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The living history of Bob Kasango

Bob Kasango. PHOTO URN

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | On Saturday night, my best friend and brother, Robert Aldridge Kasango, died in Murchison Bay Hospital inside Luzira Prison. The cause of death was heart failure! He was only 46 years. Bob didn’t have to die at this early age and in the way he did – alone and lonely, away from the care of his family and friends or competent doctors, in a prison hospital not equipped to handle his condition.

At Murchison Bay, he had no access to the medical attention he needed. Why? Because our judicial system denied Bob access to all reasonable medical care. First the prosecution bitterly protested his application to go abroad for heart surgery in spite of specialist doctors recommending it as urgent and critical. Then one day the judge arbitrarily cancelled his bail and later convicted him. Court rejected bail pending his appeal, so he could access a better-equipped hospital and competent doctors able to handle his complicated condition and also be cared for by his family.

In a country where people accused of murder, robbery, treason, defilement and terrorism regularly get bail I found the treatment of Bob depressing but also illuminating. It suggested that there was an invisible power pulling strings from behind. We may never know who this power was. What we know is that Bob did not just die. He was killed by a perverted system where judicial power was not used judiciously and in some cases actually abused.

But this is not the time and place to indulge in quarrels and recriminations. It is the time to celebrate the life of this great man, to give testimony to this victor in a thousand battles: beaten but unbowed, down but not out, jailed but not destroyed, fought but not defeated, frustrated but never depressed, always imitated but never equaled and even when killed his memory will continue in the lives he touched.

As Amilcar Cabral said at the funeral of Kwame Nkrumah, quoting an old African saying, “No man’s hand, however big, can be used to cover the sky.” No amount of bad press, however vitriolic, could hide Bob’s generosity to friends, kindness to fellow human beings, legal excellence, intellectual acumen and good humour. But died frustrated but fulfilled. He knew his weaknesses and mistakes, and with time he would have corrected them. He and an enduring faith in repentance and redemption

I met Bob in 1992 during a school debate when we were both teenagers and became instant friends. It was like love at first sight – within one minute of our meeting we were hooked. People who knew us thought that we would be friends – if we met. It could only be that way because Bob embodied many attributes which made him magnetic: handsome, intelligent, articulate, jovial, humorous, witty, name it. It became a lifelong long union. And now he is gone, yet still young with so much he could offer.

Across the years, Bob and I spent a lot of time together, read books together, debated together, attended conferences together, did business together, travelled locally and internationally together, dined and wined together, struggled together, celebrated together, lent each other money, spent time at each other’s home, we became twins. My first date with Fifi, the love of my life, was in hospital on Bob’s side. His wife Nice brought us the dinner there.

Then misfortune struck. The state accused Bob of theft of Shs 15.3 billion. The money belonged to pensioners and had been properly appropriated and paid to his law firm. The pensioners testified that Bob had served his role to their satisfaction. The Shs 15.3 billion was what they agreed to pay him. The state had no right to complain. The case was pursued with relentless tenacity. Finally in a judgment that will live in infamy Bob was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

I visited Bob regularly in Luzira, almost every weekend, especially before COVID. When COVID struck, prisons were set off limits and visitations stopped. But because of his sickness and the kindness of prison authorities, I was allowed to visit him twice this year. Prison is a horrible place: it separates inmates from family and friends. Its confining walls can suffocate even the most resilient, making them sad, depressed, resigned and despondent.

But Bob was a resilient man and tenacious fighter blessed with a competitive spirit. Adversity always seemed to bring the best out of him. Thus in Luzira, he preserved his optimism, his good humour, confident tone, kind heart and generous spirit. Each time I visited, I took him books to read, friends to share experiences with. He was always jovial and conducted himself as it he was on a short leave. (turn to page 2-CLICK)

15 comments

  1. Great article! Very thoughtful, and with many lessons to learn, one around the complications of life and the need to avoid simplistic and irrelevant opinions.
    RIP

  2. Andrew, is it because Kasango was close to that you feel he should have been exonerated, he cheated Best Kemigisha, he cheated his fellow Counsel M/s Matovu, he sold a woman’s house in Kololo to 2 people and ate the money (80,000 and 395,000 dollars) in fact Kasango should not have received that very money he was accused of stealing, it belonged to his colleague Matovu. RIp!

    • Bless Byamugisha

      Thx you sir.Bob was aprofessional thief.it was may be the curses of pensioners whose money he stole that led to his death.and some times I don’t know why mwenda sympathises with the wicked.the likes of kanyamunyu, chandi jamwa and now kasango

  3. So sad. I feel for you Andrew Mwenda for having lost a close friend. I’ve friendships which I consider more brotherly than relatives. So, I grieve with you. That said, it should be within yourself to take a reflection on how you choose your commentary.
    Had Bob Kasango not been a close pal, Andrew would be up in arms with all the artillery of condemnation. Suppose it were Besigye or Kyangulanyi who had died in Luzira, I am 99% sure that the comments would be hailing the prison warders for having tried and a great detail on how the government has tried to streamline the litigation process. Mwenda, a system that marginalises one person is bound to mistreat you at a certain point in other words, it doesn’t work for anyone. The moment our elite and politically connected group realises that, we shall be in a better place. For now, if Bob served his purpose, his purpose must have served him well.

