He showed up for our first date with one shoe

Owen and Maria Kibenge 

What you need to know:

On the day of their first date, Kibenge drove to Mbonigaba’s office and waited. However, when he saw her get out of office, he hurriedly closed the car door and drove as fast as he could to the restaurant they had agreed to meet. After settling down at their dinner table, he realised he had left his shoe in the parking lot

One evening while waiting in the car for his girlfriend to finish work, Owen Kibenge leisurely sat with one foot out of the car. When he saw Maria Mbonigaba approaching the car, he hastily drove off to the restaurant where they had scheduled to meet. On arrival at the restaurant, he realised he had left his shoe in the parking lot. That night he took her on a date while wearing one shoe.

Kibenge says at this time, he worked in the radio and television industry, and hardly slept.

“It was hard to find time just to be together but we would try as much as possible to maximise on the time we got,” Kibenge says.

Mbonigaba is the chief executive officer of Boda Boda Africa LLC, a Maryland registered company that has interests in logistics, online sales, and real estate both in Uganda and the United States. Kibenge, the co-founder of the company is also a journalist and businessman. The two met while Mbonigaba was a student at Bishop Tucker Theological College, now Uganda Christian University. Her father, the late Canon Elisha Mbonigaba, was Kibenge’s tutor.

The college was Mbonigaba’s compound where she would interact with different students. She would meet them in the Chapel for prayers or on the courts playing games such as darts and volleyball and because she used to play table tennis with Owen, they became friends. One day, when he delivered his assignment to his tutor’s house, Mbonigaba opened the door. He was smitten.


She was a combination of beauty, intelligence, calmness, straightforwardness, determination and of course her amazing mathematics skills. And when they started dating, his open-mindedness and self-esteem was what made her start paying attention to him. Kibenge did not pretend to be someone he was not. It is this authenticity and honesty that set him apart. As their love blossomed, he discovered that it was more than just buying flowers, shoes, or jewellery for her. It was the intangible things that mattered.

The two had dated for close to 10 years. His career had taken off, and he was constantly on the move and needed someone who would help him make his dreams a reality.  Kibenge had always wanted to start a family but was not sure if his work schedule at the time would allow him to. However, Mbonigaba was unfazed by his fears, which was a sign that she was the one. One evening, he proposed to her in her apartment. It did not come as a surprise considering that he had asked for her hand in marriage three years prior, and she had declined.

She had been working and saving money to pay for her university education and while at university, she did not want any destructions. She did not expect him to wait that long but he did. The two lovebirds got married as soon as she had completed her degree in 2005.  The couple, who now live in the United States have two sons; Philip and Andrew.

The lovers set out to have a union anchored on integrity, trust, love and authenticity. Mbonigaba does not believe in faking it till she makes it. She likes being true to herself and, therefore, true to him.  From day one, Kibenge promised a relationship based on trust and faithfulness and he lives to fulfil these every day.


The biggest challenge they have faced as a couple was parenting. When they had their baby, they were both enrolled at Columbia University in New York City for advanced degrees. They had also just moved to another city, away from any family and friends who would offer assistance. And for close to five years, the couple hardly had time for each other because they had assignments to do, classes to attend, jobs and a child to raise.

They decided to take on different roles to suit the time. His wife is logical, methodical, and disciplined while he procrastinates a lot. When the fuel gauge light is on, he knows that he has 20 more miles to go while she would not let the car run that low on fuel. He finds it hard to keep paired items together; a sock or cufflink will be found anywhere in the house. This used to drive her crazy, but she has learnt to live with it.


In the beginning, they avoided talking about money and how it should be handled but that was trying to postpone the inevitable. There was no easy way out. She is a certified accountant who could not let the family’s finances be in shambles.

“My wife’s accounting skills have allowed me to take a back seat and let her play by her strengths and this has been one of the best things in our marriage. We have a few real estate projects at different levels of completion in Uganda, with multiple contractors and suppliers working. It is common to wake up to Maria haggling on the phone with say a timber trader in Ndeeba, Uganda at 3am. I would not do that,” he explains.


The lovebirds espouse different approaches to life. He votes Republican while she is a Democrat. She watches TD Jakes, he loves documentaries with snakes and movies with guns. She listens to Don Moen’s gospel music while he listens to Jazz. He is a procrastinator while she demands immediate results.

Being best friends helps them navigate marriage in a memorable and fun way. They keep it real, do what works best for them as a couple and do it with respect and affection. Laughter is always part of the deal, always looking for the positive spin out of most situations and never going to bed angry at each other.


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