By Mary Karugaba and Umaru Kashaka
Members of Parliament have paid tribute to the fallen former minister of Labour Stanislaus Okurut.
MPs described the late Okurut as a peace loving Ugandan, who risked his life to save the people of Teso during the Uganda People’s Army insurgency.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga described him as one of the legislators who mentored her.
“People like Okurut, Mpanga, Nekyon, and Mayanja mentored us and showed the way. Okurut was a caring, selfless and sociable person who held his people in Teso at close heart. I wish to recognize and commend their contribution in the path of democracy,” she stated.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who moved the motion to pay tribute to the late Okurut emphasized that it was Okurut together with the late Aporu Okol and Robert Ekinu both deceased, that peace returned to Teso.
“The late Okurut will be remembered as an accomplished politician, patriotic and peace lover who championed the amnesty law for the rebels. As one of the surviving legislators, Okurut volunteered to negotiate with the rebels unfortunately he was taken captive for 9 months. The NRM Government extends heartfelt condolence for the loss of this great man,” Mbabazi said.
As Minister for Culture, he was asked by Government together with Aporu and Ekinu to go and negotiate with the Uganda People Army rebels. Unfortunately, they were captured. Aporu, the youngest was released on Okurut’s plea.
He was rescued after 9 months but his colleague Ekinu died in the rescue process. Okurut’s health never remained the same.
The leader of opposition in Parliament Wafula Ogutu praised Okurut for serving his country with dedication.
“He was an advocate for peace and he braved the insurgency to meet the rebels at the risk of his life. His contribution was invaluable in ending the war in Teso,” he said.
Okurut served as a legislator, and minister in several capacities in different governments.
In 1996, he retired from active politics and lived a quiet life back home in Olwo Kokong, Ngora District. Born in October 1929, Okurut died on Saturday of heart failure.
Opposition chief whip Cecilia Ogwal said Okurut had rare qualities that made him an achiever. “His contribution was in three ways; during the struggle for independence, pacification of Teso and uniting the country. He married a Munyankole to prove to the people of Teso that President Yoweri Museveni was not as bad as many thought,” she said.
She also praised his wife Mary Karooro Okurut, the Gender minister for standing by him during the difficult years.
James Akena, said the late Okurut and others those who struggled for independence gave a clear road map for the country to follow, unfortunately today many leaders don’t know what to stand for.
“He served the country and served it well. He did what was benefiting for the people he served. Today, many people do not know what they stand for,” he said.
According to Mike Mukula, Okurut’s contribution to peace in Teso was immeasurable. “I thank him for having sacrificed his life. If it was not for the protection of God, he would have died during the rescue mission,” Mukula said.
State Minister for labor Mwesigwa Rukutana described him as a man who sought to unify the country using all methods including the institution of marriage.
“It’s a big loss to the country. Its takes a spirit of nationalism to cross from Teso and get a woman in Bushenyi. He has run his race,” he said.
The Kumi County MP Patrick Amuriat said the deceased had a distinguished political personality and was a trustworthy man who never indulged in corruption.
“He never discriminated any one basing on political or tribal lines and that is why he made it to parliament and also married from Ankole,” he added.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Gen Kahinda Otafiire saluted the late for his humility and deeper understanding of issues of the country.
“He was courageous and ventured into the unknown when he went without weapons on a peace mission. Let’s learn from history to ensure this country remains on a clear path,” he said.
Prof Tarsis Kabwegere the Minister in Charge of general duties in the Office of the Prime Minister lauded the late’s family for producing for the country a nationalist.
“This is not a medal; recognizing a person using such words is a record of success. Let’s learn from him so that we can also get on the list of those to be recognized,” he said.
The Third Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business General Moses Ali commended the deceased for his efforts in bringing peace in the country.
He will be buried tomorrow in Ngora.