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The Revs Nkesiga on their 25-year marital journey

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th November 2014 10:13 PM

By 5:00pm, the towering, light-skinned and ever smiling Rev. Diana Mirembe Barlow and her husband, the dark-skinned, tough-looking but humble Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga were at the cathedral grounds, quietly seated in the tent.

The Revs Nkesiga on their 25-year marital journey

By 5:00pm, the towering, light-skinned and ever smiling Rev. Diana Mirembe Barlow and her husband, the dark-skinned, tough-looking but humble Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga were at the cathedral grounds, quietly seated in the tent.

By Mathias Mazinga

By 5:00pm, the towering, light-skinned and ever smiling Rev. Diana Mirembe Barlow and her husband, the dark-skinned, tough-looking but humble Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga were at the cathedral grounds, quietly seated in the tent.

Their children, Ignatius Nkesiga, Themba Nkesiga, Edith Nagawa and Evelyn Namugumya, also sat in the tent, chatting with relatives and friends.

During the procession, the couple was flanked by the matron, Dr. Ruth Ssenyonyi and best man Bishop Dr. Edward Muhima and led by their children, as the Barugahare daughters sang Laba Ekitiibwa (Luganda for see the glory).

The Nkesigas re-affirmed their marital vows, before Bishop Emeritus Eliphaz Maari, who wed them 25 years ago.

They then lit the marital unity candle as the elderly choristers of All Saints’ Cathedral, the Seniors, performed Love Lifted Me. Several testimonies were given about the Nkesigas’ marriage, including one by their eldest child, Ignatius, 24.

But Rev. Diana’s moved the congregation to tears, as she gave an account of how she met Solomon, the highs and lows they have gone through as well as the sincere love and care that her husband had extended to her. Solomon, on the other hand, cracked people up with his humorous remarks.

He also had only praise for his wife. “Brethren,” he said, “Is it not beautiful to have a radiant and elegant wife like Diana?” he asked. In gratitude to God for their blessings, the Nkesigas and their children sang Bless the Lord O my soul.

After a benediction by the Archbishop Emeritus, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo, the Nkesigas danced out of the cathedral as Rev. John Musa Lakor performed a South African song. The function climaxed with a cocktail, in the tent, which featured a musical interlude by the Cape Brothers and a documentary about the life and ministry of the Nkesigas.


Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga: I met Diana at Bishop Tucker Theological College, Mukono, in September, 1986. I was pursuing a degree in Divinity. As I entered the dining hall, I saw a lady, whose beauty and posture struck me. There was a conference underway and I thought she was a participant.

Having admired her, I soon remembered that I was an aspiring priest, not supposed to admire a woman in such a consuming way. I thus repented. At supper I did not see her. I concluded that she had left.

But when I went to the residence of my lecturer, Dr. Edward Muhima, to take him messages from home, lo and behold, this same lady was there. Sitting under the shade of the light, in maroon jacket, brought out the radiance of her beauty in a way that finished me.

I started shaking. But soon I composed myself and told her: ‘We missed you at supper’. Well, the first words I got were not kind.’ How could you miss me when you even don’t know me?’ she asked. I don’t remember my response or the direction the conversation took afterwards.

I later met Diana during our students’ Theological and Singles’ Fellowships. The way Diana discussed issues impressed me.

The Nkesigas cutting a cake with their best man and matron from their 1989 wedding day. PHOTO/Mathias Mazinga

But one occasion which gave me the opportunity to engage Diana in a deeper discussion was the Principal’s Hour, in the chapel, where students were given the opportunity to introduce themselves. ‘I am Diana Mirembe Barlow and I am human,’ she said.

That statement became the subject of theological inquiry. I asked her what she meant. What is being human? Weren’t the others human?

She explained that people thought she was abnormal to leave behind an affluent life-style and join the priesthood. Through her arguments, I grew to respect her call to priesthood, which I learnt later, had come out of the difficulties and the theological questions that she could not give answers to, following the country’s civil wars.

