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HomeULTIMATE POLITICSBAD NEWS: Ex-Masaka Cooperative Union Chairman Kasirye Mayanja Paul Bows Out

BAD NEWS: Ex-Masaka Cooperative Union Chairman Kasirye Mayanja Paul Bows Out

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Famously known as “Omwana w’omuntu,” Kasirye Mayanja Paul loyally served former President Apollo Milton Obote all his life. He joined UPC in the late 1960s, at a time this was considered risky especially in Buganda whose top leadership at Mengo had sharply fallen out with Obote following the 1966 crisis. His devotion to UPC, even at a time many in his native Masaka shunned it, intrigued many because Kasirye Mayanja (also father to our media colleague John V Sserwaniko) was raised in a family of staunch Catholics in the heart of Buganda.

His parents were loyal to both Buganda Kingdom and the Catholic Church, two powerful institutions which were known for resenting Obote and his UPC. In fact, Sausi Musenze Alanda who fathered his father was a large land-owning chief under the Mengo hierarchy. In Masaka, they call this ‘nanyini mailo.’ His late mother (Mangadalena Namutebi) and several of his siblings and aunts loyally served the Catholic Church (some as catechists) and had active roles under Bikiira Parish which recently celebrated 125 years. Mayanja cheerfully participated in the Bikiira celebrations to mark that milestone.

He was a practicing Catholic always proudly wearing his rosary and loyally believed in the leadership of Masaka diocese Bishop Adrian K Ddungu and those who reigned before him and after. He actively participated in church activities including single-handedly spearheading the fundraising efforts for the reconstruction of the Church structure for his Kyakanyomozi Catholic sub parish. This project occupied much of his later years especially after he ceased holding key administrative roles at Uganda House-based UPC headquarters which was his place of work for roughly 50 years of his adult life.

Beyond spearheading construction of the physical structures under the Kyakanyomozi sub parish and more, Mayanja leveraged his positions in the UPC government (especially that of 1980s) to influence the making of decisions and allocation of resources which went towards construction of schools and other education institutions within Kyotera and the broader Rakai district.

Even when fellow Catholics came to accept him as a good man who would die UPC, Mayanja occasionally made provocative remarks which many construed to border on blaspheming Catholicism, which had been the religion of his parents of the preceding generations (the family produced priests & donated land for church construction). As a leading UPC leader in Greater Masaka, he famously remarked during a political rally that ‘the woman who mothered or produced Milton Obote was more righteous than the Virgin Mary.’

This angered many and it’s one of the many artillery pieces the DP camp used to de-campaign him during the 1980 elections which their Andrew Ben Sengoba won and represented Kyotera County as MP up to 1985. Mayanja, who heroically had just returned from London where he fled after a stint in prison where Museveni’s NRA functionaries jailed him for years after January 1986, was to stand for elections once again in 1994. This time round he was seeking to represent the same Kyotera County in the CA which made the 1995 Constitution. The race was between him and Andrew Ben Sengoba (now an elderly lawyer in Kampala).

As was the case in 1980, Kyotera residents voted Sengoba claiming that Kasirye Mayanja would bring back his godfather Milton Obote. In rejecting him, voters kept saying he was a great candidate more developmental and with a higher profile than Sengoba but was simply unelectable because he was a very unrepentant supporter of UPC and Obote who had clearly been demonized as a killer and enemy of both Buganda and Catholic Church.

These rejections by his own people never dispirited Mayanja when it came to working for development of his area of Kyotera County’s Kalisizo Sub County, Miti Parish Kyakanyomozi village. That was clearly manifested in the enthusiasm with which he worked to establish a vibrant primary school which was named after him and remains one of the good ones in the area even after being taken over to become government-owned. He supported technical and vocationalized way of training Kyotera’s youth.

In fact, he was among those verified, assessed and certified to be entitled to being compensated with colossal sums of money for the land lost to pave way for the reconstruction of the 90kms Masaka-Mutukula Road whose construction is slated to begin real soon. He intended to use some of this compensation money to put in place a vocational training institute in the Nsambya Township (located on the same high way & where he owned land) to skill the youths of Kyotera whose unemployability remained a great concern to him even as an old man in his 70s.

Kasirye Mayanja was also deliberate when it came to fighting poverty in Greater Masaka through agriculture and cooperatives. He led by example by being both a farmer and cooperator. He did plant lots of pineaples, matooke, pine, eucalyptus and coffee etc besides livestock farming. In the 1980s, fellow farmers and cooperators elected him to serve as Chairman of the great Masaka Cooperative Union and held onto this responsibility up to 1986.

