A classmate of the late Maj Naome Karungi has said that the country as a whole has lost a very valuable asset that can never be replaced.
Frank Kiherere Atukunda, who says he went to the same class as Uganda’s most senior female air force pilot, maintained that Maj Karungi’s joining the army was the least expected career path.
“I was with Karungi (Naomi) in the social sciences class at Makerere in 1997/98 entry. She was a very traditional Ankole girl with rolling eyes. Very innocent and passionate,” Atukunda, who is in Amsterdam told Nile Post on phone
“If someone had told me she (Karungi) would join the army, I would have beaten them. At no time did Naomi look like she was bound for the army. And when I saw her interview on NTV in military fatigues, I was very shocked,” he added.
Atukunda claims the deceased was so focused on social sciences and many thought she would break into a related career.
“Even by character she was people person who would discuss anything with anyone and that would make a good career person in social sciences, Naomi was so focused on social sciences that even when army recruitment was done at Staff canteen in 2001 while we were still at university, she did not even attempt to join,” he said.
However, Atukunda who himself is a critic of the government maintains that Maj Karungi’s death is a huge blow to the nation, and she should be mourned countrywide irrespective of “our political beliefs.
“She must be respected by everyone regardless of any beliefs, political or not. She should be celebrated by every Ugandan, she fought for that rank and she deserved it. We miss her so much and may her soul rest in peace, she is a very huge loss, it will take UPDF a very long time to replace her,” he concluded before breaking down.
To others who know her, Karungi is described as almost ‘faultless” and a staunch born again Christian whose best weapon was prayer.
The Kiruhura born, airforce pilot had been flying the Jet Ranger for the last 14 years, having passed out at Soroti flying school with qualification to fly fixed-winged aircraft.
In an Interview with NTV last year, Karungi claimed she joined the army after finishing university and after their training in the military “the rest is history’.
Tribute from close friend David Rupiny
I mourn Naomi Karungi: In the early 2000s, Naomi, Nicholas Kumiraand I hustled to eke out a living at a small firm, Marketing Information Systems, at Blacklines House in central Kampala. At that time, I was also a teaching assistant in the then Institute of Languages at Makerere University, as well as with Radio Paidha.
The firm was owned by a savvy businessman, a one Martin. The firm’s major stock-in-trade was billboard advertising, but somehow it landed a deal to publish the City News, a newsletter of then Kampala City Council (KCC). My cousin Nicholas, who had links with MIS, recommended me as Editor of the newsletter; and I worked with Naomi. I must confess the firm treated us well, albeit the small pay. We were a two-person editorial team.
We combed KCC, did many stories and published many editions of City News. That was the era of late Mayor Sebaana Kizito. Naomi, I gathered, came from a humble background. A graduate of Makerere, and coming from the West, Naomi lacked having airs. She was so down-to-earth, somehow rhyming with my own personality, and sooner we were so cordial and friendly.
I learnt a lot from her, in as much as she also learnt from me. We worked diligently and shared many stories. Naomi spoke of her struggles, especially after the loss of her brother, a soldier, also the family’s breadwinner.
Naomi was sociable, almost to a fault. Naomi was brilliant, par excellence. When we parted ways for different passions, we sort of knew our whereabouts, with Nicholas usually the link. When she joined the army we were so delighted. When I met her at the poolside of the Imperial Hotel (our last meeting), we talked, literally for hours, going back in time. Naomi was elegant, always wearing a smile. You simply needed to see her in her military or pilot fatigue, to appreciate her. There are individuals, but there was Naomi.
When news of the crash started trickling in, involving a female pilot and her male counterpart, my mind rushed to Naomi; I hoped against hope. I basically went offline, only for Nicholas to break the sad news. Fare thee well, Naomi.
Karungi was never married and has no children.