Boston Memorial | A Tribute to a Departed Dear Brother — Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi By Balam Luswata Namugera
By Balam Luswata Namugera — Let me first of all take the opportunity to express our gratitude as a family to the central government of Uganda and to Ssaabasajja Kabaka of Buganda for the great support they gave to us during the funeral for our family leader and patriarch the late Hon. J.S. Mayanja-Nkangi. The funeral attended by dignitaries of both governments included Vice President of Uganda, Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and the Katikkiro of Buganda, Owekiitibwa Charles Peter Mayiga and was conducted in a manner befitting a national hero and it made us proud as a family. Our small village of Kannyogoga became the focal point for everyone who knew my brother and every villager felt proud to hail from the same village as the great son Mayanja-Nkangi.
Observing all protocol here in Boston, again we acknowledge and appreciate the presence of the Kabaka’s representative in New England led by Omulongo Kato Kajubi, his deputy and Gwanga Mujje executive in helping us organize this memorial service in conjunction with Pastor Samuel Mutyaba and the leadership of New Life International Christian Center. Thank you so much for the love and affection to us in this time of bereavement. All pastors and everyone in attendance of this event, we value your time and effort to be here–it is of tremendous encouragement to the family.
Celebrating the Life of My dear brother
I first met Jehoash Sibakyalwayo Mayanja-Nkangi in 1959 when I was 5 and he was arriving back from Oxford University after graduating with a Masters in Economics and as a barrister at law. My father called him ‘Koyaasi’ shortened for Yekoyaasi–the Luganda version of Jehoash, which many people, including the media, mistook for ‘Joash’. He corrected this mistake with the media several times but gave up as they repeatedly wrote ‘Joash’, so to this day only the family and close friends, know his true first name. So I heard my father say “Koyaasi yafunye ddiguli” (“Koyaasi graduated with a degree”) and as a young mind I wanted to know and see exactly what was this intriguing achievement. My parents had gone to Entebbe Airport and had traveled in Gatamba’s green Peugeot 403 special hire to receive and bring back the graduate who had been abroad for a whole five years. The village was all excitement and drums with hired dancers as we waited for the arrival of Koyaasi the graduate.
With no mobile phones back then we had to keep gazing and tuning our ears for the sound of a car engine which after a while arrived with pomp, jubilation and ululations that had awaited the guest from a mile away with decorative banana leaves. It was already dark but everybody was stretching their necks in the crowd to have a glimpse of this heroic figure. With my small size I had to wait until the guest was seated and for the first time I saw my brother Koyaasi with a strange cap on his head–he had been the first university graduate in the entire district of Masaka! At the graduation party he looked like a Muvabulaaya (westerner style) attire with his Afro hairstyle that was unique and a handsome moustache. I tried to emulate him and ended up wearing a moustache too when I grew up.
After settling in Kampala as a law practitioner I saw him come home with a newly purchased British car–a DKW driven by his friend Kabali-Kaggwa, and I remember him introducing it to his father and the family. We all congratulated him for this was the first automobile to be owned by a family member and of course we went for a drive. When the struggle for independence in the early 60s was on, my brother’s name was no longer just Koyaasi Mayanja, but started appearing in newspapers like Uganda Eyogera, Taifa Empya, Munno and others (which my father commonly read) as J.S. Mayanja-Nkangi (for he had added to his name Nkangi the name of our great grandfather).
I remember my father asking him, “Did you change your name”? Then he answered, “I like that name of our great-grandfather”. My father simply said, “Kale, oba olyagala kirungi “, meaning “Fine, if you like it it’s ok”. And they went on discussing the political stuff that I couldn’t follow as a little boy but I continued to follow him for his progressive lifestyle. He was now commonly appearing in the newspapers in the political arena and I later learned that he had formed a political party: Uganda United Party, with his friend Apollo Kironde, who would later lead the party. His contemporaries like Amos Sempa, Abu Mayanja, Ben Kiwanuka, Grace Ibingira were in the political limelight as the educated elite of that time who challenged the British colonial rule and strived for independence. Most of them were young lawyers educated in England and understood the British system–its strengths and weaknesses.
By independence in 1962, my brother was one of those. Apollo Milton Obote, the new Prime Minister, appointed him as a minister without portfolio and later of Commerce & Industry when the UPC/KY alliance won the elections for the first independence government. As a little boy I enjoyed seeing him come home with police guards and an official government car with the plate MINISTER. I used to enjoy seeing newsmen around him and reading the newspapers where stories about him and pictures appeared.