  4. What a brother in you Andrew!!!
    This is surely the best way to Eulogize a friend whom you have climbed mountains together.
    For whichever went wrong God Pardon Bob, as we all know mistakes are to a Man and vise verser.
    You Article has a lot to learn.
    Lets always do good to those around us, we will always be remembered more for our kindness than any level of success one could attain.
    MHSRIP

  5. Godfrey kambere

    Sad and unfortunate to lose a brother yet much as the name Kasango is held in great awe by most of us mere mortals, his death in goal has exposed everything that can go wrong I a fragile democracy like ours. Alongside great names like Binaisa, Ayiguhugu,Rukutana,
    Kanyeihamba, Kabega,Bakizaand many others,you predicted the outcome of any case by reading their side. Unfortunately for democracy and the legal profession in particular,lawyers are viewed with so much mistrust that most times it is the paymaster not justice that determines an outcome. One could fault the media but the noble causes he and the legal fraternity have championed are very few. Unfortunately most of these names hail from one side of our country .Now like most of the people near me looked un concerned at my shock when a tired news reader aired it on our local radio deep in my village do others say another thief is gone? RIp

  6. May the soul of the deceased rest in eternal peace

    It is a relief to read an article that is clear

    Even in grief there is this “so he could access a better-equipped hospital and competent doctors able to handle his complicated condition ”

    It is competent doctors who can determine, this case is beyond my ability or the facilities available
    they are also ethical, please give merit where it is due; earlier on you called them specialists

    when some thing happens, you identify the underlying problems and put corrective measures in place to ensure it does not happen again

    You occasionally get the ear of those with might

    It is the prayer of citizens in this country that they w ill not red another sad story of this nature [ I refrain from judging the deceased]

    Knowing of a medical worker who attended to patients with tuberculosis from 1956 to 1983, and all he got was preliminary benefit worth a pair of Bata shoes!

    I can only meditate

  7. Andrew, we don’t often agree on much but your tribute brought tears to my eyes. You are right; Kasango never deserved to die in prison this kind of death when many people who have done similar deeds and worse are walking around free. I knew Bob a bit and the little interaction I had with him left quite an impression. In a country like Uganda where every body have myriads of crimes starting from the top, someone like Kasango with such intellect who is not a murderer should be give the benefit of doubt and a second chance.

    • No way!!!

      ” In a country like Uganda where every body have myriads of crimes starting from the top ”

      The majority of Ugandans are overwhelmed about crime in this country, some actually wish for a

      system to bring the culprits to book

      BUT
      This has nothing to do with the deceased, he was sick

      “UN convention against torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”. Furthermore Art. 3 of the “European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”

      The jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights clarifies the content of this article and makes it clear that the lack of adequate medical treatment for people under arrest is considered degrading treatment.

      I am not a lawyer

      what do the laws in this enclave say?

  8. I once visited Bob at his chambers at workers house..i met a gentleman very friendly and free.
    When i heard of his imprisonment i knew vividly that he would coult shortly like many have.we re all meant to die but i hate and im bitter when demise is facilitated..this inhumane.Rip Bob

  9. People die but Bob died 3 times;i.e In Pain,with a ruined repetition and with confusion as he is being buried.Just imagine as mourners were still singing Till we meet again…..the Japs were busy strategizing how to waylay the casket and the driver of the truck that stole the body was a NUP supporter.

    Andrew was so smart during Bob’s Funeral service you would think he was attending a funeral service of a British Royal;why dont Ugandans wear hand hand gloves and hats during funerals?

    Lessons from Kasango’s Life and Death
    1.Its good to have good friends thats what kept Bob strong.
    2.In London; there are ” Magic circles” for law firms i.e those that provide the best legal services. For Uganda’s standard Bob belonged to the Magic circle of Lawyers.
    3.If you are a Lawyer of Bob’s caliber its always better to carry out you work with truth and honesty;When Andrew talks of an invisible hand determining how Bob should be treated in prison this simply means he had wronged some people and they were happy to see him rot in jail.
    4.The issue of inferiority complex has become an issue in Uganda.When Luo men land in Buganda;they always think that the Bantu are so superior in that some even drop them names and abandon their next of Kin what causes this? The Baganda are very good at bullying and traumatizing the Luo in that some feel they are not good enough.I am told even Ofwono Opondo’s wife is a Muganda.
    5.Most of Andrew’s friends are Japs for example; Jamwa,Obbo Charles,Adhola even Japs like Ejakaait and Rajab are dying to befriend him.

    • “the Japs were busy strategizing how to waylay the casket and the driver of the truck that stole the body was a NUP supporter.”

      The Japs only took their child’s body but did not steal.

  10. Lesson 4:
    When the late Hon Nyombi was being discussed on TV, Mr. Ofwono Oppndo said his wife comes from Nakasongola (sorry sir if I got you wrong)

    It is sad when one gets lost in script, it is only when people like you, that they give you their clan names, they have accepted you

    Please add the one who destroyed Ndeeba church on the list. again one person who knows him very well (story came out in Bukedde), said Dodo comes from West Nile

    Yes, have you ever heard of a Muganda who let a Luo step on his shoulders to jump over a wall and escape during Amin’s time?

    There was a presidential guard(high ranking-from Lira) who took cover at his spouse’s residence [ a munyoro who worked in the same high office] around January 26th, 1986; for many days; he spent the day in a bathroom/corridoor
    On daily basis, a useless muganda woman looked into his eyes, she did not see a Luo but a human being, if he thought she did not know him, it was not true-she did, but she let him be. If he is still alive, lt is her pleasure

    In this unfortunate scenario the baganda seem to be insignificant, the Ojames may be progressive

  11. Thank you Andrew for this piece. It broke my heart but also restored my faith in the good inherent in all men. The press painted a dark image of Kasango & yet deep in him we now know was a man good & humane. May God judge his soul with mercy. Rest in peace!
    Obscure me

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