At the turn of the millennium, around 2002, if you ever travelled to Nebbi District, there stood an imposing multi-story complex that symbolised one’s arrival in Nebbi Town Council.
In those days, commuters from Kampala to Nebbi would only arrive after dusk. The highway was still a dirt road pockmarked with potholes.
More than anything, commuters arrived late because of the threat of ambushes staged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels on the Karuma-Pakwach section of the road. All vehicles from Kampala had to be held up at Karuma until that hour when the UPDF soldiers guided them through this dreaded section in a convoy.
The convoy was composed of soldiers armed to the teeth seated on top of their military vehicles ready to respond to any rebel attack on the civilian traffic. The convoy moved at snail’s pace so much so covering the 110 kilometres took over four hours.
Once you got to Pakwach without incident, besides the sigh of relief, you were free to continue individually with your journey to other parts of West Nile since there was no infiltration of rebels. The next big town to look out for was Nebbi.
At Agwok Trading Centre, lights from Nebbi Town would come into one’s eyeshot despite being a whole eight kilometres away. Those lights were off Rajja Deluxe building—the first-ever storeyed complex in the heart of Nebbi Town.
The other building that had the signature lights was the residence of Patrick Okumu Ringa, former junior Public Service minister, that squatted on top of Jukia hill. Both structures belonged to Ringa. To date, the two buildings remain key representations of Nebbi Town, now a thriving municipality.
Rajja Deluxe has always been a sign of good things that could happen to this tranquil town of the Alur people. Its presence inspired other developments as seen today.
Unsurprisingly, my mind raced back in time on learning of the demise of Ringa during the morning of May 17.
Ringa gave Nebbi town’s metropolitan area its first layout. His estates showcased his far-reaching vision for the area.
Beyond personal endeavours, Ringa generously financed various projects in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector. His desire to see sons and daughters of Nebbi excel academically will remain unmatched for a long time.
Sponsoring more than 200 students, he nurtured aspirations and instilled a sense of purpose. During this time, the Nebbi Students Association at Makerere University was very vibrant. School breaks were a good time for the members to conduct community outreaches to inspire the young ones.
Ringa was well-studied both locally and abroad, and he wished the same for his people.
Before these notable contributions, Ringa had already established a formidable legacy. He was an astute businessman who grew to be one of Uganda’s most prominent investors in the transport sector.
He was the proprietor of Afro Motors Limited, a franchise that used to import Peugeots to Uganda, captivating the nation with their elegance and performance.
Peugeot remains a world-acclaimed car brand and it would probably still be popular in Uganda were it not for the misfortune that befell his business. This followed a misunderstanding with the government in 1990.
Ringa’s ambitious vision to assemble Peugeots locally demonstrated his unwavering dedication to industrial development.
Whenever Ringa was home, the sight of his well-kept 504 Peugeot gently rolling through the dusty Nebbi town was always rejuvenating. He would drive from his residence at Jukia to Rajja Deluxe where he usually met his people.
As was with his strict dresscode, his cars were always neat. Once the doors opened, a sweet fragrance engulfed those close by. In the 80s, he almost single-handedly ran the transport system in Nebbi. He had a fleet of buses, lorries, and small trucks plying public routes. He also had boats connecting Panyimur in then Nebbi and Wanseko Landing Site in current Buliisa District.
Ringa’s exceptional contributions and social enterprises earned him the admiration and trust of the public, leading to his election to Parliament.
While in the House, he effectively represented Padyere County. In 2001, he was appointed the junior Public Service minister.
Throughout his career, Patrick Okumu Ringa, former junior Public Service minister, established more than 10 successful companies.
These included: Aroma Tea, Ringa Construction and Engineering Works, Ringa Transport Service Ltd., Rajja Motors, Pattex Garment Industry, Ombidi and Nyaceng Memorial Hospital, and Orbital Tours and Travel, among others.
These entrepreneurial ventures served as a testament to his indomitable spirit and unyielding dedication to creating economic opportunities for his community.
The writer, Frank Mugabi is a communications officer in the Gender, Labour and Social Development ministry