The 1964 Mengo Crisis
When the crisis in Mengo regarding the lost counties arose, the UPC/KY alliance fell apart because the Baganda were unhappy and suspicious with the way Obote was handling the Kingdom matters. The failure of the then Katikkiro of Buganda, Michael Kintu, to stop the loss of the counties to Bunyoro resulted in a vote of no confidence from the Mengo Lukiiko. My brother was a smart lawyer, politician and highly British-educated Muganda that was believed by the Baganda to handle the thorny political and legal issues that were between them and the central government. My brother told us, someone within Mengo asked him to stand for the position of Katikkiro which was now vacant. Mayanja-Nkangi declined for he believed not only was he too young for the position, but he had neither been close to the Kabaka nor been in the Mengo political or bureaucratic circles. However, he had gained much popularity, especially when Prime Minister Obote had sacked him as minister along with fellow Baganda ministers like Sempa, allegedly for undermining him in a KY political rally which had castigated Obote for treachery of the Baganda.
Actually my brother had been out of the country on state duties and had not even attended said rally. Stronger candidates like Masembe-Kabali a son of Kabaka’s chief Kabali who was a treasurer, began campaigning for the position of Katikkiro. My brother did not bother to campaign because he felt he stood no chance against those powerful men who were already in the system of Mengo. However, he reluctantly accepted to stand as many people supported and rallied behind him. I remember as a little boy reading for my father the Taifa Empya newspaper indicating the progress in the race for Katikkiroship. My brother was leading and finally, he won the elections, beating out Masembe-Kabali. Little did he know that Masembe-Kabali was later to become his in-law since Ruth Nakiggwe Nsubuga, the girl my brother was to marry later in exile in London, was Masembe-Kabali’s niece.
Jubilation again filled our small village Kannyogoga and many people came to congratulate my father on his son winning the highest political office in Buganda and I remeber was going to Mengo Butikkiro, the official residence of the Katikkiro, to wait for him to receive the Damula (governing scepter) from the Kabaka Edward Mutesa II. The tradition is that after receiving the Damula, the Katikkiro-elect must securely run off with it and must be surrounded by strong men to do so, for if he ever loses it to contenders he loses the position of Katikkiro too.
I saw the ceremony myself and witnessed the scuffle for the Damula. Had it not been our in-law, the late Kopoliano Kintu Serubambula who was a muscular guy and an ex-serviceman, holding both my brother and the Damula and pushing away anyone coming closer, Mayanja-Nkangi may not have been strong enough to hold the Damula up to Butikkiro . The next ceremony was the banquet the Katikkiro threw and we ate our fill. From then on, the fame of my brother Mayanja-Nkangi excelled and I continued to be his fan and follower. However, his Kaikkiroship was short-lived when the Mengo and central government conflict grew deeper and the central government special force police attacked the Kabaka’s palace and ousted him, forcing him to go into exile and followed by brother who also had to flee to London in 1966.
The period that followed was one of suffering for our family, for we had to run away from home since my father was also being hunted. Supporters of the Kabaka in our area were being killed and I remember taking my two smaller sisters to our grandparents’ home at Kabungo as my mother instructed. Then, without warning, shootings in the neighborhood of Kiwaawo started. I was quite scared and hid with the kids under a bushy coffee tree by the path. Our father had already gone into hiding and we did not even know where my mother was. I was told to go to another relative nearby after delivering my small sisters–Nanziri and Namyalo.
Fear gripped us as a family and one night in 1967 under a heavy rain shower, I was awakened by heavy boot steps around my bed. I saw an armed policeman checking every corner of our bedroom and my mother was seated in the living room under guard. I later learned that my father was questioned in the heavy rain at the matooke plantation and was asked where he had hidden Mayanja-Nkangi. My Auntie Esther denied that my father was her brother when the armed guys interrogated her.
Finally, my brother stayed in exile in England where he struggled but later secured a job as a lecturer in Lancaster University. While in England he met Ruth Nakiggwe Nsubuga and married her in 1968. I learned of that by reading it in the newspapers and continued to follow Mayanja-Nkangi.
When eventually he returned from exile in 1972 after the military takeover by Idi Amin, I was in O-level in Kampala and he now started living with his family at Bulange village. I got the opportunity to know him more now that I was part of his family. I admired his wisdom, love and commitment to his people–Buganda and Uganda at large. I never felt so proud in my life as being brother to Jehoash Sibakyalwayo Mayanja-Nkangi. Rest in eternal peace my brother, father, mentor and friend. I had promised him a biography and I will write it in his honor some day.
Balam Nkangi Namugera Luswata
The author is a younger brother to the Late Jehoash Mayanja-Nkangi. He worked in Ugandan Airlines before relocating here in the USA. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
EMAIL — email@example.com
Photography and Edits by Ronnie Mayanja.