Text by Kassim Kayira
“As I drive out of Kitwe ky’enjovu, the late Assistant inspector general of police, Andrew Kaweesi’s final resting place, a couple of things come to mind. Things that you wouldn’t be able to fit into a 2.30 piece or even better, in a language that would be sensitive to the time.
First, it’s the amount of love and affection that people have shown Kaweesi. I have not seen a govt official that has been accorded such affection by hundreds of thousands of people. He brought together political foes cutting across party lines. I saw Amama Mbabazi sit next to Justine Lumumba the first time that’s happened since the latter took over the mantle of ruling party Secretary General. 3 days of mourning saw opposition leaders come together with govt officials to mourn a galant officer. The number of church services that preceded his final journey were also telling, going through nearly 5 churches. This was unprecedented.
Once home, at the ancestral home, I marvelled at how the 43 year old had managed to prepare his home that even when his body was flown here, it was a befitting place. He had surely ‘kept in touch’ with The soil. The house, the compound, the farm, all in a picturesque frame that allowed 3 choppers to comfortably land and park at once. It was a real challenge to many young people who throw money around and failing to create a place they can call home back home.
Something else grabbed my attention. While I knew kyazanga from my childhood as a place of mixed tribes, I’d never fully appreciated the percentage of kinyarwanda speakers in the area. I was amused if not amazed in the midst of surprise. But given Kaweesi’s strong catholic credentials, the number of Muslims who turned up with a direct connection to the family was eye opening.
And then whilst busy reporting, I get introduced to two different women, both with one thing in common. They claimed to be the late’s ‘deuxième bureaux’ ( read side dishes). I could neither deny nor confirm their claim but they claimed to have ‘supporting evidence.’ I was tempted to seek it out but African politesse held me back. It seems I wasn’t the only one to hear this.
I’ve been taught by local grieving experience to identify people who are not directly related to a deceased but whose sobbing at the wake or funeral pushes me to probe a little. There was this very beautiful 2 pip police officer. Throughout the mass, she held back her tears but at the point of moving his coffin, the babe hysterically broke down and cried helplessly. I almost held out my handkerchief to her. Self preservation held me back. Only later did I realise fellow journalists had noticed this too.
Then between a number of young police officers, I begun hearing all those whose world had been brought crashing to the ground with the demise of Kaweesi. They were so looking towards ‘essential transfer ‘ and promotion and Kaweesi having been in charge police HR, I don’t know if he’d promised them that but quite a few I heard were now worried about destination next.
Also in the rumour mill, I hear how the late was getting ready to stand for parliament come 2021. And he had laid the ground. He’s one of, if not the most highly educated police officer in the country. He ‘got’ electricity and roads for his local people and encouraged quite a number to professionally join the police service. Many are grateful for this but his dream has certainly died with him. I hear he’d just recently from defending his PhD thesis and was just waiting to graduate.
On every occasion, you’ll never fail a pale person. This is a direct translation from a luganda proverb- ku mbaga tekubula musiiwufu. In the midst of a rather very long sermon from a Masaka priest, a local musician, King Saha makes a scene shouting to organisers to avail him snd his ‘entourage’ seats. I felt embarrassed as he raised his voice over the Bishop’s sermon. Near commotion was averted as he and his team were given chairs, but they remained in the scotching heat and it was quite a picture.
Something else I learnt from this send off. How costly funerals had become in Uganda of late. It’s another of those Nollywood imports. In fact speaking to a friend, they confirmed that the most expensive things in Uganda at the moment are wedding introductions and funerals, both related in some funny way. The amount that went into printing custom-made T-shirts, The booklets, the cost of feeding nearly 30 thousand people, the cost of fuelling and hiring 3 helicopters that made several rounds, omg I just sat and did some little mathematics that couldn’t fit into my limited calculator. These are things I only knew in Ghana and Nigeria at best . Suddenly, like many other imports including kidnap for ransom, posh funerals had found their way into Uganda! Forgive my modesty or surprise in laying this out. You see being a Muslim, I know at best, I’ll be laying between two cotton sheets and no expensive coffin and unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, I’d be laid to rest the very day I fall.
Before I end my rumblings, I tried to look at the faces of the mourners esp the late Kaweesa’s colleagues in the force. I tried to enter their minds, to decipher what might have been going on inside their faculties. I saw loss, I saw confusion, I saw uncertainty, I saw fear of the ‘I’m I next ‘ sort but in a distance, I swear I saw guilt. It’s one of the type I can’t describe but one that went beyond that moment. Probably of things that could have been done differently. I don’t know. I’m just saying what I saw, it’s interpretation beyond me now.
I forgot to talk about the shrewd businessmen and women who have turned wakes and places of mourning to advance their trade . Ginger for instance is available on every funeral I’ve attended lately even in non-ginger growing areas! And roast meat used to be like taboo growing up around funerals. Now pork has particularly found its way on many burial entrances of non- Muslims. I don’t know if they think just having witnessed the ’emptiness’ of life that you wouldn’t haggle ‘anti bya kufa kuleka!!!’
So fare thee well Andrew Felix Kaweesi. You had so many friends and along the way, you made many enemies. Hopefully, we will know soon what it is that caused your ‘untimely’ assassination that ended your life. I’ll remember our encounter in kasese during the crisis and the very last time we met at the media centre on Wednesday just a day before you were killed in cold blood. And God knows best.”
Kassim Kayira is a journalist with Azam TV.