A man ahead of his time the story of Kataratambi

The book  cover. PHOTO | EDGAR R. BATTE

What you need to know:

  • Book Review. His biography was sourced from different people in Kigezi and written by Joachim Buwembo. Remigio Kataratambi’s A man ahead of His Time  brings his story to light, writes  Edgar R. Batte.

In his introductory notes, author Joachim Buwembo observes that the story of Remigio Kataratambi offers the reader a glimpse of what ideal public servants and entrepreneurs should be and do. On the other side, it is also a summary of what they have failed to be or do. 

It is 210 pages of how the 87-year-old embarked on spearheading momentous developments in private enterprises in dairy farming, trading, cooperative organisation, and philanthropy in Kabale, his home district  and beyond.  

What’s in a name?

Who he became has something to do with his name, Kataratambi. Entaratambi, an extremely swift little bird that builds its nest with mud on roofs of houses. 

“So, while the name ‘Kataratambi’ largely pointed to the swiftness of the child’s arrival, it was also an expression of gratitude to God for the gift of a baby boy that the young couple had received so quickly,” the writer qualifies the name. 

He later became the gift that keeps giving because as an enrolled student at Bukalasa Agricultural College, got involved in hands-on demonstrations in the laboratory and on the farm and going for field trips which exposed him to Uganda, and particularly agricultural challenges that affected the different provinces in the country. 

He acquired farm management skills and teaching techniques which enabled him, and fellow students instil skills in illiterate or semi-illiterate rural farmers at the grassroots. 

Kataratambi was one of the active students who earned from growing vegetables for the institute and impressed the observant tutors who gladly recommended him for a government job at the department of Agriculture upon graduation from Bukalasa, in Luwero.  

His biographer notes that it was from the early years as an agriculture student that Kataratambi got to appreciate the importance of land to national development and hence for its proper utilisation. 

“Having travelled widely internally and across borders, he acquired exposure over time that made him a relentless advocate for progressive land policies. For decades, for instance, Kataratambi has called for a clear policy and public education against land fragmentation, not just in Western Uganda but countrywide,” Buwembo writes.

Selfless

A man who practiced what he preached, Kataratambi cut his teeth in farming and community leadership with Kigezi Dairy Cooperative Society Limited and was keen on the well-being of his workers and put effort into working hard to make strides in their individual development, away from over-drinking alcohol. 

To date, he speaks from a role model’s point of view as a man who prides in making lifelong friends, being accommodative of people regardless of tribe and religion as well as hard work and generosity. 

“Hajji Ssemakula Buheti, who has been a businessman in Kabale since the mid-1980s, hails Kataratambi as a ‘people person’. He recalls that he used to help people who were starting,” the book reads, in part.

And as Ssemakula adds, Kataratambi would lend him money without making any agreement or document; he would simply give him money so that he could prosper like him. 

“Paul Karecera, a business associate and politician in Kabale, also attests to this. He says Kataratambi is very generous, if you went to him with a problem he would readily help,” the book further details.

“If I am to be asked to name people I consider my heroes, I would mention Kataratambi and my late father, Rev Can Ephraim Kaburahoona. I owe most of my achievements to their guiding principles,” Charity Kenneth Kaburahoona says.

Also,  the Rev Fr Gaetano Batanyenda, 76, was one of the interviewees for the biography and he says there are not many people in Kataratambi’s age group that are still alive. As such, he implores people to pick lessons from him, and among them; every individual should realise that they exist not only for themselves but also their families and communities, adding that you cannot clean up elsewhere before cleaning your home. 

Some of the major makings of the man was taking in the folktales at the fireplaces at which wisdom from elders who would educate the young about their clans; they would narrate folktales about their origins and fables aimed at inculcating cultural and traditional values, and for Kataratambi they anchored his character as well-grounded Mukiga.  

The simplicity

A Man Ahead of His Time is presented in a simple and conversational style, typical of veteran journalist Buwembo’s writing.  

“Piecing together the life of this great man has been made possible by the efforts of many people, who deserve our appreciation. The first attempt to document Kataratambi’s life and work started many years ago with several missionaries in Kigezi who saw him as the embodiment of selfless service to humanity,” he writes.

In the foreword, Professor Ezra Suruma observes that the work done by Kataratambi in developing Kigezi region and Uganda in general, is an amazing testimony of commitment and courage.

Suruma, former finance minister and chancellor of Makerere University Kampala, adds, “It demonstrates remarkable entrepreneurship and zeal to achieve wealth and influence far beyond what was in existence during his time.” 



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