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Tribute to my muyaye friend Kato Lubwama

TRIBUTE | ALDRINE NSUBUGA SNR | We all knew him, or many think they did. The comedian turned politician towards whom opinions were as varied as the hairs on one’s head. Truth is, the late Kato Lubwama Paul, knew himself differently; “Nze ndi muyaye wa ku Martin Rd” he repeatedly told me through the years. A contemporary right from university days with whom we cracked a code.He lured me to theater, made me fall in love with katemba and it became my second favourite pass time after football.

In Bat Valley theater, he introduced me to his buddies John Segawa and Abbey Mukiibi, who became my life long friends. Their group ‘Afri Talent’ was for me, synonymous with katemba. Kato and I, took our children to Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary school and the banter we used to have whenever we bumped into each other during pick ups sucked in the pupils and teachers as well, sometimes. It was hilarious.

Through the years till his death, Kato kept in close proximity. Even as an MP, he would frequently pass by my office to show off his sleek suits and once inside where staff could see him he would laugh and whisper to me; “kati laba bano abasiru tebamanyi nti nze ndi muyaye wa ku Martin rd balowooza onalebo yayingiddewo. Nze ndi mu kweyiiya gwe antegera.” We would both burst out into laughter. Once he visited me in Nairobi and while eating out at a restaurant he asked me ” Naye obuyaye bwange sibufunye mu mwe abolugezigezi abe Budo mwe mufuna mu”

And that is my summary of the man. To him, life was a continuous scene in a stage play, where he saw himself and others as actors. Everything he did was an act. A role picked out from.a script. If you ever believed anything he said in public, I feel sorry for you. Kato said things for the listener or viewer not for himself. The insults, abuses and attacks he made to anyone in public were all an act. If he thought it would tickle your humour senses, he said it. The only time he took life seriously was behind the scenes; in his relationships, businesses and acting profession. There he had real friends and real enemies. There he made real mistakes and he paid for them. People loved him and they took him to parliament because to them, he was real. When he said he wanted to go to parliament and ‘also eat’ he meant it. And so he went and ate. Legislating was never on his agenda – no lies.

I am loyal to my friends. In this moment, when the nation is still dealing with the shock of Kato’s passing, I get a feeling things will be said away from the cameras about him, which are only suppositions. Kato had a controversial character and some people couldn’t stand his abrasive side. But with Kato, what you saw is what you got. He was never a pretender. He would tell you if he hated you or didn’t like you and he didn’t care whether you liked him or not. All he cared about was his opinion because he approached life as a muyaye. It’s who he was.

Yet, behind the rogue like character; cynical and controversial, was a shy man who struggled to deal with his fears. He was lovable and likeable. He chose his friends. Professionally he was selfless. Spotting talent, helping to nurture it and giving it a platform to prosper. He coached, trained and inspired. He built many theater and music stars. His dream was to own the art industry if he could. His uniqueness as an artist was that he was an all rounder; scripting, producing, directing, acting, promoting both in drama and music. He.had an eye for talent too.

The final years of his life presented him more as a social commentator and actor. What the public didn’t know;, his pro-activeness on social media (tiktok, facebook) which he used to hate with a passion before, was an outcry for attention. He believed that Uganda hadn’t appreciated him enough for his unique contribution to the growth and development of the art industry. He was afraid of disappearing into oblivion or stay in the shadows of the new generation artists whose styles had shot them to fame and riches. He felt that it was his generation that set the platform for the new and it deserved better. He needed a platform to constantly remind them but also caution them not to be overtaken by their celebrity. Through his criticisms, he wanted them to keep their feet on the ground in order to protect the industry he belonged. Art was his life.

Whatever will be said about him, I will remember my friend who never stopped to look out for me just to make me laugh. He said all the silly things to me especially as he believed I am too ‘corporate’ to manage Uganda which needs ‘abayaye’ to survive. I loved him for being true to himself and his beliefs. He lived as a muyaye, talked as a muyaye, ate like a muyaye, dressed like a muyaye. The muyaye from Martin Rd wanted to be remembered as the charcoal selling boy who lived in the backstreets but rose to take on the privileged society in Kololo and Muyenga. Kato – I am telling them now, what you always told me; that you are a muyaye. Thank you for the fun years. Rest well muyaye wange. For you, I will do something about my ‘ lugezigezi lwa be Budo’ I will never be a muyaye – am a Budonian – but I will always try to understand them. For you. RIP


Aldrine Nsubuga Snr is a veteran writer, marketeer and sportsman. The above tribute was posted on Facebook.

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