Katuntu puts retirement plans on hold after brother’s death

Police officers and locals look at the wreckage of the vehicle in which Abdu Katuntu.MP Abdu Katuntu's brother Ramadhan Waiswa (inset) was travelling. Waiswa died in an accident on Kumi-Pallisa Road on April 3.  PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The legislator’s younger brother, Ramadhan Waiswa, also a lead lawyer at Katuntu & Co Advocates, met his death on the Kumi-Pallisa Road on April 3.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 3, Abbey Ssekajja reached out to counsel Ramadhan Waiswa for an update about a case he was running point on. The two friends also had a hearty laughter as they shared memories from their time at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School.

“I did not know that it was the last conversation we would have. I was saddened to learn that he had been involved in an accident, and died,” Ssekajja emotively recounts a friend he describes as jolly and encouraging in times of distress.

Waiswa, a lead lawyer at Katuntu & Co Advocates, met his death on the Kumi-Pallisa Road. 

Abdu Katuntu, his elder brother and Bugweri MP, says he rushed to find ways to have him evacuated when he learnt of the accident. His heart broke when he learnt that Waiswa had died instantly.

“I am still overwhelmed. Ramadhan’s death has hit me so deep. He had gone to attend court in Soroti, then on the way back, his friend who was driving, lost control [of the vehicle]. Waiswa died instantly. It had either rained or was raining,” Katuntu says, adding that he was surprised his brother travelled in a Mark II yet he owned secure and big cars—a Range Rover, Jaguar and Mercedes Benz. 

Who was Waiswa?
Born at Busesa Health Centre IV, Namalemba, Bugweri County, Iganga District in eastern Uganda, Waiswa, 40, was a committed family man. His four children, three of whom are boys, are aged between eight and three.

The lawmaker says he treated Waiswa as if he was his son. 
“When my father died, he was in P3. With his twin sister, Sania Babirye, they were the last born children. Before I could get my biological children, I had to look after them. I educated them up to university,” the Bugweri lawmaker discloses. He adds: “Waiswa wanted to study journalism. I had just joined politics. He could run my law firm, so I convinced him. He reluctantly accepted and became an advocate.”

Katuntu adds that Waiswa was “very dedicated.” His knowledge of the law, he adds, was amazing. Ditto his interpretation of the law. He was intelligent and passionate about his clients as mourners got to learn during his burial. In fact, some of his clients from the Teso Sub-region shed tears. They couldn’t stand the thought of losing their lawyer. 

Fondly remembered
Waiswa had specialised in land and commercial law practice.  Katuntu was pleasantly surprised by the range of connections his younger brother mustered. These included judges, Bernard Oundo, the current Uganda Law Society president and 40 advocates who all attended Waiswa’s burial.

“Waiswa had a good sense of humour. He was always smiling…His jokes on anything and everything were endless. Every time we met, it would just be laughter and jokes all through,” Halimah Kaggwa, a senior communications officer of the Judiciary, said of her fallen friend. 

Her last memory of Waiswa was when she teased him about being a defence lawyer for Brian Isiko, who stood accused of sending love messages to Sylvia Rwabwogo, the Fort Portal Woman lawmaker. Kaggwa says Waiswa told her that he was “fighting for the boy child.”

“He may be gone, but the memories we had with him, especially during our last reunion as former classmates, will always live on in our hearts,” Kaggwa says. 

Yunus Babuwaire says the contagious smile and jokes define the last memories of his dear friend, old student, esteemed lawyer, and inspiring leader since childhood.

“Waiswa’s presence touched countless lives with his generosity. As a cohort leader for the 1999-2004 class of Kawempe Muslim SS, I always banked on strong, generous and wise men like him to run the association,” he said, adding, “His legacy of wisdom, kindness, empathy and leadership will forever be cherished.”

A friend who prefers anonymity paid tribute to Waiswa for “accept[ing] me for who I am” adding that the fallen lawyer “wasn’t judgmental at all.”

Brilliant student
Muhamed Lukwago, Waiswa’s former teacher and chairperson of Kawempe Old Students’ Association, remembers a dedicated, hardworking and bright young man during his school days. Waiswa’s organisational and strategic planning came to the fore when he was elected as the house prefect of Mivule House. 

“As a house master of Kakungulu House, I remember how he made the sports competition so stiff and gruelling as it always took much more to defeat his house in any event. He went on to pursue law after his exemplary performance in the final exams in 2004,” Lukwago recalls. He adds: “[Waiswa] was always on call to come and motivate, as well as inspire current students since they often looked at him with admiration.” 

Such was Waiswa’s love and trust of the school that he enrolled his son and has been paying school fees for many of his relatives at the school. 

Katuntu says his brother’s death is and will remain painful for a long time. As he clocks 60, the lawmaker was looking forward to enjoying his retirement. He now has to put these plans on hold as he takes on the responsibility of caring for Waiswa’s rather young family. 

“They are my children and I now look at them as my sons and daughters and not nephews and nieces,” he says. 
House Speaker Anita Among used her X account to eulogise Waiswa. She posted thus: “This afternoon, we gathered with heavy hearts to celebrate the life of Ramathan Waiswa, the beloved brother of our esteemed colleague, Honourable Abdu Katuntu. While I may not have had the privilege of interacting with him personally, Honourable Katuntu has always spoken of him with great admiration, describing him as a dedicated and committed young man.

Honourable Katuntu is one of the most honest and esteemed Members of Parliament. To all friends, relatives, and members of the Law Society, I offer my deepest condolences. May Allah grant you the strength to carry this heavy burden!”