I was born to Falasisco Begumisa and Oliver Kirungi in Kateembe-Isingiro. My grandfather was Irungu son of Kitaakure wa Kahororo. Kahororo ka Nyamugabo. Nyamugabo wa Kashekuro. Kashekuro ka Betekire.
I went to Kateembe Primary School for P.1 and P.2 and joined Nyamitanga where I completed P.6 from. I then joined Kisubi Seminary in 1947 to study Catholic Brotherhood, which I completed, though at that time, no certificates were awarded, at the end of the course.
I was however not comfortable that the years I spent in Kisubi go unrecorded. I therefore approached Mr. John Kabeireho, a friend whom I had met as a student teacher, in the Primary School. He had been posted at Rushoroza then, and helped me get registered there, for sitting the examinations that would qualify me to get a certificate. When Mr. Kabeireho got to know the years I had spent in Kisubi, he evaluated them and equated them to Senior four leavers’. I passed the qualifying examination and went to Butiiti College, in Fort Portal whose final examination I passed as well. Unfortunately, both certificates were awarded at the same time, indicating the same year, which almost landed me in trouble. I was however cleared of any possible fraud, through the DC’s office and assistance of John Kabeireho.
I had completed Junior Secondary School in 1949, and had applied to join the medical school, because I had admired Katatumba and Katikiro, very smart in their medical coat uniforms. That is when I resolved that I should also study hard and put on the coat. I subsequently joined Lira Medical School in 1950, but the School went on strike. I was informed by the white man who was the Principal that I had been recommend to go to Masaka Medical School where I was to study for qualifying to be a Medical Assistant. The Acholi locked us out of the School and when I went to report at the Police Station, I fortunately found there my fellow Banyankole. I slept there with other Banyankole and the next morning, I was taken to the Bus Park from where I boarded a bus for Kampala.
I did not consider it wise to go back home. Instead, I looked for Joseph Kagurusi whom I knew to be a Senior Police Officer, to help me join the Police Force. Part of the qualification for entry was being tall and. I was 5.7 feet where the stipulated minimum height needed was 5.9 feet. I therefore failed to join Police because I did not meet the required minimum height.
I travelled to Mbarara and when I reached the town, I found traders of animal skins and hides who needed someone to do accountabilities for them. They employed me for 3 months, paying me Ush. 30 per month. I worked so well that I exceeded their expectations. When their colleagues from
Masaka visited they were impressed by my records keeping and they offered me 72 shillings per month so that they take me to Masaka. No sooner had I made up my mind to go to Masaka than other animal skin traders from Dare es salaam – Tanzania visited and offered me 120 shillings.
The offer was very tempting and I was confused for some time, not knowing where to go. A Runyankore wise saying goes, “Obutebuuza, bukatwaara ameizi nyakiro.”, meaning that without consulting, one can easily make irreversible mistakes. I therefore approached a man called Petero Zabuka and asked him for advice. His answer was in form of question, whereby he wondered whether I was not aware that there already two people from my village who were already working in Dar es Salaam. Zabuka’s main question was;” Whenever these village mates come back home, what do they bring from Dar es Salaam that you would like to have?” The truth of the matter is that there was nothing enviable that they used to bring. There was nothing except one white shirt and one trouser which they would put on every Sunday and some cigarettes. Zabuka added, “if you want to go for cigarettes and prostitutes, go to Dar es Salaam.” He cautioned that my going to Dar es Salaam would be depending on a private company which could collapse any time and that would be my end if I went. He suggested that I apply for the position of a Veterinary Guard at the Veterinary School because I would be a government employee. As such, I would be able to be employed until I retire even if leadership changes. Zabuka was the Chief Clerk, at the time, earning 66 Ush and I thought that he was envious of me, who was going to earn higher than him.
I had a friend and clan mate called Pio Ngiine who had taught me in Primary 3 and I approached him and asking for advice on accepting the Dar es Salaam job offer. It is as if he had conspired with Petero Zabuka, for he reiterated the same advice that I had been given. That is how I made up my mind and decided not to take on the job offer in Dar es Salaam.
I then went for a veterinary interview with 27 other candidates of which only 8 of us were selected to sit for the second interview. We did the second interview the same day at 2pm and I passed because I had picked some knowledge from Lira Medical School. The administration had decided that whoever passes the interview commences work on 1st January 1951. However, I started work on 1st December 1950 because I had impressed them during the interviews.
I worked so hard and well that I got promoted until I was recommended to study in Entebbe for qualifying as a Veterinary Assistant. I passed the School entrance interview, highly, and having been working with the Veterinary Department for 5 years, of I was told to join the studies at the third year level. I thus studied at School for one year only and qualified to become a Veterinary Assistant. Because of my excellent work, I was recommended to go for further studies in Ranch Management, in the United States of America, in 1962.