In fact, it was from him (as Chairman), Gerald Sendawula (as his vice) and GW Mayanja (as General Manager) that the NRA commanders received several union assets including coffee, the processing factory equipment from Kalisizo, processed coffee shortly before being exported, real cash and a fleet of vehicles. This was during the Katonga battle or stalemate which saw the prosecution of the NRA war stall for several months before finally matching on to Kampala. Understandably, Mayanja has died sad to only be hearing of compensation billions which the Museveni government claims to have been paying out to atone that loss.

He has been wondering how the verification of what was lost was conducted and the figure (over Shs17bn) agreed upon without the relevant government MDAs ever engaging with him or ex-Minister Sendawula since it was them who passed on the assets to the NRA. In fact, on learning of the end of year 23rd December news conference in Entebbe State House, the legendary cooperator spoke to one of the journalists who had been invited and advised that the scribe specifically puts that question to the President. That never happened because the journalist never got the opportunity to ask.

In Greater Masaka, Kasirye Mayanja easily got along with political peers likes of Maria Mutagamba, Matia Sekabugali Mujuzi, Damiano Lubega, Mayanja Nkangi, Kintu Musoke, Edward Sekandi, Gen Elly Kayanja, Gabriel Lukwago, Emmanuel Pinto, the younger ones like Tamale Mirundi etal even when he politically didn’t agree with them. He was UPC and they were either DP or NRM. For many of them, Catholicism and the shared love of Virgin Mary kept them close to him. Even when he stuck to his UPC, his home remained wide open to contemporary Kyotera/Rakai political actors like Haruna Kasolo, Robinah Sentongo (deceased), DP’s Paul Mpalanyi, Fortunate Nantongo (current Woman MP), LC5 Chairman Kintu Kisekulo and others. They would go to him for advice and guidance even when he was UPC and didn’t believe in their version of politics.

He lately had developed a remarkable liking for NUP Principal Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine) who he credited for being able to decisively defeat Gen Museveni in the ballot box of 2021 which he and others had been failing since 1996. Whereas he would talk in the trading centers and at public function besides quietly going out to vote in most of the general elections (especially Presidential & Parliamentary), he had ceased being an active campaigner as of the elections of 2001, 2006, 2011 & 2016. It’s the one of 1996, those days of the IPFC, that he vigorously participated in. Not only did he work with the likes of Maria Mutagamba, Sekabugali & others to campaign for the joint opposition candidate in Kyotera/Rakai and greater Masaka but was also an eminent member of the national taskforce for Dr. PK Semogerere based at Kabusu. He religiously attended all the meetings preceding the unveiling of IPFC which in full was Inter-Party Forces Cooperation.

He vigorously worked for this IPFC effort because his boss Milton Obote and Cecilia Ogwal (under whom he was now serving at Uganda House) were Principal actors. He was so much disappointed with the results of 1996 that he vowed never to participate in campaigns as a candidate as long as Gen Museveni was still President.

In 2005, Milton Obote (who until that day he believed would become President again) died in exile and his wife Miria Kalule was fronted to succeed him as Party President. The Delegates Conference was at Christ the King and Kasirye Mayanja was among the key pillars on whom Miria and her son Jimmy Akena (both just returning from exile) counted to network with diehard congress people across the country and begin building their own political base inside the party. Miria went on to stand for President in 2006 on UPC ticket and the obligation to market and take her around Buganda rested on mainly Kasirye Mayanja and Mityana’s Maj Samwiri Mugwisa (who died a few years later) plus a few others. Mayanja worked hard to get UPC candidates across Buganda to complement the Miria 2006 candidature.

After that year’s campaigns, he reverted to his administrative roles at Uganda House where he had been serving as Principal Administrative Secretary (PAS) and head of archives since the 1980s. This was to remain his job up to the mid-2010s when he bowed out as Olara Otunnu (who he had vigorously de-campaigned) reigned as party President. Years later, Jimmy Akena ousted Otunnu and became UPC President and offered Mayanja the job of coming back to head administrative work at Uganda House but he respectfully declined on the account of old age and frail health. It’s also true he felt a little bit of betrayal over the way Akena embraced Musevenism. He kept his distance preferring to render his occasional advice from a distance.

In the 1970s, a much younger Mayanja was recruited by Maj Samwiri Mugwisa into the Obote-leaning Kikoosi Maluum fighting force and that’s how he came to participate in the 1979 liberation war against Idi Amin. Humorous as always, Mayanja endlessly told hilarious stories about that war. He was also very good at singing UPC songs, many of them praising Obote as a person.

