By Raymond Baguma
Thousands of mourners attended the burial of the former First Deputy Prime Minister, Brig. Eriya Kategaya, conducted with full military honours accompanied by a 12-gun salute.
Kategaya was buried at his ancestral home in Karagwe village, Ruhama County in Ntungamo district.
Mourners included President Yoweri Museveni, top government officials and key opposition political leaders.
The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Dr. Richard Sezibera, regional ministers from Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya as well as MPs of the EAC parliament also attended.
The funeral parade was mounted with brigadiers acting as pallbearers, while the final military parade was mounted by colonels, with the clergy leading the casket.
Kategaya succumbed to thrombosis at Nairobi Hospital last Saturday, where he had been admitted for some time.
President Museveni said he and Kategaya had over the years preoccupied themselves with addressing the challenge of backwardness of Africans, fighting sectarianism, ending extra-judicial killings, rebuilding Uganda as well as working for the unity of East Africa and Africa.
“But because of ideological disorientation, it takes more work than necessary. There is a possibility that Kategaya died because of the endless meetings that could have impacted on his health. And that is the sacrifice that he paid,” Museveni said.
The President described Kategaya as a well-formed character. “Even if you disagreed with him, he would not remain petty,” he said.
Museveni recalled that he disagreed with Kategaya twice, with the first time occurring in 1972 and later 10 years ago.
However, he said, this did not stop them from linking up and working together.
Museveni also asked Ntungamo district to co-ordinate with the Government and explore the possibility of setting up a technical school to be named Eriya Kategaya Memorial Technical School.
Joan Kategaya, the wife, cautioned the orphans to lead their lives like their father did, by living within their means and avoiding theft. She also the Government to build a hospital in her husband’s memory, offering specialised healthcare services.
The Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Margaret Zziwa, said: “Kategaya cherished democracy. That is why I am the Speaker.”
The First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also the area MP, said Kategaya was a dependable pillar in his home area and in Ntungamo district and he would be greatly missed.
On behalf of the deceased’s friends, the FDC party vice-chairperson for the western region, Amanya Mushega, described Kategaya as a person who was always dependable, reliable, a good listener and was never involved in theft or backstabbing of colleagues.
“Although he was senior in the party, the army and government, he served diligently and humbly in positions that were of less stature. He had no ego and was a fine and refined gentleman,” Mushega said.
Mushega also said there is need to fight the emerging practice of viewing the political opposition as enemies.
“Why create animosity? What is the gain in fighting hatred based on religion and tribe, and then fight on the basis of parties?” Mushega asked.
Also, written condolence messages were sent by the Rwandan President Paul Kagame as well as South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
Former FDC president, Dr. Kizza Besigye said in his condolence, “EK as we fondly knew him, was truly good, selfless, principled, courageous and extremely intelligent.”