Former head of state Binaisa passes on

Bishop Balagadde Ssekadde greets (L) chats with the Nnaabagereka Sylivia Nagginda (R), Princess Sangalyambogo and Binaisa at Namirembe Cathedral last year. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE

Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, the last surviving former Ugandan head of state died at his home in Kampala yesterday. He was 90. Mr Binaisa, who famously declared that the chair (power) is sweet, with the statement: Entebbe ewooma, during his 11month reign as President, died peacefully in his bed, family sources said yesterday.

“We are gutted and really depressed,” said Ms Nakalema Binaisa, a daughter to the former President. Visibly distraught by the death, Ms Nakalema struggled to hold back tears in an interview with this newspaper.

“We went to the hospital on Monday but we were told that his blood sugar levels had stabilised,” she said. “We went back home and he seemed alright. His nurse went to check on him before he went to sleep and he was smiling last night [Wednesday].

This morning [yesterday] at 6am she went to wake him for his bath but he did not wake up.” His body was taken to the Mulago Hospital yesterday morning for a post-mortem examination. Ms Nakalema said her father’s physicians suspect the former leader could have died due to a cardiac arrest.

“His heart just stopped beating,” she said. “He was always with us, happy and we had so many plans. He was a fabulous human being; we are so gutted.”
Arrangements are under way for a state funeral for the former leader. Officials at the Office of the President and the Prime Minister’s Office are coordinating burial arrangements, the government said.

Mr Binaisa is said to have been battling diabetes before his death. The former leader was in poor health after he suffered a stroke in 2008 which kept him bedridden in a Nairobi hospital for more than a month. His subsequent appearances in public became limited.

A nephew to the former leader, Mr Martin Lwanga, told reporters at the Media Centre that Mr Binaisa had not been in good health for the past year.
“... and given his age, you can understand the circumstances,” he said.

Last wish
It also emerged that the former president had left a wish list detailing where he would like to be buried, a request that Mr Lwanga said had been handed to the government.

Daily Monitor understands that Mr Binaisa’s last wish was a desire to be buried at the Kololo ceremonial grounds, next to the resting place of Ignatius Kangave Musaazi, founder of Uganda’s first political party, the Uganda National Congress.
“Musaazi was his mentor and it is he who brought daddy into politics,” said Ms Nakalema.

As news of his death spread, condolence messages began trickling in. The government hastily arranged a press briefing at the Media Centre in Kampala where journalists were told that President Museveni had been informed about Binaisa’s death and expressed sadness.

“President Museveni on behalf of the government of Uganda conveys condolences to the family, relatives and friends,” said Media Centre director Fred Opolot.

In Parliament, Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga broke news of his death and led the House to observe a minute of silence in honour of the former president. She said details relating to his burial and official mourning ceremony would be “communicated by government following consultations with relatives.”

Mr Binaisa is survived by seven children; three boys and four girls, plus four grand children and a great grand child.

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