The home is as quiet as a monastery even though every child's bedroom has a television and radio, in addition to the one in the living room. The home is clean, both outside and inside.
Dr. Gabriel Aridru Ajedra, the MP of Arua Municipality, sits somberly in a cream sofa that looks too small for him. Though he tries to smile, behind the happy countenance lies a broken heart. He speaks with a tinge of sadness.
The year 2011 was one of the worst in his life. Even though he won the parliamentary election, Ajedra can never forget how his wife Josephine Finia Ajedra died in the course of helping him up the political ladder.
“Two weeks to the election date,” Ajedra shares with difficulty, “while she was returning from Kampala with saucepans and T-shirts for the people, her car overturned at Bondo barracks, 30km from Arua Town. She got severe injuries. The people around helped her, but she died on her way to the hospital. That was on February 4, 2011.
“When I got the news, I was speechless. Time stood still. That is where everything concerning the campaigns stopped. I did not care anymore whether people voted me or not,” Ajedra recalls.
Fortunately he won, but there was little joy in the victory since death had snatched away the most important person in his life.
The Ajedras had lived in Botswana, where he worked as chief engineer while she was a teacher in an international school. After 10 years, they had to choose between getting citizenship in Botswana and returning home.
In 2004, she returned to Uganda ahead of him to prepare a permanent home for the family. She supervised the construction of their homes in Kiwatuule and Naguru and established their upcountry home and rental houses in Arua.
“When we were building our houses, my wife said: 'You and I will sit here on the porch in our old age as our children come to visit us. We had designed our homes taking into account comfort for old age, but I never knew that death would deny us that chance,” Ajedra says.
“Everything in the house reminds me of her,” Ajedra intimates. As a result, he decided not to move anything in order not to forget her. He also still observes his wife's rules. For instance, Finia never wanted maids to clean their bedroom. Now that she is gone, Ajedra cleans it himself. He holds up a white statue of a queen and king on the bedside table. “That was her and me,” he smiles sadly, “and this is my favourite place in the bedroom.”
Finia had worked hard so that the couple could have a good life. In his youth, while he was an engineer with World Bank Kampala, he got her a job as a nurse and they were doing well financially.
They saved their money in the bank, but when the Government changed hands and currency changed, the money was devalued and they lost all their savings. Still they planned and had business ventures that would support them in retirement. At 25 years old, a UTV worker who was also a palm reader had foretold that she would rest at 45 and that was Finia's age when she died.
“At the time we concluded that fortune teller meant that she would be free from work and would be seated at home raising her children. I look at her like Moses of the Bible who prepared the Israelites for the promised land but he never reached!”
On whether he would remarry, Ajedra says it is impossible. “I don't want to go through this pain again. Sometimes I sit and cry because I miss her terribly yet there is nothing I can do. One time my daughter Stacie Avasi saw tears run down my face. She told me: 'Daddy, don't cry, Mom was taken for a reason and you are here for a reason."
Since then Ajedra has been determined to be strong for his children. He says they are coping better than him. He regrets taking for granted the things his wife did.
He has to pay all the bills, take children to the hospital, salon and remember their visitation days. Sometimes he forgets, like the day he missed his daughter, Letasi's visitation day at Gayaza Junior School. At 8:00pm a frantic Letasi called crying saying: “If Mom had been around, that would have never happened!”
“ That cut through me like a knife and it brought tears to my eyes,” Ajedra recalls. Since then, he purposed to be there for his three girls no matter the circumstances, because he is all they have got. His face is radiant when he talks about them. The youngest, Kim Alesi, nicknamed Tapuwa for her resemblance to Tapuwa from Big Brother Africa I, was at home during the interview. She exchanged a few jokes with her father.
Despite the heartache, Ajedra is hopeful that he will see Finia in heaven, since she was a born-again Christian. Jokingly, he adds: “In heaven the first thing I will do is to summon a clan meeting for all my departed relatives.” Ajedra says he will recommit his life to Christ. Finia's death has certainly changed his perspective towards life. “I now value my relationship with people more than anything. Wealth is nothing. Everything in this world is vanity,” Ajedra says.
Recalling that his wife had 10 suitcases with designer clothes yet she was buried in just one outfit, Ajedra reflects that life is vanity, just like King Solomon. “We covet and clamour for so much, then we get it only to leave it behind! We don't know what will happen to the things we work so hard for, when we are gone.”
Ajedra's life in brief
Born to the late Gadi Ajedra a fisherman and Rally Awuru Ajedra, a housewife on August 30, 1962 in Ajono, Arua.
Lost his father at five years and life became very hard. Mother sold porridge on markets days for basic needs and school fees.
Went to Ajono Primary School and St. Joseph's College Ombaci. He was best science student in the country at O'level.
Joined Mvara Secondary School but dropped out as family fled to DRC Congo amidst post-Amin instability in West Nile.
Nearly joined the army, but his good academic records led his mother and a Tanzanian Captain to discourage him.
After three months schools reopened and he returned home. But insecurity and massacres soon resumed. He moved to Kampala to study.
His dream school was Namilyango College but they would not take him, inspite of his good grades. He met Dr. Joram Ajeani, a lecturer at Makerere University who challenged the school and discovered they simply feared to admit a West Nile student during those unstable times. He convinced them to admit Ajedra and he was among the best five science students in East Africa.
Got a scholarship to study engineering at university and some money for excellent performance.
At end of first year his mother fell sick and died.
In third year, he got a job with the African Development Bank
As site engineer for National water projects he oversaw the building of water tanks at Muyenga and Ggaba.
Went to Canada for Masters degree a year later.
Extend his studies to acquire a PhD and also lectured there for four years.
Got job in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and lectured there for nine years.
Moved to Botswana as a chief engineer for much less pay and worked there for 10 years
Moved back to Uganda and campaigned for MP in 2010, joining parliament in 2011
Appointed state Minister for investment, August 2012