By Denis Jjuuko
THE had expected to reach his retirement age as an academic at Makerere University. Little did he know that Allah had great things in the pipeline for him. Dr. Badru Kiggundu is now ready for the new challenge as the most important man at the Electoral Commission.
On Wednesday afternoon, The New Vision finds the Associate Professor still in his office at Makerere Universityâ€™s Faculty of Technology, where he has been the Dean since 1999. Dressed in a blue shirt with a matching necktie and a chequered jacket, Dr. Kiggundu tells his story right back from his boyhood to when he was appointed to organise the countryâ€™s elections.
â€œI was surprised, amazed and wished my father was still alive. I had never dreamt of it, but I am always ready for the challenge,â€ he says as he organises the files on his desk. As he removes them, I glance around the room. A photograph of him pictured with President Museveni and other people stares at us.
â€œI am still surprised at how I got screened from the rest of Ugandans. I am very happy,â€ he says, a broad grin on his face. The don is a man of the people who has served his fellow countrymen at the grass-roots.
â€œI was a secretary of mobilisation and education for Kweeba Zone in Mutundwe, Rubaga Division. I held the same position at the LC 2 before being elected Chairman LC 2 for Mutundwe Parish in 1993,â€ he says. He has held that position up to today. Fittingly, his first task as EC boss includes the organising of LC2 elections nationwide.
Born on January 1, 1945, Dr. Kiggundu went through Kabasanda Primary School in Mpigi, Kibuli Junior and Kibuli SSS for his O-levels before joining Nabumali High School for his A-levels. While at Nabumali, Dr. Kiggunduâ€™s academic brilliance continued to impress and he was given a Fulbright scholarship to go to the USA for a degree not available in Uganda.
He chose Civil Engineering and in 1965, he packed his bags for a flight to the University of New Mexico. By 1969, he was already a graduate with a BSc in Civil Engineering. The Americans were perplexed by the Ugandanâ€™s academic prowess so much they gave him another Fulbright scholarship for a Masters degree in Civil Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1971, his love for Uganda compelled him to return, though he had won another scholarship for a PhD. He never looked for a job. The National Housing and Construction Corporation was more than willing to offer him one already. While at the NH&CC, the Executive Engineer was in charge of the Road Construction Unit. His engineering ability saw the construction of Lira-Soroti Road, Karuma-Anaka-Pakwach Road among others.
In 1977, he earned another scholarship for a PhD. in Civil Engineering from the University of New Mexico, specialising in Geotechnical/Highway Engineering. For the four years he spent there, the man from Uganda was employed as a teaching assistant.
After his graduation, Dr. Kiggundu became a senior Research Engineer with New Mexico Engineering Research Institute for six years: â€œHere I led a research team in developing specifications toward rekindling the serviceability of aged pavement material striping problems,â€ he enthusiastically recalls. Then he moved to Auburn University as an Assistant Professor and Programmes Manager of research in pavement material problems.
â€œDeveloping new approaches to understanding pavement material problems in terms of what chemistry additives to use and why some materials reject each other was my assignment,â€ he explains in a warm, deep voice.
Dr. Kiggundu is a calm, easy to talk to man. His mobile phone rings but he just reduces its volume so that we can wind up the interview. I am surprised, but he says, â€œYou people are partners in development.â€ Now I understand why I am utilising his lunchtime.
In 1988, Dr. Kiggundu came back to Uganda and started pursuing his intention of joining the Ivory Tower. The following year, he became a part time senior lecturer in the department of civil engineering: â€œIn 1993 I became the Head of Department. Six years later, I became the dean and by that time I was already an associate professor,â€ he reveals.
Students can be assured of the donâ€™s services regardless of his new appointment: â€œI have been conducting research and supervising students. My professional interests will continue, especially the supervision of PhD. students,â€ he says.
He then points at the picture showing him with Museveni: â€œI hosted the President in 1997 when I was the president of Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers. He was laying the foundation stone for the Engineersâ€™ House at Kyambogo. Now I am one of the retired presidents,â€ he explains.
Dr Kiggundu brings to the Electoral Commission his vast experience in research and says he is more than ready to serve his country.
â€œWhat are your immediate plans for the millions of Ugandans?â€ I ask.
â€œWell, we shall sit as a new team and serve our country as expected. You know the announcement was made only yesterday,â€ he answers.
â€œDo you look at this as your greatest achievement in life?â€ I press.
â€œWhatever I do is an achievement. Success is a journey, not a destination. I am ready for the challenge,â€ he answers.
Though he will miss his faculty, he is ready and happy to serve his country. He says that he will serve everybody: â€œI am a nationalist. I donâ€™t belong to any political party,â€ he says. Asked if he is a Movementist, he replies with a chuckle, â€œThe 1995 constitution says that we are all in the Movement system.â€
The doctor is happily married with 10 children. He was born at Katwe to Hajjat Mia Kabugo Namatovu and the Late Al Hajj Yunus Luswa. However, he did not enjoy the benefits of growing up in the city as his dear father was soon appointed a Muluka Chief for Kitaita Busiro and Budde and that explains his days at Kabasanda Primary School. His late father is a man who wished everything good for his children and with dwindling income from the chieftaincy, he quit his job to become a businessman, trading in anything tradable so that the children could attain education.
â€œDuring my holidays, I would help dad in selling produce,â€ Kiggundu recalls. It was a large family, with 23 girls and boys.
While in primary school, at an annual parentsâ€™ meeting, Kiggundu shone above the rest in all disciplines, which made the late Abbas Bamulanzeki pledge to pay his school fees.
â€œHe did a great job. He contributed his part. I am also helping some children with school fees,â€ he reveals.
This is the man who will be at the helm of the EC for the next seven years.Ends
The ECâ€™s Brilliant Don