Meanwhile, there were many suitors who wanted to approach Diana. They all came to seek my guidance, as I had become a self-acclaimed consultant for those who wanted to marry. Two suitors came to me, in turns, desiring to propose to Diana.

We had to discuss Diana’s character and what one needed to do to give her the kind of life that would suit her theological formation and gender concerns. With time, the two guys chickened out, as I grew to appreciate Diana even more.

I decided to propose to her. I asked Diana what she thought was happening between us. She told me she didn’t know. I then told her I wanted to take our relationship to a higher level. But we agreed not to think too seriously about marriage, as we also sought the advice of our elders.

We acknowledged we were different from each other. I had grown up upcountry; she had grown up in the city. There were also assumed aspects of life that some people thought would make us incompatible.

We talked about all these things. All the people we consulted seemed to be skeptical, although they did not openly discourage us. They just promised to pray for us. I still recall the prayer of Dr. Edward Muhima: ‘God, you are the one who created these people differently. You brought them together. So, you know their future. Amen’.

When we visited the Principal, Rev. Eliphaz Maari, he just picked a marriage service book and we wondered whether he was going to wed us right then! But he just read a few lines from the book and blessed us. Diana impressed me.

She was willing to be part of my life not on the basis of my position, because I had none, but my potential. But what made real sense to us was that we both knew Christ, in whom we would build our home.

Our union was not based on colour, city life or village life. We loved each other and we were confident that God’s love would carry us through the challenges that would arise from our incompatibilities.

Our wedding took place at St. Francis Chapel, Makerere, in 1989. We had a small budget of sh600,000, which members of the committee rubbished and made another one of sh2m. When we married, I was a deacon and Diana was a commissioned lay evangelist.

Our first appointment was to teach at Uganda Martyrs’ Theological Seminary, Namugongo. We started modestly. I remember we had no seats in the house and my mother-in-law bought us mats and some stools. Diana was struggling to prepare meals.

So, I made a kitchen table from pieces of wood I picked from the compound, so that she would not have to bend as she prepared the meals. There were times when we had no salary, or when it ran out before the end innovative.

A brother-in-law visited me and heard me lamenting about poverty. ‘But who owns this entire bush around you?’ he asked me. ‘It is church land,’ I told him. ‘Why don’t you cultivate it?’ he asked. I told him we could not dig because both of us were graduates.

‘Okay, now starve,’ he told me. That was when I changed my attitude. I bought gumboots and we started to till the land.

I realised that Diana could not dig; but she was gifted in innovating when it came to preparing meals from nothing. She could make white soup from wheat flour. While I did the digging, Diana made money in other ways.

For example, one Uganda Martyrs’ Day, Diana went to Kampala and returned with 60 crates of soda. We sold them and got a lot of money. I also developed more sophisticated ways of making money.

Phumla Retreat Centre

As builders dug the foundation of the martyrs’ pavilion at the seminary, I used the soil to make bricks. I then trimmed the trees for firewood to burn them. Diana also learnt to make tomato sauce after visiting the trade show at Lugogo in 1992.

We had grown a lot of tomatoes at the seminary, which she now used to make the sauce. Eventually, we started supplying food to the seminary. From the seminary, we left to do missionary work in South Africa.

We had hoped for greener pastures, but the situation proved to be difficult. At that time Diana was not a priest, so the Church in South Africa could not give her work.

Moreover, female priests were not welcome at the time. Diana then started a school to make ends meet. I made bricks for her and helped her to put up the structures. God gave us two sons, Ignatius and Themba.

But we also have adopted daughters Edith Nagawa and Evelyn Namugumya. Upon our return, in 1997, Diana got involved in HIV/AIDS work, until she was given pastoral work at All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala.

Diana is indeed a brilliant, enterprising lady.

She has remained committed to the marital vows that she took 25 years ago. She has been close to me in both good and difficult moments.