Under Obote II (1980-1986), Kasirye Mayanja teamed up with close friends Paul Muwanga (defense Minister & VP) and Samuel Mugwisa to comprise UPC Buganda. And in his case, Mayanja was charged with overseeing greater Masaka as Muwanga handled greater Mpigi, Mugwisa greater Mubende and Kefa Sempangi tackled greater Mukono. He was always proud of the fact that he had the humility and modesty to let Andrew Ben Sengoba take the slot to serve as Kyotera County MP (1980-1985) even when he could leverage on his Obote family and State House connections to cause some rigging. He would casually say “Omwana w’omuntu takola bwatyo [someone born and raised in a normal family can’t win like that].”

Besides galvanizing UPC/Obote support in greater Masaka and the wider Buganda (1980-1986), Mayanja dedicated much of his time in strengthening the cooperatives movement for greater Buddu area under the Masaka Cooperative Union which he effectively chaired with the likes of eventual Museveni Finance Minister Gerald Sendawula serving on his executive. When his boss Milton Obote was ousted in 1985/86, Mayanja had opted to keep away from politics and instead dedicate his time fighting house hold poverty through Masaka Cooperative Union.

Even after much of the assets got lost in the 1979 and 1986 wars, Mayanja was determined to lead fellow cooperators to rebuild from scratch. He had seen potential of the cooperatives as a child who went to school (in the 1950s & 60s) up to London using coffee money. But his determination was dispirited when the NRAs opted to pursue him and other former Obote men. That is how he joined the rest of former Obote II big men who ended up in Luzira others being Yona Kanyomozi, Maj Edward Rurangaranga, Adonia Tiberondwa, Chris Rwakasisi, Patrick Rubaihayo, Patrick Mwonda, Philemon Mateke, Samwiri Mugwisa, James Rwanyarare, Paul Muwanga and many others. Upon being acquitted and released after the State failed to prove murder charges against him, Mayanja fled to exile in London from where he returned to rejoin the UPC politics in the early 1990s.

As of that time (the 1990s), UPC was controversially being ran by Secretary General Cecilia Ogwal for whom he became an influential personal assistant as they both kept getting direct instructions from Obote who was in Lusaka exile. Along the way, Cecilia Ogwal fell out with Obote over whether UPC should field candidates in Museveni’s elections. Ogwal was gradually sidelined and Mayanja (close to Ogwal as he was) chose Obote and stayed put at Uganda House where he identified, recruited and mentored many young congressmen of the Henry Mayega generation. Mayega decamped protesting Otunnu’s leadership and joined NRM in 2010s, a decision Kasirye Mayanja disparaged as amounting to betraying Obote. Wegulo, who took over and became defacto UPC leader after Obote booted Ogwal, was his very close person but Kasirye Mayanja refused to follow him in NRM-always making it clear he would die UPC. He actually had been among the very first congressmen Gen Museveni approached and met for one on one talks cajoling them to join NRM (in 1986) but he declined.

In fact, if he had accepted this invitation by NRM/A he would have ended up eclipsing the likes of Edward Sekandi, Gerald Sendawula, Kintu Musoke and others (all from greater Masaka) because Gen Museveni only approached them later. Even in his subsequent media interviews with bloggers and You Tubers, Kasirye Mayanja (who lived much of his later life in Kampala receiving treatment and living with his family) consistently asserted it was more dignifying for anyone to endure a deprived life and live in poverty than embracing NRM politics whose sustainability he doubted up to Tuesday 2nd January 2024 when he breathed his last (surrounded by some of his children) at his Kyotera residence. He died some 30 minutes before the ambulance and medical teams Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng had dispatched for his evacuation reached his house.

He had been ailing for some time (actually since 2017) and had been receiving specialized medication in Kampala as he lived at one of his children’s home along Entebbe Road. And in all this, the Ministry of Health leadership has been very supportive in especially enabling access to the country’s best specialists. The old man developed complications in the night of 31st December 2023 as he looked forward to receiving his children and friends from Kampala who were coming to join him at his Kyotera home to belatedly celebrate his birth day which falls on 28th December. As he received medication for that emergency situation, other underlying complications triggered making it hard for the legendary fighter (who miraculously had pushed through the Covid years) to prevail. He was pronounced dead on the evening of Tuesday 2nd January 2024 and his burial is slated for Friday at his residence.
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