By Mulengera Reporters
Margaret Baryehuki Kafundizeki, one of the pioneer Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) in Museveni’s Uganda, died Thursday midnight at Nakasero hospital where she had been admitted days earlier. She was 82 years.
According to Mulago Hospital’s Dr. Charles, who had been her personal doctor for the last 12 years preceding her death, Baryehuki for long battled multiple illnesses. The doctor says Baryehuki had been on rigorous treatment for the past 12 months.
She suffered diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic ulcers and later bone problems that almost left her knees crippled. She walked with extreme difficulties and later developed heart complications.
Called upon by Enock Kusasira, who was the MC during the requiem mass at All Saints Church Nakasero, to explain the deceased’s medical history, Dr. Charles explained in the last days Baryehuki’s heart and kidneys (later followed by the brain) failed to function.
The situation specifically escalated on Marty’s day 3rd June when Caleb Aine (the deceased’s foster son) rung the doctor begging him to drive home in Nsambya and examine his patient whose condition had clearly deteriorated.
The doctor says he found her still able to talk but with extreme difficulties. He recalls she reluctantly accepted being taken to the hospital on the following day which was Iddi and that’s how she ended up at Nakasero Hospital where President Museveni (who politically closely worked with her since 1980) paid her medical bills.
At Nakasero, a team of doctors was constituted including Dr Batambuze, Dr Nankabirwa and Dr. Henry Mwebesa (Director General of Medical Services) who supervised and oversaw what the medical team was doing. Mwebesa was preferred by the family because he had been close to the deceased.
Dr Charles told mourners Baryehuki had at some point become complacent and stopped taking her routine medication, something that escalated her medical condition which had for long been contained and kept under control. She also confessed to him she had secretly been using some herbs (hidden under the pillow) which had been brought to her by a close friend. The doctor says this improper medication distorted Baryehuki’s situation (sugar levels) which had effectively been stabilized in the preceding months.
“Those herbs also caused problems because when we tested them we found they had high levels of sugar. It actually escalated her sugar levels and when this was brought to her attention, she apologized and saw her mistake,” the doctor told an attentive audience that included Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, business people, army generals and relatives mostly from Kazo-Kiruhura district where Baryehuki herself hailed from.
WHO WAS BARYEHUKI
From what different speakers said as they eulogized her, Mulengera News was able to come up with this obtuary highlighting who she was. Many speakers thanked her son Caleb Aine and his wife Vickie for taking good care of Baryehuki for all the years she was battling multiple illnesses.
She was in 1937 born to Samuel and Tabisha Kafundizeki. As her brother Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the Director Ethics in the Office of the President, put it, Baryehuki never went far with formal education. She actually stopped in P6 but what shocked mourners was the revelation that, while serving as Kayunga RDC (2003-2012), Baryehuki got time to study controversially graduating with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration.
She joined public service way back in 1965 and served as a mobilizer in the Ministry of Culture & Community Development up to 1969. In 1980, after the fall of Amin, she became an active member of Museveni’s party called UPM becoming it’s Secretary for Women Affairs.
She was an active Museveni campaigner during the 1980 elections. In 1981 Museveni declared war on the UPC government which he executed using NRA to which Baryehuki actively belonged.
When the NRA succeeded in capturing state power in 1986, Museveni rewarded Baryehuki making her Assistant District Administrator for Masaka from 1988 to 1991. This was the greater Masaka comprising of more than 8 contemporary districts of Rakai, Sembabule, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kyotera and others.
Dan Mugarura who (as intelligence officer) closely worked with her says Baryehuki worked hard to mobilize communities to have facilities like toilets and to participate in Bulungi bwansi. Those were the years when HIV-Aids was at its peak in the Masaka area and again Baryehuki spearheaded community mobilization creating awareness about the scourge.
In 1995, the grateful appointing authority elevated her to the position of Deputy Central Government Representative and deployed her back to Masaka. In 1997, after the creation of the RDC position, Baryehuki was posted as Deputy RDC for Sembabule which was a sub district under Masaka.
When it eventually became a district, Baryehuki was elevated to full RDC pioneering Sembabule, a period during which Mawogola big man Sam Kutesa nostalgically recalls working with her very well and closely.
In 2001, Baryehuki was transferred to Nakasongola in Buruuli as RDC and stayed there up to 2003 when she was relocated to Kayunga. In Kayunga (which was to be her last station as RDC), Baryehuki served longest (for 9 years) up to 2012.
Museveni, who Tamale Mirundi says gives people advisory positions in order to enable them continue accessing some little money to meet basic needs, considered her frail health and old age and named Baryehuki Senior Advisor in charge of Political Affairs. She executed this role with enthusiasm ever reaching out to Museveni with advice on how to win elections and overcome his opponents.
Rose Birungi, who she mentored as a PA before growing her to become her deputy in Kayunga, says Baryehuki paid attention to detail and always used her connections in the districts where she previously served to gather political intelligence she would regularly pass on to the President.
Birungi says Baryehuki is among those who never under estimated the political threat posed by Bobi Wine who she would casually refer as “kano akalenzi” meaning this little boy.
That each time they talked either on phone or at her bed rest at the Nsambya home, Baryehuki always reminded Birungi to pray for the President to overcome threats like Bobi Wine in the 2021 elections.
