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Tree of peace, where bimeeza evolved

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th February 2009 03:00 AM

IN Entebbe town, there is a tree with an extra-ordinary history. It is called Muti Gw’eddembe (tree of peace). Back in the colonial days, this is the tree that sheltered the people’s parliament - a precursor to present day ‘bimeeza.’

IN Entebbe town, there is a tree with an extra-ordinary history. It is called Muti Gw’eddembe (tree of peace). Back in the colonial days, this is the tree that sheltered the people’s parliament - a precursor to present day ‘bimeeza.’

By Gladys Kalibbala

IN Entebbe town, there is a tree with an extra-ordinary history. It is called Muti Gw’eddembe (tree of peace). Back in the colonial days, this is the tree that sheltered the people’s parliament - a precursor to present day ‘bimeeza.’

As you enter the town from Katabi, after the first junction from the airport road, between Total filling station and Entebbe cinema hall, you will find this kilundu tree that is over 50 years old. It is easy to see because recently, Entebbe municipality erected a fence around it to preserve it as a symbol of a certain era in the country’s political history. It was declared a history symbol when sometime back when Entebbe municipality was still a town council, but Joseph Kimbowa, the town clerk, does not remember when.

Retired civil servant Abner Kiryowa, 85, explains the history of this tree and how it came to be christened Muti Gw’eddembe. People’s Parliament

Kiryowa says that it started with Kampala. “There was a place where people gathered very Saturday afternoon under a mango tree near a bushy well to listen to the elite discuss politics.

That bushy place was later cleared to become the Old Taxi Park!” Kiryowa says. “My first visit was in 1949. After that I never stopped. We used to ride bicycles from Entebbe every Saturday afternoon to go and listen to people debating independence and other political views. The mango tree provided a cool shade. And it is under that cool shade that politicians like Musaazi and Kiwanuka were born.”

He explained that around 1955, Saturdays were normal working days but government employees broke off early at Midday.

Muti gw’eddembe
Later, Dr Kiwanuka, who was born in Entebbe at Lunnyo village, decided to open up a similar arena in Entebbe. “We were very thrilled,” Kiryowa said. “The place he chose was that kilundu tree. Every Saturday afternoon, we gathered there to listen to politics. They had a vehicle which went around Entebbe town ringing bells to announce the time we would be assembling. Kampala people called theirs Muyembe, we called ours Muti gw’eddembe. Theirs’ is long gone; ours exists up to this day. We had many Europeans but most of them stayed at Bugonga and never joined our discussions.”

Mary Nampiima, 80, commonly known as Bikira Maria of Kirimamboga village also remembers the days of this people’s parliament. “I had a booming waragi business at that time but would leave it to one of the employees and run to the meeting to hear the progress of politics in Uganda.”

Similar meetings later cropped up across the country. “Through them, Ugandans lobbied for independence, which was finally achieved on October 9, 1962,” Kiryowa recalls while displaying a badge he received on the day of independence.

Sweet memories
As a civil servant, Kiryowa was one of the people invited for the ceremony at Kololo where a badge was given to him in appreciation of the work he had done for the government. Kiryowa, who worked as a draughtsman in the lands and survey department, said Muti gw’eddembe got its name from the tension of those days. “When our beloved King Edward Muteesa was exiled in 1953, we, as civil servants decided under that tree to suspend wearing shoes to work. We also decided to tie mourning bands around our waists until the Kabaka was brought back in 1955,” he revealed. “But while we turned up at work barefooted with bimyu tied round our shorts, the Europeans came with guns.”

Other people who witnessed the lowering of the Union Jack and received badges included Moses Settimba, 90, who said he was the first black dentist in the country. “There was no dental school and we had two European dentists, who trained me for six years,” he said, displaying his badge which had a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Settimba joined Mulago Hospital to train as a medical assistant in 1944 and, on completion of his course in 1946, was chosen to train as a dentist.

He now operates a dental clinic near his home in Kitoro.

Tree of peace, where bimeeza evolved

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