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OBITUARY: The last cartoon – Balagadde (1973-2016)

 Illustrator Moses ‘Mozeh’ Balagadde dies (1973-2016)

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The last cartoon that Moses Balagadde drew for The Independent magazine showed the embattled former commander of Kampala Central Police Station, ASP Aaron Baguma who is accused of complicity in a murder, contemplating his fate in the High Court. Baguma’s case has attracted attention because he initially defied court and the highest offices in the land had to intervene to `convince him’ to avail himself to face justice. Even when he was remanded, he is reported to have been given VIP treatment in prison.

It was the kind of story that was cut-out to upset Mozeh, as he was fondly called by his newsroom colleagues. The only thing that seemed to anger Mozeh was any injustice. He loathed injustice and treasured honesty, integrity, and neat orderliness. That attitude is what oozed from his cartoons. For the generally quiet gentleman that he was, it was as if each stroke of his artistic pencil was equal to a thousand lashes against any oppressor, corrupt official or arrogant boss.

So he drew a forlorn-looking Baguma, bent-over, with hand-cuffed arms behind his back and standing just outside the High Court door.

“Will they offer me VIP treatment like it is in Kigo Prison?” the mighty Baguma asks himself with trepidation.

Mozeh drew that cartoon, and another, on Monday Sept.05. Five days later, on Sunday Sept.11, he was dead.

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Many who knew Mozeh are not surprised that he died the way did – abruptly, after falling ill briefly. He was a brave man.

One of the most trying moments in our professional dealing was probably in early 2015. At the time he had just been diagnosed with some form of heart disease. He said the doctors at Mulago National referral Hospital had recommended a pace-maker for his enfeebled heart. At the time, chemotherapy ensured that the hair peeled of his head and his skin turned yellow. His small frame grew even smaller.

Not so his deep tenor voice nor his anger at injustice. He continued sketching hard-hitting cartoons. Fortunately, the diagnosis was later found to have been wrong. Mozeh was put off drugs, his jet black hair grew back, his skin regained its chocolate brown lustre, and his smile grew wider – until he died. Abruptly.

Death must come to all, but there are those that await its sting in fear. Not so Mozeh. The way he handled his illness revealed that. Even when he looked physically worn-out, with his tiny frame wracked by disease, he continued to work feverishly with a smile dancing on the edge of his lips. He loved his family, possibly especially his daughter, whom he often came with to the office.

Mozeh was born in 1973 to Mzee Asaph Kyobe and Rev. Beatrice Kyobe of Kiwula village in present day Sembabule district. He went to Lugazi West primary school before moving to Nkoyoyo Boarding Matale where he sat for his PLE.

After primary he joined St. Henry`s College Kitovu for his ‘O’ level from where he went to Namilyango College for his ‘A’ level. After Namilyango, he was admitted to the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art at Makerere University in Kampala. He graduated with a bachelor`s degree.

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Mozeh has for the last nine years working as a free-lance cartoonist for The Independent News Magazine. He lost the health battle to a yet undisclosed ailment while at Bugolobi Medical Centre where he had been taken for treatment.

Many remember Mozeh as a simple, quiet and down to earth person who never antagonized anyone. It is his cartoons that often rubbed the powers that be the wrong way.

Ronald Musoke an award winning writer at The Independent says Page 3 of the magazine was his favourite because that is where Mozeh’s cartoons always are.

“Every time I open The Independent, I know where to start from: Page 3, because of Moses’ insightful cartoons. He was quite an experienced and discerning illustrator who consistently showed readers the lies, ironies and the cynical side of our political leaders. I will miss his cartoons for sure.”

Ronnie Kahuma, an artist and graphics designer at The Independent worked very closely with Mozeh. He says he loved Mozeh’s cartoons even before he joined The Independent.

“I had fallen in love with Mozey’s work and it was always my favorite page in the magazine though I never knew him personally then. On meeting him as a colleague, it became quite clear that he was both a creative and hardworking man. His untimely death was a shock because we had just talked on Tuesday and he seemed okay. I have lost a friend who was professional and very hard working.”

Peter Nyanzi the Business Editor at The Independent News magazine described Mozeh’s seemingly effortless sill.

“Seeing Moses work almost effortlessly with his pencil from a blank page to a newsworthy illustration or cartoon was always a joy. In a trade that only a lucky few can engage in, Moses exhibited an irreverent emotional approach to society in general and politics in particular. His works, almost numinous, appealed to both the aesthetic and intellectual senses of the individual.”

“Every one of the cartoons that came from Moses’ pencil was loaded with humorous sarcasm, irony and wit. No one would see his cartoons and remain unaffected.  Yet, he managed to toe the thin line between libel and fair comment in his cartooning work in a marvelous way, as editors rarely, if ever, had to worry about facing charges of defamation because of a sloppy cartoon.  Indeed, his legacy to journalism, art and communication will outlive him.  His immense talent, skill and wit will be greatly missed.”

Mozeh is survived by a wife and two children.

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editor@independent.co.ug

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