HOW KAMPALA SAW OFF MWENDA’S MUM
By John V Sserwaniko
Her children maintained that (because she died a very accomplished person) they were here not to mourn but celebrate the 84 years she fruitfully lived on earth.
We are talking about Constance Kabakali Mabiiho Adyeeri Muhangazima for whose requiem mass hundreds of people gathered Wednesday morning at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero.
Many gave eulogies, sharing fond memories of her, but the one of Andrew Mwenda (her very illustrious son) stood out.
Speaking on behalf of the children, Mwenda delivered a humor-filled eulogy in which he also had the opportunity to explain why he famously refers to himself as the old man of the clan. He said because his date of birth was inaccurately recorded on his baptism card, he considers himself the oldest man in the family because having been born on 3rd October 1912, his original baptism certificate puts him at 107 years old.
He explained this is why he always casually referred to his mother as “my daughter.” Adyeeri always liked being referred to as one, Mwenda told mourners. Turn up was, as expected, very high some couldn’t find space inside the church and had to follow proceedings through large screens in the white tents outside.
Because she is leaving behind children and grandchildren who are materially and socially well accomplished, Mwenda insisted that to them this was a day to celebrate Adyeeri’s life rather than mourning. Indeed, save for Margaret Muhanga the Burahya County who seemed emotionally devastated, one would struggle to locate anyone tearful through the Church service. All speakers seemed composed and in mood to celebrate a life well lived.
Speaking on behalf of government, Minister Mary Karoro Okurut referred to this celebratory atmosphere and predicted the Mwendas would later each find a moment to inevitably cry and shed some tears because losing a mother inevitably destabilizes people emotionally. “Andrew Mwenda was speaking here very freely and insisted we must all celebrate but I know a moment is coming when he will reflect about a departed mother and cry,” Karoro said.
BACK TO MWENDA
In his eulogy Mwenda said he was sure his mother was happy wherever she was “because she has finally gone to meet her best friend Jesus Christ.” He recalled: “I would always call and ask Adyeeri who are you with. She was always with people but even on rare occasions when she is alone, she would say ndina Yesu [I have Jesus].” He said Adyeeri left satisfied that her children did their best to ensure “she received the best medicare in the world” having severally been to best hospitals in Kenya, South Africa, India and Germany. Her hospital visits became frequent in the last 12 years (preceding her death) following the death of her husband Philip Byaabu Atwooki Muhangazima in 2007.
Claiming she lived the best life since childhood, Mwenda bragged that Adyeeri’s father Samson Mabiiho was wealthy and had so many cattle that “many would remain at home as others went grazing.” He recalled learning a lot about Toro traditions and norms from his mother because she was an encyclopedia of the same along with his auntie Princess Elizabeth Bagaya.
Mwenda dramatized things, sending the audience into prolonged laughter, when he claimed to have obtained evidence the previous night that Adyeeri had successfully reunited with her husband Atwooki and the two asked him (in a dream) to tell those coming for the requiem mass not to mourn but celebrate because that is the mood they too are in wherever they are.
Saying his mother had complied with both Biblical and evolutionary requirements obliging humans to be fruitful, populate and subdue planet earth, Mwenda celebrated the fact that Adyeeri left behind a total of 106 off springs (11 children, 56 grandchildren, 36 great grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren). He also celebrated the fact that she was a fully devoted Christian who spontaneously practiced Christian values of loving, caring and being generous to others regardless of whether she materially had enough or not. This character is something many subsequent speakers testified to.
Mwenda bragged being the child who was closest to Adyeeri whom he visited every Saturday for the last 6 months. The last Saturday preceding her death on 17th Monday, Mwenda recalled visiting with UNRA ED Allen Kagina. He said he always visited with a minimum of 15 friends and despite these being abrupt visits, Adyeeri always ensured there was enough for all her son’s guests to eat and drink.
Referring to the very large Mothers Union Community Center she single-handedly built at Kasiisi near their Kanyandahi home (and the hundreds of foster kids she looked after), Mwenda anticipated a massive crowd at the Friday burial in Kanyandahi, a village 22kms outside Fort Portal town. Listening to Mwenda’s hillarious submission, many mourners forgot this was a funeral service. Children in the audience must have left confused whether they had come for entertainment or bereavement.