She was close to me even when I went to India for my cancer treatment. She even pushed me in a wheelchair! Diana taught me English and even continues to correct me. She reminds me about risks in business. She has been by my side in times of sickness.

I thank God for our marriage and shared-ministry. I re-affi rm to love and, to support her ministry.


I met Solomon at Bishop Tucker Theological College, Mukono in 1986, where I had gone to study Theology. Solomon was a member of our fellowship and, inevitably, I came in touch with him during our deliberations. He was also a member of our Singles’ Club.

I always marveled at the intelligent manner in which he discussed sensitive issues. I also liked his noble conduct. Interestingly, at this point, I did not have any intention of marrying Solomon. To be honest, a Mukiga, and moreover a Reverend, was not what I desired.

But we had some female students at the college and, often times, I recommended Solomon to them.

‘This guy Solomon is husband material, why don’t you marry him?’ I would ask them. ‘But Diana, it seems you have fallen for Solomon. Go ahead and marry him,’ they would tell me.

Meanwhile, several people had approached me and I had turned them down. I always told them I was not ready. I just wanted to finish my degree and go into ministry. Incidentally, all these suitors would first consult Solomon.

Evidently, he was a good counsellor because even now, many people still confi de in him. Interestingly, there was another student, Edward Baralemwa, who had become so close to me that many thought I had an affair with him. But he was just a friend, who supported me without going into my space.

Eventually, Solomon and I grew close. Solomon and his friends like George Bagamuhunda, had a special table in the dining hall.

Occasionally, they would invite me to share pork and pilau. My friendship and rapport with Solomon grew. I began to spend longer hours with him, to the extent that our friends became suspicious. One time, our soccer team was playing against Makerere University and we were desperate for a win.

Then about six footballers, accompanied by Rev. Esther Lutaaya, pleaded with me to go to the pitch, arguing that if Solomon saw me, he would score.

Surprisingly, he scored! But our turning point was when Solomon asked me: ‘Diana, what is happening between us?’ I said I don’t know. Then he told me he wanted to take our relationship to a higher level and we launched our official courtship. But we decided not to date.

When we eventually decided to marry, I informed my parents. Mummy first kept quiet. But after a pause, she told me I could go ahead with the relationship if I had the conviction. You know I was a no-nonsense girl, who also, had not given mummy any trouble with boys.

Mummy also knew I was still a virgin. So, she respected my decision. I told Solomon I would first finish my degree.

He finished his degree first and was posted as a chaplain to a school in the west. Before his departure, Solomon expressed concern that he would not see me for a whole year! We agreed that this was an opportunity to test our seriousness and commitment.


The Nkesigas on their wedding day in 25 years ago

I introduced Solomon to my parents in Munyonyo in April, 1989. Okwanjula at that time was not as grandiose as it is today. Solomon came with about 20 people, carrying baskets teeming with items like sugar and salt.

They also brought busuutis for the sengas and kanzus for their brothers-in-law. Solomon wanted to give my parents cows, but they declined. They just asked him to love me and forgive me whenever I made mistakes. Our wedding ceremony took place at Saint Francis Chapel, Makerere University.

Retired assistant Bishop Eliphaz Maari presided over it. Two choirs, the Anglican Youth Fellowship and All Saints’ Cathedral Choir ministered. My cousins from the US also ministered. We had our wedding reception at Livingstone Hall, Makerere University.

Right from our wedding, people loved us. They supported us morally and financially. Although fuel was scarce, Hon. Amama Mbabazi managed to fill the tanks of our bridal cars with fuel. Mrs. Jacqueline Mbabazi carried kaasuze katya.

People gave us soda, cakes, samosas and a seven-tier cake. I saw a whole bus of students from Gayaaza at our reception.

They also carried us lots of pastries and cookies. After our seven-day honeymoon at Fairway Hotel, we had another wedding in Solomon’s village in Kihiihi, Kanungu, near the DR Congo border. We were subsequently posted to the Anglican Martyr’s Seminary in Namugongo, where we lived up to 1992.

