On Wednesday evening, long time friends, family and acquaintances of the late Bank of Uganda Governor Professor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile gathered at his Kololo home. They were meeting to commemorate the man who had led the central bank for 21 years and was the architect of Uganda’s current economy.
The crowd had a lot of familiar faces, former prime minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and his wife, Mzee Mathew Rukikaire, Ambassador Olara Otunnu, James Garuga Musinguzi , a host of government official officials including Deputy speaker Anita Among, chief whip Thomas Tayebwa and ministers Hamson Obua, Chris Baryomunsi and David Bahati.
The rest of the crowd consisted of close family and a team of the clergy from All Saints Church, Nakasero.
One speaker after another spoke about the Emmanuel Tumusiime they knew over the years.
Former Prime minister Dr Ruakana Rugunda spoke at length about a man he had known since his student days.
He recalled the Governor’s days as a student at Makerere University and the fierce campaign for the Guild leadership that pitted him against Elly Karuhanga.
He recalled how the campaigns were so fierce that it ended with a live debate televised on Uganda Television.
Mutebile would triumph in the polls , a development that put him in trouble with the State.
Mutebile’s popularity in student politics rubbed president Idd Amin the wrong way and he had to flee the country for safety.
Mutebile the son of Obote
Rugunda also recalled how former president Milton Obote would help them both get asylum and continue with their studies abroad. These opportunities shaped the careers of the men who would rise to become giants in the country.
Rugunda told the crowd that Mutebile refused to let political differences end friendships with people he knew intimately. This is why he remained close friends with another former guild presidential candidate and UPC party leader Ambassador Olara Otunnu.
He advised the young people to engage in politics of principle rather than hatred.
Mutebile the bold man
Rugunda recalled the approach they had to address the economic challenges of the Country after taking over power in 1986.
He said, “When we came here, the economy was bad and it started getting worse ,we were very hostile to the world bank and IMF and thought we would engage in barter trade with other countries to fix the gaps.”
Rugunda recalled how they rejected the plans to devalue the currency and signed agreements with countries like Yugoslavia to supply them with soya beans in exchange for roads in parts of the Country.
Mutebile, then the chief economist, disagreed with the approach of the revolutionaries and spelt out his own ideas on how the economy could be revived.
Rugunda admitted that he was shocked by Mutebile’s suggestions which seemed a betrayal of the ideals that had brought them to power.
Months down the road with the economy getting worse, they were forced to sit down again and reconsider the ideas Mutebile had mooted.
That, Rugunda said, was the turning point for the economy of the country.
Mutebile, the governor who knelt to greet Mama Miria Obote
Deputy speaker Anita Among attributed her first promotion to the late governor.
She said that while she was an intern at Centenary bank in Gulu, Mutebile happened to visit their branch to officially open it. He spent some time observing the staff and Among caught his eye.
After a few hours, he would call the bank bosses to inquire who the hard working young lady was.
To her surprise, Mutebile recommended to the bank managers that Among be given more responsibility. She was promoted from intern to a supervisor kickstarting her rise in the sector.
Much later in life, when she heard that former President Milton Obote’s wife Miria Obote was unwell, she decided to pay her a visit. She was accompanied by her son who is now a student at university.
While at Mama Miria’s home, she was shocked and humbled to observe the then governor Mutebile kneeling to greet Mama Miria.
“My son asked me why he was kneeling and I told him because he was brought up properly ,and to date my son kneels for everyone,” Among added.
She says Mutebile’s humility and incorruptible character made him her role model in the banking sector where she worked for 12 years.
Garuga, Mutebile’s best man
Businessman James Garuga Musunguzi spoke publicly about a friend who was close to him and held the values of honesty and integrity dear to his heart.
Garuga, who at some point was associated with the Forum for Democratic Change, remained Mutebile’s close friend despite his foray into opposition politics.
He thanked the wife Betty for being a good woman to all the friends of the Governor and for taking care of him.
Betty Mutebile speaks about her husband
The widow Betty spoke passionately about a man with whom she spent half her life with.
With a smile amidst the sorrow she recalled how a friend introduced her to the late governor and connected them.
She made the gathered mourners laugh when she said, “I was scared of Emmanuel because of his size and big hands and was scared he would hit me. But he would tell me that hitting me would mean he is hitting himself.”
The two would live together for a while before being wedded.
“My husband respected me so much that his family had no option but to fall in and give me equal respect,” the widow told mourners.
She spoke about his integrity and love for his family ,pointing out that even during the days when he would go to Kampala Club, he would be home by 8pm to have dinner with the family.
Top government official with opposition friends
Government chief whip Thomas Tayebwa narrated how he was linked to the Governor by vocal former Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerrard Karuhanga.
“You know what people in Government say about Karuhanga? He was one of the close friends of Mutebile” Tayebwa added.
He said Mutebile belonged to a class of leaders who because of their conduct earned respect from across the political divide.
Mutebile is like my elder Rugunda, Tayebwa added
He spoke about how in the heat of his contest with Anita Among for the Deputy speakership, the president called him eleven times and he refused to pick until Rugunda who he likened to Mutebile called him out and asked him to talk to the president.
He asked the surviving generation to be their mentors and speak to young people.
Mutebile the singer
His family and friends spoke about his love for the gospel song Amen Amen that they he even led at All Saints Church where he had a special seat.
Mutebile the governor
Bank of Uganda deputy Governor Dr Michael Atingo who spoke on behalf the central bank staff recalled how Mutebile would always call him Governor and had lunch every Sunday with him at his house.
He commended Betty Mutebile for ensuring that these lunches went smoothly during which he was asked to repeat the church sermon of the day to the governor. They would then pray for the central bank’s well being.
This Sunday ritual became a tradition that he confessed he would deeply miss.
The late Governor also had a Monday fellowship at his house that happened religiously and a priest from All Saints was assigned to minister to him and the family.