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Minister dies of heart failure

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th November 2007 03:00 AM

Omwony Ojwok, the State Minister for Planning in the finance ministry is no more.

Omwony Ojwok, the State Minister for Planning in the finance ministry is no more.

By Milton Olupot and Nathan Etengu

Omwony Ojwok, the State Minister for Planning in the finance ministry is no more.

The 60-year-old historical of the National Resistance Movement and MP for Labwor in Abim district died of heart failure at Mulago hospital yesterday morning.

A lawyer by training, Ojwok, is remembered for his role in bringing together various factions of Ugandans in exile to fight Idi Amin’s dictatorial regime. He was part of the renowned ‘gang of four’, the others being professors Dan Wadada Nabudere, Edward Rugumayo and Yash Tandon.

In 1979, Ojwok became the secretary of the National Consultative Council of the Uganda National Liberation Front, the group that ousted Amin with the help of Tanzania.

Since President Yoweri Museveni took over in 1986, Ojwok has served as state minister for economic monitoring and northern Uganda rehabilitation. He also worked as director general of the Uganda AIDS commission.

Ojwok had a history of heart problems. He had been to America and India for treatment. “About four weeks ago, he was operated in India and was advised to rest for four weeks. But because of work pressure, he did not follow that advice,” said finance minister Fred Omach.

Oyam North MP Ben Wacha was with Ojwok at the Kampala Golf Club on Saturday night when he became unwell. “We talked and laughed, it was a normal evening. Suddenly, at about 10:00pm, he felt pain on the left side of his chest and asked me to drive him to Mulago Heart Institute,” a shaken Wacha narrated. “Even as we drove to the hospital, we were chatting and joking.”

The MP left him at the hospital to go and collect a doctor. He later drove to a pharmacy at Wandegeya to buy the drugs prescribed by the doctor. “When I went back to Mulago, I found him on a life-support machine and he could no longer talk. At around 1:00am, he was dead.”

He described the deceased as disciplined and intelligent. “We went to the law school together and shared a room at LDC. He was a very good man. I have never heard him quarrel with anybody. He was very careful in his conduct.”

The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, expressed shock over Ojwok’s death. “We have lost a courteous, intelligent and hard-working person. I have known him since our school days. I am shocked. We shall miss him.”

FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso said Uganda had lost one of its most experienced and honest politicians.

“Ojwok was a humble man. He had the humility to admit and ask for guidance when things went wrong,” she noted.

Omach called his late colleague brilliant and hardworking. “He was multi-talented. He spoke French and English, as well as several local languages.”

At the time of his death, Ojwok was re-structuring the National Planning Authority (NPA) and had just forwarded a list of the new board to the President.

NPA executive director Saul Kaye said: “This is a big blow. This is the time we needed him most. It is difficult to talk now”.

Grief and shock gripped the people of Labwor county, in particular Abim and Morulem sub-counties.

“He was instrumental in the district’s development programme. He fought for the creation of the new district and has been bringing people together to decide on the location of the headquarters,” commented Michael Odoch, the security officer of Morulem.

“We expected him to travel to the district on Monday to lead a team of investors,” said Abim town clerk Robert Abiya.

Ojwok’s wife, Rev. Florence Adong, had gone to the district ahead of her husband to prepare for the visitors. The district council planned an emergency session to plan for the burial, Abiya added.

Omwony Ojwok came from Kanu, west of Abim town. In 1994, he married Adong, who had just completed her master’s degree in the United Kingdom.

The wedding brought together clergy of the Catholic Church and the Church of Uganda. While a catholic priest presided over the ceremony, Rev. Peter Lomongin, the former bishop of Karamoja, gave a sermon.

By press time yesterday, crowds of mourners, including government ministers, had gathered at the deceased’s home in Kyambogo, as well as in Abim town.

The body will be displayed in the parliamentary lobby at 8:00am today for public viewing and in the Parliament Chambers at 2:30pm to allow MPs to pay tribute.

It will be taken to Christ the King Church in Kampala for a requiem mass and later to his house in Kyambogo, from where it will leave for burial in Abim.

Minister dies of heart failure

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