The next person, scribe Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi (who characteristically excelled emceeing throughout the church service) permitted to speak was MP Margaret Mugisa Muhanga. It was important she speaks because herself and Beth (the other sister) are the ones who were with Adyeeri that fateful Monday evening as she departed to meet her creator.
She disclosed the deceased’s medical history noting that her age notwithstanding, Adyeeri generally led an illnesses-fee life. “My mother was religious and generous as Andrew has said but she was also optimistic. She never lost hope that easily.” Muhanga observed her mother started developing frail health following her husband Atwooki’s death in 2007. She developed arthritis, a condition that affected her knee bones almost leaving her crippled for much of the late 2000s.
She underwent surgery in India, got well and returned to Kanyandahi to resume normal life. Last year she suddenly developed lung and heart complications resulting into a very successful e-heart surgery operation in Germany. February this year she had another minor surgery in India where she went with her daughter Beth. She was to return to Germany in April this year for follow up review. Muhanga, who escorted her, told mourners she was declared extremely safe and totally out of danger. They returned home with Adyeeri resuming her normal busy active life in Kanyandahi.
Then last Sunday (preceding her death on Monday), her son Isaac Muhanga (who works with ISO) was at Kanyandahi, a visit during which Adyeeri demanded to speak to Margaret. They spoke on Isaac’s phone and what she disclosed left the daughter deeply perplexed. She told her “I have ulcers” to which Margaret jokingly replied “you are lying.” The old woman asked “when are you coming to see me?” and Margaret suggested Friday. “She insisted come now because on Friday you won’t find me,” Margaret told mourners indicating this was premonition her mum was going. She always got emergency medication from Rovinah (a local pharmacist) and Sr Kabagajju but Margaret got the impression, Adyeeri (who always avoided discomforting people with any illness) was of the view this was something the two couldn’t handle. “She was wailing with too much pain in the leg.”
The family then got the army helicopter which airlifted her from Kanyandahi to Kololo Airstrip where Margaret and Beth received her straight to Nakasero hospital. This was Monday and the family observes doctors did their best but the final day for Adyeeri had simply come.
Margaret says as they picked her from Kololo, Adyeeri looked her in the eye and casually said “my day has come don’t even waste your time let me go and meet my dad.” As the old woman whimpered in pain repeatedly saying “my day has come let me go,” Margaret concluded rushing her to Germany would be the best way forward. She rang Speaker Kadaga who offered to secure an express visa from the Germany embassy but this apparently was all too late.
“I told my sister Beth Adyeeri isn’t making any progress. I turned to the family whatsapp chat group and posted that things are getting hokosi-hokosi for Adyeeri.” Moments later, Muhanga says Adyeeri breathed her last and passed on. She says the clot that was causing pain in the knee would have been managed if Adyeeri had made it to Germany.
In their eulogy, the grandchildren wished Adyeeri (who always fondly taught them prayer, the language of the Batoro & cultural norms and how to milk cows) had lived up to Christmas day for 2019.
With all eulogies done, Mwanguhya scolded Mwenda for forgetting to disclose to mourners the deep political connection and admiration Adyeeri had for President Museveni as early as 1980 when nobody believed he stood a chance. Mwanguhya observed it took a visionary of the Adyeeri stature to anticipate the then much-despised Museveni ever making it big in life let alone becoming President of the Republic. Whereas her husband was diehard UPC, Mwanguhya considered it remarkable that Adyeeri was hopeful and mobilized for Museveni’s UPM as early as 1980.
Adyeeri lived princely childhood because whereas her paternal grandfather (Nyamutale Ya’Rutabisa) was a County Chief for Mwenge (Pokino Mutalesa), her mother Edith Kabatooro was fathered by Bwamba County Chief (Kasuju Omukumbya) who was one of the signatories to the Toro Agreement of 1903. Kezia Byanjeru, a young sister to Adyeeri’s mother, married King George Rukidi of Toro and that is how at just 7, Adyeeri was taken to grow up in the palace. She attended Kabarole P/S and Kyebambe Girls before doing a secretarial course under the training of British settlers.
This qualification enabled her qualify for the job of PPS to the King of Toro and it was in the course of those palace duties that she came into contact with her future husband Philip Byaabu Atwooki Muhangazima with whom she mothered 14 children (11 of whom still live). In her later years, Adyeeri became a businesswoman often supplementing her hubby’s income to learn the family which is proof she believed in women emancipation and never accepted subordination of women as can be seen in the assertiveness with which her daughters have approached life. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at email@example.com).