He told his wife that he had been summoned by the President and had to go and meet him, advising her to stay behind.
By Wasswa Matovu
He had always made pastoral journeys through the diocese and beyond. He had always returned with good news of God's work. However, on this fateful journey, he did not return and his family has never seen him again.
This was the journey of the Bishop of Bugisu diocese the Rt. Rev. John Alfred Wasikye. Four days after the overthrow of former president Idi Amin Dada, the new president Yusuf Lule was trying to reach out to people through their religious and civic leaders. One of such people was bishop Wasikye.
On April 16, 1979, Mrs. Yemima Wasikye and her son, Apollo Mulongo Wasikye watched as her husband's car drove off from the Mbale Bishop's house driveway. She tried to rush and join him for the trip,but his last words to her were "stay and take care of your children". And that was the last they saw him.
Who was Wasikye?
The Rt.Rev.John Alfred Wasikye, son of chief Yosamu Kirya and Elsie Namakoye of Burukuru, Bukiende was born on August 9th,1929.
He went to Nabumali Junior School, then Nabumali High School and wound up in Buwalasi Theological College, where he completed as Reverend in 1954.
He was immediately hired as a Secretary to Bishop Ursher Wilson, who was a Bishop of Mbale District, based in Buwalasi.
Bishop Ursher Wilson, transferred to Mbale town, and requested Reverend Wasikye to come along with him. Between 1995 and 1956, Reverend Wasikye continued as a Secretary for the St. Andrew's Church, Mbale.
In 1957, he married Yemima Nerima and was there after appointed the lead Reverend for St. Andrew's Church until 1959. He was responsible for hospitals and prisons as a lead church Reverend.
In 1960, he was transferred to Sipi Church of Uganda, where he was responsible for Senior Deanery, until 1962.
He then went to Nabumali parish Church of Uganda where he served as a Reverend. In 1964, he went to Oxford University, England to study Diploma in Theology. It is then that he was promoted to an Archdeacon (in absentia).
On return from England,he was transferred to the church Province, in Kampala, as an assistant Provincial Secretary for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire. In addition to being an Archdeacon and Assistant provincial Secretary, he was assigned there responsibility of taking care of refugees from Sudan. In 1969, he was Knighted by Sir William Tolbert then President of Liberia and Chairperson of the African Union, as Sir John Alfred Wasikye'. He however, preferred being recognized as God's Servant as opposed to a Knight.
Between 1970 and 1973, he served as a Provincial Treasurer for Uganda, Rwanda,Burundi and Boga Zaire, as well as Chairman for Kampiringisa Remand Home for the under 18, under Namirembe Diocese.
He was later transferred to Mbale Diocese as a Dean of St. Andrew's cathedral in 1974, and in 1976, he was consecrated as the Bishop of Mbale Diocese, responsible for Mbale and Bukedi where he served until the Lord called him.
On April 11th, 1979, the Idi Amin's regime was overthrown by President Yusufu Lule. During the liberation war, part of Amin's army force retreated towards Northern Uganda via the Great North Road, as they committed several atrocities along the way. The country was in Political turmoil.
One of the Bishop Wasikye's son, Mathias Wasikye fled from Manjasi High School, along with a family friend, Janet Matovu to join the rest of the family in Mbale.
In Mbale, a few soldiers went to the Bishop's house, demanding for a car and a chauffeur to transport them and loot as they headed to Northern Uganda. They wanted the Bishop's eldest son, James Wasikye to chauffeur them. There were not many options. He drove them and when they got to Kumi road, in Mbale town, they spotted a shop that they all decided to go and loot. It is during this time that James fled, jumping over the Mbale hospital fence and ran back home for temporary safety. The Bishop then organized for transportation and later had the whole family taken to his ancestral home, in Burukuru, Bukiende.
Janet Wasikye, the Bishop's oldest daughter was deemed safe, since she was studying at Kianda College in Nairobi, Kenya at the time.
A couple of days later, the Bishop received guests, who happened to be family friends, informing him that the incoming president needed to have a word with him. He left Burukuru, and travelled with his wife and son to the Bishop's residence in Mbale town.
He advised his wife that he had been summoned by the President and had to go and meet with him. She was passionately objected to the idea due to the prevailing Political turmoil, and insisted that if he had to go, she had to tag along. He then advised her to stay behind, and take care of her children.
At the Bishop's house, she ran into the bathroom to freshen up so she could go on the trip with her husband. To her dismay, as she came out of the bathroom, through the bedroom window, she helplessly saw the car drive off. In the car was Samuel Wanendegeya, Israel Masette and Bishop Wasikye.
That was the last time she saw her husband, her best friend and her soulmate. She however, faithfully celebrates her wedding Anniversary every January 11th, though she was physically married for only 21 years. This year, she celebrated 52 years of marriage. And hopes to reunite with him one day when the Dear Lord says so.
A couple of days later, Canon Mungatiwas the bearer of the unbearable news. That can't have been easy. Afew people who had heard the news could not get the guts to tell Mrs. Wasikye that her husband was no more.
It is believed that by the time the Bishop and his term travelled, Gadafi Army Base still had an Amin strong hold and that is where his life was ended.
One of the rumours indicate that some soldiers who were originally from Mbale had requested him to go and let the new president know that they were part of the new regime and had abadoned the old regime and were ready to assist with the overthrow in Mbale town. The truth to which will never be known.
The family was also advised that the remains were not anywhere to be found.
Several attempt were made to go search for the Bishop's remains. It was rumoured that he'd been spotted floating on River Nile. On hearing the news , Mrs. Wasikye, her eldest son James Wasikye, Reverend Joshua Bwayo and Mrs. Manafa went to Jinja in an attempt to carry out the search, but unfortunately, it was fruitless.
Up to date,the remains have never been found Janet Wasikye, unfortunately heard the news about her dad's passing on a radio station,while in Nairobi. She was absolutely devastated,and had to make that trip, that no one ever wants to make.
To date, Archdeacon Joshua Bwayo asks him self one question ' I was always the Bishop's chauffeur. Why did he change chauffeurs then'? A question that will never be answered.
The real story to what happened to Bishop Wasikye remains a mystery, with several versions. For more reasons than one, family and friends had never totally come to terms with it. There was always a small ounce of hope, that maybe,just maybe, one day he will walk or drive back and tell them the long story of what happened and why he took so long to get back. The time for hope is out.