the manner with which he delivered his threats that one could tell, it was just Uncle Kato, there was nothing deeper to it. Although he would make personal statements, it seemed for Uncle Kato, nothing was ever personal. And for many, this brought confusion. Because you did not know where the drama stopped and where real life started. The lines for his life were blurred. Was he serious? Was he unserious? 

He campaigned on the same message of unseriousness to Parliament. He had asked voters for two terms in office. The first term was ‘give me a chance to go and eat something’ and the second term was meant for his voters to eat. He used the first term well; the voters were impatient to give him the second term. Or perhaps, they suspected he would not remember his promise. But one thing is clear, for Kato, he lived life on the unapologetic lane, he lived it without regrets. And for his friends, he warmed his unseriousness into their hearts.
He championed himself as the king of creatives. He had the ability to think on the spot. He found pride in his music. He saw no equal in this arena and complained about the death of good music in the country. And when he had a chance, he would deliver some ideas to the younger ones on the spot. He had taken the position of ‘elder’ in society. For one podcaster, Wonder Jr, he had suggested to him: “Why don’t you introduce something Amapiano-Bahima?” His argument was that the height of the Bahima and their culture would merge flawlessly into Amapiano.

Kato Lubwama (R) in America with fellow MPs during one of their official visits. PHOTOS /COURTESY

He is a man we could not hate. There is a class of Ugandans that just cannot be hated. We hate that we love them. Perhaps they know we cannot hate them. For if anyone else did the things they do, they would not last a minute on the scene. Men like Jose Chameleone and Tamale Mirundi. Uncle Kato belonged to this rare class of Ugandans, the ones that Ugandans have chosen to love regardless of their insanities. For how could life proceed without the Doctor? How could life proceed without Mutabani wa Molly Namatovu? 

In remembering Uncle Kato, we remember his key message on money. He said there was no peace for a man without money. A man without money had no opinion, had no friends, had no peace. He often commented that whenever he lacked money, he went into a depression as he imagined the fate of a man without money. He thus championed the saying; ‘Kola sente’ and went on to inspire a wave of Team Luseke.

When we remember his dance video at Namboole Stadium as he cheered the Uganda Cranes, we remember a man who knew for sure that this life had no repeats. And because it had no repeats, it could never be lived in halves and with regrets. We only regret things we have a chance to repeat. Kato Lubwama knew that all this was a play, he was both the actor, and director in his play. One thing is certain, death could have been the play Uncle Kato had planned for us. The gods too, they longed for some comedy. Uncle Kato is not dead, it is a Cease Fire!