The Rurangaranga I Knew
By Johnson Musinguzi
The late Major Edward Rurangaranga was not my contemporary. I got to know him from my dad; Ephraim Byarabaha who passed on in 2012 at the age of 92.
Our farmland in Kitagata, Sheema shared a boundary with that of the late Major but was also separated by a swamp as wide as about 100 metres. I got to know all that around 1982 then a 9-year-old. All this came into my mind as I read messages of his demise on the morning of Tuesday, August 1.
Rurangaranga was a State Minister for local government and later in the Prime Minister Otema Ali Madi’s office and was also MP for Bushenyi West which is the current Sheema South and most parts
That time, Bushenyi district had Yona Kanyomozi as MP for Bushenyi South (Kajara and Rushenyi), Dr Adonia Tiberondwa for Bushenyi Central (Igara), Prof Kamuntu for Bushenyi North (Bunyaruguru and Bitereko) and Chris Rwakasisi for Bushenyi East (Sheema North and Buhweju).
So as messages filtered in, Prof Elijah Mushemeza who defeated Rurangaranga for the Sheema South constituent assembly delegate seat, had a few lines for the departed retired Kikosi Malum soldier thus;
“He was strong on issues of land and property, traditional leaders, and community development projects. He knew people personally, a virtue I picked from him. He was an orator, a fighter and has passed on as a born again Christian”.
So, personally, I knew Rurangaranga as a feared politician who used to be hands on. He used to operate a constituency office in Kitagata Township where a one Makyoko used to sit. Times when Rurangaranga used to be in the constituency, he would sit on the open office while looking at what town dwellers would be engaged in as they strolled across.
One day, he saw one boy called Kabarira chewing sugar cane and throwing the fiber waste all over. He immediately instructed him to sweep the whole town for a week.
He used to own about two Mercedes Benz vehicles and a Land Rover and they were a common sight between his Rukondo home and Kitagata Township, about 3kms apart. I remember at one point around 1984, some of his children were studying with us at Kitagata Central School, one of the many schools he helped found.
The only difference between me and his kids was that they used to cruise in the Mercedes Benz to and from school while I used to walk. One day, a stone strewn by his speeding Benz hit my leg and left me with a wound.
Rurangaranga’ reign in Bushenyi West had its lows and highs. Like Prof Mushemeza said above, the major had a hand in most schools that were found between 1980 and 1985.These were secondary schools like Kitagata, Bugongi, Ryakasinga CHE, Ruhinda, Kasaana, to mention but a few.
He was also instrumental in ensuring that Kitagata Hospital got located where it is now way back in 1960s. Rurangaranga set up a mega pad in his village which his late wife popularly known as Mama Bushenyi used to call Eiguru (Heaven).
He officially inaugurated it after a helicopter accident between 1983 and 1984. The then Vice President Paulo Muwanga was the chief guest at the inauguration. As kids, we were wowed by mainly Muwanga’s convoy that had hundreds of soldiers who patrolled the about 3km stretch from Kitagata to Rukondo. Muwanga’s helicopter landed at Kitagata SSS compound from where he was escorted to the nearby church for a service and then luncheon in the new home.
One of the army general I think Tito Okello Lutwa was also present. Like any other leader, Rurangaranga was not very popular among the catholic community who were mainly Democratic Party faithfuls.
I remember, one of his chiefs one Begumanya was chopped to death in a place called Muhito allegedly by DP youth and this turned out to be a turning point and was later to shape Rurangaranga’s later life after the fall of Obote II government.
That time, many soldiers were ferried into the area and moved all civilians to Kitagata sub county headquarters for screening. Suspects were picked and alleged collaborators some of whom died in suspicious circumstances. When the government fell in 1985, Rurangaranga was arrested and charged in connection with the above incident but was later cleared by court.
Rurangaranga belonged to (we were told then) the UPC faction of Syndicate (Enkomba) with Rwakasisi, while Dr Tiberondwa, Prof Kamuntu, Kanyomozi, Prof Stanley Muhangi were in the science (Efunguro)
Those in science were highly educated (elites) while those in syndicate had moderate education. The syndicate group was more down to earth and accused the science group of being closer to Uganda
Patriotic Movement (UPM) of Yoweri Museveni who was in the bush at the time.
The Science/Syndicate arrangement was visible even at sub county, parish and lower levels and among supporters of UPC.
The retired soldier died at a time when he had emerged a victor from a fight alongside other stakeholders on whether Ankole Western Institute (AWIST) remains at Kabwohe campus and gets a charter as well.
He was one of the stakeholders in Sheema district who complained to the then Minister of Education, Sports and Technology, Jessica Alupo on the poor management of most schools by foundation bodies.
As one of the people who was with him in the AWIST cause, I am quite satisfied that he has died at a time after seeing Ankole Western University (AWU) as well as the resolution of the longstanding
wrangles among Christians in West Ankole Diocese.
He was fearless and was referred to as ‘Ekikondanjojo’. Ask Gen Otafiire or Prof Kamuntu,
they know all this!
He valued education, he valued religion, he wanted development and liked astute leaders. He used to ask me who would fit in his shoes once he is gone. This is a challenge he left us with. May his soul RIP and may the almighty comfort his wife and children.