My selection to go for further studies did not go well with some workmates because I was just a Veterinary Assistant and yet there were 0fficers of higher ranks like the Senior Veterinary Assistants and Assistant Veterinary Officers who felt they deserved the training opportunity and became so envious. I was supposed to travel on 22nd April 1962 and just close to the date, we were told that the travel plans had been postponed to 22nd August.
Just after my travel had been postponed, I met an old woman who had been chased out of the Bus as she was heading to Itendero because she did not have money. She told me that
she needed UShs 2 and 20 cents. People who say that we should help the needy, it is an issue to be taken serious. I had only 2 Ush and 50 cents in my pocket, at the time. I therefore found it hard to help the lady because it meant that I would remain with only 30 cents if I gave her all she needed. I tried to distance myself from her but she stuck to me, asking for help. I actually got scared that she might be a witch and would bewitch me if I failed to help her. I was so scared that, I gave her the Ush 2 and 20 cents that she needed. Just after handing her the money, a voice from God said to me, “instead of helping the old woman because she is desperate, you have helped out of fear of being bewitched?” I turned, looked at the old women and said a prayer for forgiveness. I did not have transport to take me to where I had intended to go and I therefore went back to office. As soon as I reached, the Office Attendant told me that someone was waiting to talk to me, on the telephone.
It was around 3:30pm and I was shivering to talk on the telephone because it seemed to be the reserve of only high ranking officers. On the phone, I was told that I was needed in Kampala. In my bag, I had a trouser which I could use in Kampala but I did not have a decent shirt. On my way home, I met an Indian whom I knew called Ramju. When he saw me, he noticed that I was unsettled and asked what the issue was. I told him that I was supposed to go to Kampala that night but I did not have a shirt. He told me to pick a shirt of my choice from his shop and I pay when I get the money. He lent me 20 Ushs and offered to drive me to Kampala that night, free of charge because he was travelling there, as well.
We drove to Kampala that evening and when got to Buwama Ramju asked me, where in Kampala I was going to sleep. I told him that I knew no one in Kampala and I was just going to sleep in a Bus. Ramju had booked a hotel room with 2 beds and he offered me accommodation. He also paid for my supper and breakfast, the following day.
I then headed for the Veterinary main office, still scared, not knowing why I had been called. I was told to take immunization medicine that day if I could or go back home and come back in less than a week. Because I did not want to use the 20 Ush which Ramju had lent me, I went back to the hotel first to tell him to wait for me and we travel back together the following day, after I complete the necessary immunization. Ramju took me for lunch and accepted to wait so that we travel together.
The following day I went to a clinic which was located at Blue Room and I was immunized. I took the immunization certificate to the office and I travelled back home with Ramju. I picked the bicycle which I had left in his shop and I rode home. I reached very late at night and as I lay on my bed meditating, I remembered that I had been blessed after helping the old woman. I decided to take helping others as my way of life and up to this day, if someone needs my help, I must help them as long as am in position to.
There was a lot of political rivalry around this time, and some people who were supporters of UPC were heard saying; “Ekyata kya DP twakibaasa.”, meaning the they had punished a DP rogue. They even a band playing music next to my office singing, “omumazima nokahurire nobeiha tokyigyenda.”, the truth that I have heard is that you are no longer going.
I was confused and demoralized, but I was consoled by the fact that I had not made an application for this scholarship. I was confident that the God who had chosen me would open
a door for me to travel. August came and we did not travel until 22nd October. This time round, I had received my Passport and Visa, unlike ON the previous two occasions, when the travel had been postponed.
However, there were more incidences in store, which seemed to be aiming at frustrating my study travel plans. On 18th October, someone came home and told my father that rich people are not good people and they were having ulterior motives that would take me astray and that I would even not study, if I went abroad. My father was very scared, just like any other parent would be. The visitor asked my father that I should be taken to his home, very early morning on the 21st, before I travel to Kampala.
This man, whose home was just opposite the present day Mayanja Memorial Hospital, gave me small stick that he said would protect me. I tied the stick in my handkerchief and while in the Bus, I felt protected more than someone with a machine gun. I arrived in Kampala well and was driven to Entebbe on 22nd October 1962, for departure. I landed in Washington DC on 24th October 1962.
I was received as per instructions I had got from Kampala, and I was taken to my room. No sooner had I gone to the Washroom than a voice spoke in my mind, “you fool, did you have this stick when you were chosen to come to USA? Did you have it when you were issued a travel visa? Did you have it when you were given a passport? How do you then trust it?” I no longer even felt the urge to ease myself, anymore.
