Patrick Masette Kuuya, who served as a Rehabilitation minister during Milton Obote II government, succumbed to cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya on Tuesday. He was 76.
A teacher by profession and a PhD in economics holder, Kuuya was also the Mbale South lawmaker between 1980 and 1985.
When Obote was toppled in 1985, Kuuya fled to neighbouring Kenya and stayed there until his death.Unlike many of his colleagues from Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), who returned to work with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Kuuya spent his life in academia and farming.
Mr Nathan Wamembo Wasolo, the deceased’s son, said his father’s death was a big blow to the family and country.
He said preparations to return the body and burial arrangements were underway.
Sources say President Museveni in the years that preceded his capture of power in 1986 engaged Kuuya numerous times. And despite being cleared to return to the country, Kuuya was always hesitant.
Mr Sylvester Wanjusi Wasieba, who served as State Minister for Works, Transport and Communication in 1994, said Kuuya kept visiting the country before going back to Kenya.
“[His death] was a surprise because I had never heard that he was sick,” Mr Wasieba said, adding: “We are trying to get leadership together to see how we can bring our brother home for a decent burial.”
Dr Hassan Galiwango, Uganda’s High Commissioner to Kenya, confirmed preparations to return the body.
In 1979, Kuuya in an article titled “Political stability as a basis for another development in Uganda” highlighted several issues responsible for the fragility of the political systems in Uganda.
These included ethnic and tribal differences, unequal economic development, British colonialism, religious rivalries, the political activity of the Mengo establishment, the self-interest and ambition of the elite, foreign interests and influence, and the ideological bankruptcy of progressive nationalists.
Besides serving as a minister, the deceased held other senior positions in the UPC government, including treasurer and chairperson of the National Council of Sports.
“Kuuya contributed to the removal of Idi Amin from power and played a big role in the recovery of the economy then,” Mr Akim Watenyere, a UPC member, told Monitor.
Mr Apollo Okwi, who, like Kuuya went to Nabumali High School, said the deceased mobilised resources to support the rebuilding of the education institution in the early 1980s.
“He visited the school often to monitor the projects he had spearheaded, including the building of a dormitory at the girls’ end,” he said.
Mr Okwi said the former minister organised a fundraising and reunion event at the school in November 1983 that attracted former students, including Maj Gen David Oyite-Ojok.
“Oyite-Ojok brought a truckload of soda, which excited students since the commodity was very rare and pricey then,” he recalled.
Mr Moses Kisiibo, a journalist, said Kuuya spearheaded the construction of Mbale Municipal Stadium in early 1980s.
Mr Samuel Watulatsu, an opinion leader in Bugisu and social analyst, remembers Kuuya setting up Ndolelile group to solicit opinions from people that were aimed at sharing ideas through social networking.
The deceased is also remembered for playing a huge role in ensuring the Islamic University in Uganda is brought to Mbale, according to Mr Watulatsu.
His contributions and love for Bugisu
Kuuya was also hailed for initiating the Wakhooli Memorial Centre at Nabumali Trading Centre and Wanale Quick Transporters whose plans were thwarted by the regime change. “Kuuya was an all-around sportsman and, in the history of Bugisu politics, he was the best minister we have ever had,” Mr Darlington Sakwa recalled. Ms Irene Muloni, the former Energy minister and Bulambuli Woman MP, described the deceased as “our voice” who left a mark.Mr Charles Walimbwa Peke, the Manafwa District NRM chairperson, lauded Kuuya for resisting to fight against his own people despite being persuaded to. Mr John Musila, the MP for Bubulo East County in Namisindwa District, urged his fellow leaders to emulate Kuuya for his selfless sacrifice. Mr Dominic Gidudu, the State Minister for Elderly, said the deceased was Obote’s lead man in Bugisu, who will be dearly missed. “He played his role and as you know life has a beginning and an end. His life has come to an end,” he said. Kuuya is survived by eight children.