This was a time of war and, as a newly-wed couple, life was challenging. In South Africa, we worked for 13 years as missionaries first with the Diocese of Grahamstown, Western Cape and later Port Elizabeth Diocese. I was not priested until 1994. In 2005, when we returned to Uganda, I worked with Viva Network Africa, before being appointed Vicar of All Saints’ Cathedral in 2007.


I thank God for giving me Solomon as my husband. At home I call him King Solomon. He is such an intelligent dad. He looks serious and quiet in his glasses. But he has a rich sense of humour. At his jokes, we fall off our chairs laughing. Solomon is a gentle guy, soft spoken. He is that kind of guy who quietly steals your heart when you look at him.

Solomon is faithful, loving and honest. He was fully aware of our cultural differences. But he pledged to me that he would do whatever was possible to make our marriage work and he has kept his word. Solomon is developmental, which is why we managed to build a home and a retreat centre. He also has a passion for young people, is passionate about education and innovative.

For example, at Phumla Retreat Centre, we built a chapel out of papyrus. Solomon also appreciates the dignity of women. Surely he has never slapped me, or raised his voice at me. In fact, it is I, who sometimes raises my voice. When he does something wrong, he is quick to apologise.

Solomon loves the Lord. He is theological but I have made him simple. Initially, we had planned for two kids, a boy and a girl, but two boys came. But God gave us two adopted daughters. The ultimate secret of our marriage is Jesus, who has taken us through all our challenges. Dr. Solomon has been sickly. But the Church has prayed for us and carried us.


trueIgnatius Nkesiga

Mummy and daddy are an admirable couple. They both have a passion for Christ. Mum is counsellor, dad is an advisor. While in South Africa, mum and dad demonstrated their passion for young people. Although they had little means, they looked after hungry and sick needy children and counselled drug-addicted youth. My parents also embrace people of all age-groups and social status.

Edith Nagawa

I have always admired their spirit of co-operation. They do everything together. Some times they also cook together. When one of them gets a little bit angry, the other keeps quiet. They have never fought.

trueThemba Nkesiga

 Mummy and daddy have exercised the marital ideals of mutual love, mutual companionship and mutual help in concrete terms. As children, we have benefitted fully from their responsible parenthood. They have also taught us the Christian ideals of charity and human solidarity.

trueEvelyn Namugumya

I have enjoyed their parenting. In fact, I don’t regret coming to live with them. They have shown me what it means to live in a family. They have also shown me true charity.


Many marriages have broken because couples often lack a shared vision. They pull their resources in different directions. I thank God that Diana and I have had a shared vision. We pooled our resources together. Using our pension from South Africa, we bought six acres in Budo, on which we built our residence and Phumla Retreat Centre which supports families through counseling and youth activities. Stressed clergy also come to pray.

We still have enormous plans to accomplish, if God gives us good health. We limit marital conflicts by being open and faithful. We hold discussions on how to realise our family dreams. Our theological discussions and reflections on women’s emancipation also continue.

Sometimes we also go out for Christian events. But above all, we rely on Jesus, to whom we attribute all our blessings.


Diana Mirembe Barlow was born in Munyonyo, in 1960, the 5th child of Mary Nantongo and the late Hugo Barlow. She went to Nakasero Primary School, Gayaza High School and National Teachers College Kyambogo (1981-83), where she trained as a teacher of English and Religious Education.

Diana taught at Gayaza High School before joining Bishop Tucker Theological College, Mukono (1986-89). Solomon Nkesiga was born in Kigezi, in 1960 to Barbara Joy and Israel Basabose, who were both lay Christian leaders.

They later moved to Kanungu. Nkesiga is the ninth of 11 children (six girls and five boys). Nkesiga went to Kihiihi PS, Kigezi High, Makobore High and Kabale Teachers’ College, where he did a Diploma in education. He joined Bishop Tucker Theological College, Mukono in 1985. He is the Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara.

The Revs Nkesiga on their 25-year marital journey

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