There is nothing one can lie to me about because I am old enough and I have seen it all, having been born on 1st February 1931. It was 3.30pm on a Friday when it had just rained and my mother had just come from fetching firewood together with her sister in law. I was named Katetegyirwe meaning the unexpected, because whenever my grandmother would see a pregnant woman, she would say, “tomorrow will not end before she gives birth,” and it would be as she would say. Unfortunately, when her daughter in law (my mother) gave birth to me, she had not foreseen when I would be born. My grandmother had even helped my mother to collect firewood to reach home and give birth, without her realizing that my mother could have already been in labour.
A few minutes after my mother and grandmother got home, my mother stepped out and before long, they heard me crying and they were shocked. I am told that my grandmother remarked how she usually would when others were going to be delivered but had ve failed on her grandchild, said ” “ogu omwana ni Katetegyirwe.” (This child is the Unexpected) and that became my name.
I got to know about the Ababiito because my first wife who passed away was Omubiito and my father in law Mugonooki George was a friend to my father. My mother passed away when I was 8 years and my father married another wife who was from Kagarama. I was pestered by my father and my grandmother to marry. My father’s brother in law called William Tibeihaho identified for me a girl to marry, whose father I knew, because she used to visit at home. We connected and I married her on the 11th of January 1952.
One major thing that I liked about her family was that my father in law loved me so much and
he was never side-lined. My mother in law was my clan mate (Omutsyaba) and this made the family closer because as such she was identified as a paternal aunt since we were from the same clan. My wife used to drink alcohol while I did not. One day she came back home drunk and her father rebuked her for it. I was impressed by my father in law’s sense of responsibility, which made me love him, even more. He was not only my father in law but also my friend.
I remember when I had not yet bought a car, I went to Kagarama at my in law’s home and mother in law wanted to prepare food for me because I was their son in law and they thought I should be given something special. She was talking to her husband, insisting that she had to prepare for me something different. When I overheard them, I told her to just give me anything you have, since I was already hungry. I felt like their own child and assured them that they did not have to treat me like a visitor. She served me whatever there was, and I ate comfortably.
Whenever my father in law would get financial constraints, especially related to his son Keitirima’s school fees, he would not hesitate to tell me, for he loved education. I would also gladly help, whenever I could, until he fell sick and passed away.
Just before his death, some of my father in law’s children were about to sit for examinations. He decided to invite his Paternal Cousin, Damazo Karimari and myself and informed us that he was felt his health deteriorating. He therefore entreated us that in case he died before his children completed examinations, they should not be told of the death, as it would unsettle them. They should be informed only after their completing their examinations, and this what exactly happened. Although other family members wanted to get in our way, we honoured his wish and made sure that the children were informed of their father’s death after completing their examinations. He died at a period when caskets were not common but I made sure that my father in law and friend had one, and I took over Keitirima’s education bills until he completed school.
I commend Burazio, DC and the late Karimari for the role they have played in keeping my father in law’s family and all Ababiito together. Burazio works without getting tired! He checks on me always, to find out how I am getting on with my health.
When I was studying at Nyamitanga, I used stay at the home of my step-mum’s maternal aunt. I stayed there for only one term and then my step-mum passed away. When I went back to the home, her maternal aunt chased me saying, “irooko ogyeende, obuzaare bw’ente ni amabeere.” This is when I enrolled into the school’s boarding section. Such a thing did not happen, in my wife’s family. If I had been told the same when my wife passed away, there would be no relation between me and the Ababiito. I relish my close relationship with the Ababiito because even my paternal grandmother Anna Kahaama was a Mubiito. My mother was also Omubiito, and I also married Omubiito who passed away and even when I remarried, it happened to be Omubiito.
Nazikwa omumaka ge Kabingo, Isingiro District aha o’rwakataano ebiro 30th .06.2023, kutandika nokushaba shaha itano (11:00am) zakasheshe.
- His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
- Cabinet Ministers na Members Beishengyero rya Uganda.
- His Grace Archbishop Lambert Beinomugisha
- Archbishop Paul Bakyenga
- Bishop Dr Sheldon Mwesigwa
- Bishop Elisha Kyamugambi
- Ba bishop ba Church of Uganda boona
- Regional kadhi naba Masheik boona.
- Abasaserodoti naba Nyadiini
- Eka yomugyenzi Hajji Ssewali aba Hoima.
Abanyabuzare n’abanyamikago mwena mwamanyisibwa.
OMUGYENZI MUKAMA AMUHE EKIHUMURO EKIRUNGI.