BY C. Etukuri and C. Natukunda
Mzee Amos Kaguta stood firm against intimidation even when the successive regimes his sons were fighting persecuted him and offered support to the rebels during the bush war struggles to oust Idi Amin and Milton Obote.
When the regimes deployed the army at his home to intimidate and harass him, he refused to renounce rebellion and believed that his children’s cause was for the good of the country.
“He was persecuted, because his son Yoweri Museveni and Caleb Akandwanaho were participating in the struggle to liberate Uganda from tyranny in the 70s and later 80s, but Mzee Kaguta was a brave man.
President Museveni shaking hands with his father, Mzee Kaguta
There was no sign he was scared. He didn’t even think of telling his sons to stop fighting,” says David Magaga, a neighbour.
Family members and friends have described Kaguta as a generous, kind, hardworking and a loveable person. “I have known him to be hard working and a loveable person. He loved his cattle so much”, says 90-year-old Eric Rutanyohooka, President Museveni’s godfather.
“He was a man of great wisdom. He went through a lot of hardship during the infamous regimes, but he was able to overcome it. We shall miss him greatly,” says Edwin Karugire, son-in-law to Museveni.
“Kaguta loved people. He appreciated people of all walks of life. Our village has two major clans, Bahima and the minority (Abairu). But he had many Bairu staying in in his home.
Even before his son took power, his house was always full. When he took power, it even became worse. Not that Museveni was giving him money to feed all these people. He did it himself. He had a giving heart and shared the little he had,” Magaga adds.
Kaguta died on Friday morning at the International Hospital, Kampala. He was 96 years old by the time the cruel hand of death snatched him. His memory will forever be alive in the hearts and minds of Uganda because he left an indelible mark in the history of the nation, having successfully raised his children to become useful citizens in the country.
The public knew little about him and the only glimpse one would get about his life was through Sowing the Mustard Seed, a book written by Museveni.
He lived a quiet life and kept away from the public limelight, opting to stay at his rural home in Rwakitura even when he could have insisted on staying and dining at State House together with his son and only relocated to Kampala for what family described as, “easy monitoring by physicians”.
Born in 1916 in Ankole, Kaguta inherited a huge herd of cattle from his father Kabaguma, which elevated him to the ranks of rich peasants at the time.
However, his cattle was almost wiped away by rinderpest and other livestock diseases in the 1940s and by the start of the 1950s, he had less than 50 animals.
Born in a peasant conservative background, where his own community members had strong cultural values, Kaguta embraced Christianity and was baptised, Amos, in 1947.
He enrolled for a catechism course in the Anglican Church and consequently had to “cleanse his marriage” to his first wife Esteeri Kokundeka, as their traditional marriage was considered “pagan” in the Christian context.
Kaguta set out to teach his children survival skills at an early age. He let the young ones tend to the calves which grazed near the kraal.
Despite being a strong believer in the traditional form of education, he recognised the value of modernisation and, was much interested in the formal education that the church advocated for.
Even when some of his kinsmen saw formal education as a wastage of resources, Kaguta stuck to his decision and in 1951, enrolled his first born son, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, to a Church of Uganda School, Mayugo Church School.
When he realised that the distance from the school was too far for his son to walk to, he moved his kraal from Kirigyime to Kafunjo. There, young Museveni and his other siblings would have a shorter distance to walk.
Kaguta later transferred Museveni to another school, Kyamate Primary School and also married a second wife with whom he had eight children.
In his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, Museveni narrates how protective his father was his to children. He says at school, whenever he was punished, he preferred not tell Mzee Kaguta for fear that he might confront the teachers.
Kaguta, however, never handled his children with kid gloves, insisting that they clean the kraals and remove cow dung, which President Museveni remembers as the most difficult activity, especially during the rainy season.
He would also make sure that during the school holidays his children tended to the cows and fetched water. These activities would later prepare them to face the hardships that come with life.
Museveni describes his father as a strict disciplinarian who always warned his children not to emulate him. Though he had converted to Christianity, he continued to smoke and drink traditional beer.
The President in his book says: “Occasionally when he would drink, he would become rather violent”. Realising that this would have bad influence on his children, he let them lean more on their mother’s side, reasoning that she was more religious.
Sowing The Mustard Seed tells of how when the family turned to Christianity, traditional songs often sung during story telling times were replaced by Christian Hymns, except when Kaguta was drunk.
He later abandoned smoking and drinking and concentrated on taking care of his family. Kaguta made sure all his children went through the Ankole traditional ceremonies such as, “okuta aha Mugongo,” which involved placing a four-year-old boy on the back of the cow and giving them an imitation of a bow and arrow as if to say “this is your cow, defend it.”
The superstitious ceremony was meant to indicate how lucky the child would be in life, if the cow survived, but if the cow died, it meant that the boy would be unlucky.
Museveni in his book describes his father as one who listened to his children and taught them the Ankole tradition. “..he would narrate to me many stories as part of the traditional training,” writes President Museveni in the book.
Kaguta never forgot to pray to God, the supreme creator and to do justice to his fellow men. It is his constant prayer and quest for justice that would later inspire two of his children Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Caleb Akandwanaho (Salim Saleh) to join the armed rebellion and fight injustice.
General Caleb Akandanwaho a.k.a Salim Saleh, chatting with his father, the late Mzee Amos Kaguta
Contrary to his peers, Kaguta stood as a revolutionary man and after embracing Christianity, took the revolutionary step of eating non-milk foods like beans, sweet potatoes and ground nuts for the first time. He refused to eat fish or chicken, largely considered a taboo among the traditional Bahima pastoralist community.
After the death of his first wife, Esteeri Kokundeka, Kaguta was in and out of hospital as he battled a series of old age related diseases. Early this month he was admitted at the International Hospital Kampala in the private wing.
Close family members including his son, President Museveni, the First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni took turns to visit and take care of him until his death on Friday 22 February 2013.
Additional reporting by Peterson Ataha