Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Cabinet Secretary and Head of Public Service Lucy Nakyobe Mbonye has disclosed that her husband forgave his tormentors at the Ministry of Health where he served as Director of Medical Services.
Nakyobe told mourners at Professor Anthony Mbonye’s vigil that she blames the infighting at the Health Ministry as the trigger that started off the illness that has finally killed her husband.
Nevertheless, the late Prof Anthony Kabanza Mbonye did most of his literary work during his four years battle with cancer according to family and friends. Two years ago, he wrote a tell-it-all book about the fights in the ministry but abruptly withdrew it from circulation before many copies had been sold.
Prof Mbonye breathed his last yesterday morning. According to the wife of the deceased Lucy Nakyobe, Mbonye has been battling with peritoneal cancer.
Prof Mbonye who at the time of his death was teaching at Makerere University as a Professor of Medicine, has been described as hard-working, loyal and one of the country’s most ethical public servants. People who have studied and worked with him say his zeal to make the county’s health sector better is unmatched.
Joshua Musinguzi, the programme manager of the AIDS Control programme and also a personal friend who studied with Mbonye at Makerere University described the deceased as someone who worked through his illness.
Musinguzi says even when Mbonye was abroad seeking treatment, he would find time to chair Zoom meetings.
Prof Mbonye’s successor at the ministry of health as the director-general and also a former classmate, Dr Henry Mwebesa described Mbonye as someone who was dedicated to his work and bettering the health sector.
Mwebesa says even during the last two years of his life, when Mbonye was in and out of hospital, he followed the ministry of health’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mwebesa, Prof Mbonye questioned whether the current health ministry leadership was properly handling the pandemic.
Prof Mbonye was one of the county’s most published medical authors. He authored or co-authored over 200 papers that were published and peer-reviewed in different fields of health like public health, reproductive health, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
One of his most popular literary works was a book, ‘Uganda’s Health Sector Through Turbulent Politics, 1958-2008,’. In the book, Mbonye exposed how politicking had ruined the health sector. He highlighted the challenges faced in management, the most glaring being the promotion of inexperienced junior staff to senior positions.
Nyakyobe says that her husband didn’t let cancer wear him down. She says after his retirement from the health ministry, he spent most of his time writing papers.
Described as an academic at heart, with his nose always in a book or medical journal, Mbonye studied his secondary education at Ntare School before joining Makerere University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine, Surgery in 1986.
After graduating from Makerere University in 1986, he worked as a teaching assistant in the department of pharmacology. He later worked as a doctor at Entebbe Grade B hospital before he was promoted to the rank of senior medical officer.
In 2002, he began working at the ministry of health as an Assistant Commissioner of health services in the department of community health. Mbonye later served as a commissioner of health services before he was promoted to serve as the director in charge of clinical and community health after which he joined top management and served as the director-general of health services.
Mbonye retired from the ministry of health in 2017 following a lot of what was reported as in-fighting before he was diagnosed with gastric cancer in the same year.
Nakyobe says, they believe Mbonye’s health complications begun from the many public woes her husband suffered at the ministry of health which precipitated stress and ulcers that later developed into the killer condition that has claimed his life.
According to Nakyobe, at the time of his death, Mbonye’s physical appearance had severely deteriorated.
“He was no longer the man we knew. His body had all gone. He was like a skeleton,” she said.
Following his gastric cancer diagnosis, Mbonye underwent surgery and chemotherapy to remove all the cancerous cells in his body. The treatment was successful and he was later declared cancer-free for more than a year before he was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer in June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his cancer battle, Mbonye received care from different hospitals in Kenya, German, Israel and Dubai. By the time of his death, Mbonye has been receiving treatment at the Uganda Cancer Institute under the care of Dr Fred Okuku.
During his career at the ministry of health, Mbonye received many accolades for his work.
Between 2002 and 2008 when he served as an assistant commissioner, he was ranked number 23 among the most important Ugandans in the country by Daily Monitor for demonstrating leadership in promoting maternal health and research.
In 2011, he was ranked as the best health worker in Uganda for his leadership in fighting the Ebola epidemic and Yellow fever.
In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Independence Jubilee Medal by the government for his work in promoting maternal health and controlling Ebola.
During his career, Mbonye accumulated a number of education awards. In 1994, he graduated with a Masters in Public Health from the University of London and a Masters Degree in Demography from Makerere University in 1995.
He later went on to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in 2006 where he focused on malaria in pregnancy. In 2017, he was awarded as a Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians degree in Public Health from the Royal College of Physicians in the U.K.
Nakyobe says by the time of his death, Mbonye had suffered so much and was willing to die. She says he was content with the life that he had lived.
Mbonye is survived by his mother and wife, four children and two grandchildren. He will be laid to rest on Tuesday in Rwenkoowa, Ibanda district.