Sadness and anger engulfed the village of Katooma in Ibanda District as hundreds of mourners were forcefully turned away from the burial of their beloved son Capt Yoramu Mwedeheza. Hundreds of mourners assembled at Capt Mwedeheza’s home to pay their final respects ignoring the presidential directives on burials during the Covid-19 pandemic which limits numbers to just the immediate family.
Security officers were forced to use teargas to disperse the crowd that was becoming restless. Many people were saddened that they were not given the chance to formally bury a person whose contribution to their lives and to the country was highly valued.
Rt Rev Amos Magezi of Church of Uganda the North West Ankole Diocese in Ibanda District who led the funeral service, commended late Capt Mwedeheza for his dedication to his work. “For the last 28 years, Mwedeheza worked as a marine captain transporting people and goods from Mombasa harbour across the Indian and the Pacific oceans without any incident. I would like to think that his choice to stay away from alcohol and drugs greatly contributed to his incredible record. We have heard of many crew members who lost their lives on the sea because of getting involved in accidents while under the influence of alcohol,” Rev Magezi said.
Francis Mwijukye the Member of Parliament for Buhweju hailed Capt Mwedeheza for the role he played in popularising the Forum for Democratic Change party (FDC) among his people. Capt Mwedeheza worked as the FDC representative in Ibanda District for five years.
Adoni Busingye, a lifelong friend, described Mwedeheza as a generous person who was gifted with a brilliant mind. Busingye and Mwedeheza met at Buremba Boys School in current Kazo District where they studied from Primary One up to Primary Four. The friends later joined Ibanda Boys’ School in Ibanda District for their junior school studies. Mwedeheza joined Nyakasura School in Kabarole District, for his O-Level and Mbarara High School in Mbarara District for his A-Level. He went to London where he took an engineering course in shipping.
“Mwedeheza was the kind of son every parent wants their child to befriend. He was a God-fearing boy, hardworking in class who always came on top of the class every term. He was a very focused student who was very involved in whatever he was learning. When the rest of the class was comfortable with whatever the teachers taught, Mwedeheza would ask probing questions in that humble way which made him popular with the teachers,” Busingye recounts.
He also notes Mwedeheza’s ardent respect for his parents even during the difficult adolescent years.
“I know it was out of respect for his parents that he worked so hard and kept himself out of trouble. When he was not reading his notes, he would pass his time by reading novels,” Busingye recollects.
A one in a million wedding
His widow Jaires Mirembe Mwedeheza says she is mourning the loss of a friend, a provider and exemplary human being. The couple met in 1970 and married shortly after.
“I was 20 years old when we met and he was the first maritime engineer I had ever met. Although he was a humble person, he commanded a lot of respect around him especially from me. After expressing his interest, he gave me one year to prepare our marriage arrangements. My parents asked for bride price of Shs600 which was equivalent of six cows at that time, which he paid in cash in one week. We tied the knot on December 12 1970 at the St Paul’s Parish Church of Uganda in Ibanda,” Mrs Mwedeheza recalls.
Theirs was a plush wedding at the time. Unlike the norm, the couple travelled in a car for their reception which took place in Buremba Sub-county, Kazo District. “We were the toast of the village and we received so many presents from well-wishers that we had to hire a truck to transport them. Just when I thought I had seen it all, he took me to Kisumu in Kenya for our honeymoon,” she shares.
Mrs Mwedeheza say the marriage was not without hardships but they managed to overcome them because of their faith in God. “We made God our first priority and He did not let us down. He fought and sustained us through the most trying times,” she says.
Mwedeheza’s work took him all over the region. He served as a captain and worked for the East African Harbours and Railways, Babas ship which operated between Mwanza and Bukoba across Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Even in retirement, Mwedeheza maintained his discipline and values.
“I have seen some pensioners driven to alcohol because of boredom but my husband stayed away from it. Neither did he choose to use his money to indulge his personal desires but remained the same cautious and sober man. It is unfortunate that he has passed on without being able to access his retirement benefits,” she laments. The couple had six children.
Fred Rubanda, their son, says his father was a humble gentle man who used to seek advice from his friends and his children and loved everybody in the family.
“Because of the nature of his work we were able to travel quite extensively within the region. He valued education and made sure we all went to universities,” Rubanda says.
He reveals that his father was a devoted Christian and served as the chairman of Ibanda father’s union and as a church warden at St Paul’s Parish Church for 15 years. Because of his strong Christian values and integrity, his services were often sought by different organisations. He worked as a treasurer at Kibubura Girls’ Secondary School in Ibanda District, served on Ibanda Multipurpose Co-operative as treasurer, was part of management of Ibanda Integrated Primary School and Nyabuhikye Dairy co-operative.
Capt Yoramu Mwedeheza was born in 1940 at Busya village, Buremba Sub-county in current Kazo District, he attended Ibanda Boys in Ibanda District and Nyakasura School in Fort Portal for O-Level, Cambridge school certificate and Mbarara High School in Mbarara District for his A-Level. He joined Southampton Marine Engineering College in England, UK. And holds a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering. He later joined East African Community and served as marine engineer on Lake Victoria until he retired in 1999.
Mwedeheza settled in Ibanda Municipality where he had a farm and commercial buildings. He built a storeyed residential house at Katooma Village. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure and passed away at St. Luke Clinic in Ibanda Municipality on June 21. His body was laid to rest near Sir Harry Galt, a British administrator who served as District Commissioner in Ankole government.