By Cyprian Musoke & Moses Mulondo
KAMPALA - Parliament has paid glowing tribute to fallen legislator Eli Nathan Bisamunyu who died aged 87 at Mulago hospital in Kampala.
He was a member of Uganda’s first Legislature the Legislative Council (LEGCO), and later East Kigezi MP in the first and second post-independence parliaments.
He was also a deputy Speaker in the first post-independence House.
The LEGCO was created by the British Colonial Government in 1920 and first met in March 1921. Its composition then was small and all its members were Europeans, but was later expanded to include Ugandans, one of whom was Bisamunyu.
The motion moved by the Prime Minister and leader of government business Amama Mbabazi and read by health minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda was seconded by Leader of Opposition Wafula Oguttu and leader of independents Sam Otada.
Basamunyu’s casket, draped in national colours, arrived at Parliament precincts at about 2:30pm on Friday, giving only a few minutes for the earlier anticipated public viewing in the Parliament foyer before it was taken to the floor of the House.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga who set the tone described the late MP as among the 20 pre-independence leaders of the national assembly – the reason why Parliament, while commemorating 50 years in 2012, honoured him.
“It’s with sadness that we note that this generation is leaving us at a very fast rate, leaving us poorer without their counsel. He was among the founders of the first political party Uganda National Congress and one of the first two-degree holders,” she said.
“The first time we met we spoke in Lusoga because he studied a lot at Busoga College Mwiri and stayed there. He leaves a legacy worth emulating.”
Present in the distinguished visitors’ gallery were family members as the Police band played solemn dirges that induced tears of some of his children.
‘Direct family link’
The Speaker’s brief statements were followed by the laying of wreaths by her, the Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, the Prime minister, Leader of Opposition, Government and opposition Whips, EALA representative, Parliamentary Commission, Independent whip, Kabaale, Kigezi and Busoga Parliamentary fora leaders.
Burial is scheduled to take place on Sunday in Mparo, Kabale district at midday.
In his recollection read by Rugunda, Mbabazi revealed that the deceased was directly linked to his family. “My father, Kezekiya Bagwowabo, took Bisamunyu up and looked after him, especially his education as his own child. He also developed a relationship with my sister Phoebe Kantangizi and children were born to them,” Mbabazi said.
Citing an incident in parliament when he criticized his UPC party and crossed to the opposition (back then), the premier hailed him for having been an independent-minded parliamentarian.
“In his political work, he was reputed for giving the same attention to little people as he did to the bigger ones. He had a great sense of fairness and a concern for those who were disadvantaged. He was the kindest person imaginable,” Mbabazi stated.
Concluding his remarks, he said: “Although what we have lost is tremendous, what he gave us is immeasurable. To those who knew him, no explanation is necessary. To those who didn’t, no explanation is possible.”
The speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga receives the body of the fallen legislator at Parliament. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
‘Proud of my father’
Edward Nobel Bisamunyu, the deceased’s son who works in China, said, “I am proud of my father. He was an extremely intelligent and generous father and a very easy-going human being who tolerant people. He taught me how to play table tennis. I want Ugandans to know his contributions to nation-building.”
Rugunda put the late MP’s life on record that he was born in 1928 at Kasooni-Nnozi Mparo, Rukiga county, present day Kabale district, studied at Kigezi High School and Busoga College, Mwiri together with former Ugandan president Apollo Milton Obote.
Bisamunyu later proceeded to Makerere College School (now Makerere University), becoming the first student in the history of Kigezi to graduate from the university in 1953.
He later together with Late Abubaker Mayanja and the late John Babiiha founded the Uganda National Congress (UNC), Uganda’s first national political party which later merged with the Uganda People’s Union to form Uganda National Congress (UPC).
“In 1962, Bisamunyu joined the legislative assembly as a representative of East Kigezi and slowly rose to the post of deputy speaker of Parliament until the rise of Idi Amin in 1971, when parliament was disbanded. Bisamunyu retired from public service in 1989 and chose to live a "quiet" life,” Rugunda said.
Health situation ‘speaks volumes’
Kabale independent MP Ronah Ninsiima told the House that the late was only transferred to Mulago hospital after failing to receive medical attention in Kabale regional referral hospital due to lack of doctors and equipment. He was then taken to a small roadside clinic where his health deteriorated.
“If such a man could not get help from all seven health centres in Kabale and went to a private clinic this speaks volumes. Even at Mulago it took queuing to attend to him,” she said.
Rukiga MP Jack Sabiiti who represented the Leader of Opposition said the late distinguished himself academically and politically, and introduced him to politics and was his mentor.
“He is the reason why I left the Movement to come to sit on this [opposition] side,” he said.
Independent leader Amooti Otada said the Bisamunyu took on political activities in the post-colonial era when politics was a very risky venture. “Let’s work for true independence of the country which he stood for instead of mourning him,” he said.
The minister for economic monitoring, Henry Banyenzaki, who called the deceased his uncle, said, “He is a great national hero. Cabinet has decided that he will be accorded an official state burial. To our amazement, my uncle died peacefully and very happy, a sign that he had accomplished his assignment on earth.”
MPs Onyango Kakoba (Buikwe North) and Chris Baryomunsi all urged politicians to serve the country unreservedly.
Kanungu Woman MP Elizabeth Karungi said the good things one does in life will be interred with them.
On his part, Ndorwa East MP David Bahati said Uganda needs more people like the fallen legislator for true independence because some laws the country tries to pass are overruled by the West.
Alex Braugaba, Amos Okot, Fred Ebil and Bukomansimbi MP Deo Kiyingi praised the late while urging government to improve health facilities in the country.