Minister Bright Rwamirama corroborates this narrative by Birungi. He recalls how Baryehuki (they are very close relatives) would often ring him during the Togikwatako chaos in Parliament in December 2017. “She would call and say we are unable to be part of the fight in that House but we are keenly watching and praying for you. We shall not allow those people to mess up this country simply because they can’t tolerate having Mzee around anymore. I got the impression that even when she wasn’t well, Margaret was keenly following these things,” Rwamirama recalls.
Baryehuki was so keen at ensuring NRM retains power, each time she met Museveni she insisted praying for him to succeed in whatever he does and wherever he goes. Indeed in his written eulogy delivered by his right-hand man Minister Sam Kutesa, Museveni praised Baryehuki for being a loyal unrelenting cadre for the Movement.
Recalling the battles they endured together since the days of UPM, Museveni summed it up by referring to Baryehuki as a “rare gem” that NRM, Uganda and humanity wouldn’t easily replace. The President regretted not being able to attend Church but said he was with the family in spirit. He rung Rwamirama and several other relatives to give his sympathies.
The government contributed generously gathering from what relatives said during the church service. Hajji Yunnus Kakande (the PS Office of the President), who knew Baryehuki for 35 years, announced a Shs28m contribution the office was contributing towards burial arrangements in honor of their former distinguished employee.
President Museveni was thanked for generously footing the medical bills for all the period Baryehuki has been unwell.
It’s in Kayunga where Baryehuki risked most for the NRM and her leader Museveni. She was RDC at the peak of the animosity between Museveni and Mengo. And as RDC she was thickly involved in the politics that resulted into the installation of Major Baker Kimeze as the Sabanyara (traditional leader) replacing his father Nathan Mpagi. This greatly angered Mengo and Baryehuki became a subject of regular attacks on the CBS radio by Sevume Musoke who was Kabaka’s chief for Bugerere.
“It was a difficult period but as a leader she had a job to do. Yes Mengo was very unhappy but here were the Banyara in significantly large numbers coming to her office for protection. What would she do? She had to take some pragmatic stand and that’s leadership,” says Rose Birungi who closely worked with Baryehuki during the Kayunga assignment.
In Kayunga, Baryehuki made both friends and foes because even among fellow leaders, there are some who were uncomfortable with her for being brutally honest whenever someone did something she didn’t like.
In her controversial career as RDC, Baryehuki mentored many giants including Maj Martha Asiimwe who currently works as the Dean of all RDCs in State House on top of being the President’s Secretary in charge of the RDCs’ Secretariat. She also mentored the likes of former Kampala RCC Deborah Mbabazi who today is RDC Kibale.
Rwamirama thanked the President for accepting to employ his relative giving her so many assignments even when she was modestly educated.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigye drove the point home by referring to what Isaac Newton remarked many years ago that: “If I have seen far, it’s because I have been standing on shoulders of giants.”
Mwesigye then added: “If myself as Aaron Mwesigye have succeeded in life, it’s because Margaret held me on her shoulders.”
She was his elder sister (same mother same father) in a family of so many siblings. They were born and raised in Kiruhura Kazo Migina village where Baryehuki was buried on Sunday 16th June 2019.
She in 1956 got married to Ephraim Baryehuki but it was a childless marriage prompting Aaron Mwesigye to console his sister by surrendering his son Caleb Aine who grew up thinking Margaret Baryehuki was his real mother.
Despite not being educated herself, Baryehuki (who Caleb described as a cornerstone of the family) greatly supported her brother Aaron’s education. The Reverand hillariously recalled being a celebrity at Kazo Primary School because of the nice shoes his sister bought for him. “Not only was I the only child with shoes at Kazo Primary School but my shoes were far much better than even those of the teachers. She really loved and nurtured me to what I’m today,” he said.
That she always insisted on being involved in the upbringing of his children ever ringing to check on how they are.
“Margaret wasn’t highly educated but was a genius in her own way. She was a courageous mobilizer and heroin of the NRM struggle. We thank the President for the trust and identifying something in Margaret,” Rev Mwesigye said as he eulogized his sister.
He recalled how Baryehuki worked with (cousin sister) Merian Sebunya to get saved and accept Christ at PS Robert Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center Church. Mwesigye explained that even in salvation, Baryehuki insisted to retain her independent-mindedness.
“This was about three years ago. She was sick and was asked to give a love offering to quicken her healing but she was inquisitive saying why was anyone telling her about something like that. She actually was very uncomfortable about that and refused,” Rev Canon Mwesigye remnisced.
Foster son Caleb Aine recalled how Baryehuki became devastated following death of big people she loved most and related well with including Gen Aronda Nyakayirima. “It’s something that devastated her alot and she actually never recovered from that shock,” Caleb told mourners as tears rolled down his cheek.
As someone who was closest to Baryehuki, Caleb thanked former UNEB boss Mathew Bukenya, Bright Rwamirama and Merian Sebunya for the solidarity they showed towards his auntie through all the hardship she endured.
He also thanked EC boss Sam Rwakoojo, John Nasasira, Joviah Saleh, Minister Sam Kutesa and his wife Edith for all the emotional support they rendered tot the deceased.
The family thanked Hajji Yunnus Kakande for for using his position as PS Office of the President to create some flexibilities and a waiver that enabled the family access government financial support as their relative received treatment in Nakasero which is a private medical facility.
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