Tribute to my Mother
Excerpt from my new book: Making 35.  

Allen Kabigabwa alongside her colleagues being honored for her service at Uganda Revenue Authority End of Year Party 2017. 

I have read about saints in the Holy Bible, I have read about Mary the mother of Jesus, but I have seen and beheld a saint and she is my mother.

Now, everywhere you go, people are fond of their mothers, it’s a natural phenomenon, they carry us in their wombs, they nurse us, they love us beyond love itself and yet I have not found the words to describe what she truly represents in my life, she surpasses them all.

There was a time as you will read in 2017, I was 34 Years of age, I prayed to God earnestly to answer my prayer over an issue, and I had no idea that my own mother would be the answer. My faith wavered, I couldn’t take the step that I ought to have taken, I pleaded with God, I needed a bridge to cross over. Amidst the struggle God answered, and answered through her. For this particular scenario, I confirmed that she is a saint of God and she doesn’t even know it. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is my mother, it has everything to do with the fact that God used Her. But even then, she is the true definition of selflessness.

Allen K Mujuni made 56 years of age on 7th January 2018, in a big polygamous family, her mother had one boy and a number of sisters, then, educating girls was not a priority, but my grandfather stood his ground and took her to school and she did not disappoint, often paying her tuition with bride price for her sister’s early marriages, born two days before my own birthday. By the time I could tell what was going on around me, I must have been 3 or 4 years, she was the hardworking. By then, we were settled around Ibanda town, my father had some of his kinsmen in the same village. Am told he settled his young wife there because his military assignments would take him from town to town and it was no longer necessary for her to stay in the capital Kampala, moving the family about wasn’t ideal either.

As young as I was, I remember her keeping her composure when the then Government Army come to our house at night, our father was in the Army and yet the Rebels led by Museveni had taken power, they would come at night and surround our house in large numbers, maybe a truck load or so, they would search everywhere turning everything upside down, and would carry off whatever they wanted, on one occasion I had to pretend to be asleep when one of them lay a machine gun near my head in my small bed. I can remember it as if it were yesterday and yet I was just a kid. Our father was in and out of prison being that he was part of the former Army. The Army suspected that he might have been corroborating with the rebels.

The resultant step was our father selling off whatever property was left, his house and moving us to the outskirts of Mbarara town, then very rural, dusty roads, without power or clean water but I guess it was a great relief for my parents.

Here, I would witness hardships first hand, my mother would vend whatever she could to support the family, baked sweet cakes, boiled food stuffs, etc she even got a temporally teaching job at a village primary school where I would also enroll after sometime, even then, payments were not forthcoming, amidst the struggles and back stabbings, she quit that job too.

She would later land a small job as a secretary at Nyamitanga SS, a secondary school at a distance from home but trust me it was such a breakthrough. Around 1995, many institutions were trying to computerize albeit with few people who could operate the computers, which were operated on DOS, my father, in one of their bar talks with friends had heard of the computer study opportunities, it was very hard and costly then and people were enrolling and dropping out, losing money, in their was her opportunity. She would pick interest, with support from her husband, our father and later land an employment opportunity with Mbarara University as a Secretary too. This was also a major breakthrough at this stage but still not enough, better pay, improved terms, and many more.

Over these years, both her and my father tried a hand or so on private businesses, oftentimes small retailer shops. She would borrow against her job income only for my father to drink it away in drinking sprees. He would even leave the shops open and unattended, the drinking joints were nearby, shoppers would first look for him to pay, or sometimes they would go without paying. In the worst case scenario, he would send a bar attendant to his room to deduct what he owed the bar from his shop money. The businesses would collapse leading to more bitterness and pain. Someone still had to pay back the loans. I was privileged to work at these numerous shops, I knew the potential they had. If they had a good steward, our family would have escaped the poverty trap a long time ago.

Going back to school; opportunities were beginning to be brighter except that advanced qualifications were required, with the youngest boys still in primary school, she made a decisive decision that sometimes haunts her but a brave one at that, she left home to pursue a three year under graduate course. Did I mention that she was the sole provider at this stage, it’s during this season that I would myself secure a good placement with a new bank in town, which only lasted one year and disaster struck again and I lost the job, times were hard, very hard.

Back in the day, there were programs for older people called mature age entry exams, here, people who had been out of school for a long time would be given an opportunity to join University and continue their studies, few Government sponsorships were available for those who passed the pre-entry exam highly. For Kyambogo University, they were 2 slots for her particular course of study, she came second but apparently they wanted a female and a male, they skipped her and gave the opportunity to the 3rd person, the overall winner having been a female. Lemons if you ask me.

It wasn’t the first time to miss out on opportunities, at her workplace, sponsorships were handed out where the University would pay the employees Tuition, upkeep and they would keep their pay, she applied, was skipped over, and when she insisted, the best they could offer her was Leave with pay but not the sponsorship. With a family to look after, and tuition to pay, and several kids in high school, myself losing my job, never has a situation been so financially challenging than this right here.

Her resilience would be tested beyond limits, she at some points during her course would spend days without a meal, locked up in her room. No one to turn to. One day I visited her in her hostel, she hadn’t had a meal in days, and she could barely stand and we shared the snacks that I had. Nevertheless, her persistence, resilience, her story. Three long years. She triumphed and graduated with good honors. What a mighty God we serve. The loss of my job in this season was the hardest to take for the whole family.

A few years later, on one occasion, she called me and informed me that she was coming over, she had a job application to deliver. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) had advertised some jobs and she knew she qualified. I was amused. There, seated in a matatu, she didn’t care who was hearing her talk about this opportunity, it seemed like an entry level job and here she is, approaching 50 years of age and yet even more excited. I was embarrassed for her. I thought at this stage people are consolidating whatever gains they have, not looking for an entry level job.

Interview after interview she kept her faith and one great bright day, she rang me informing me that she had been successful and she got the job. I was shocked, excited, embarrassed for my doubts and out rightly in disbelief. The pay was much better than what she had been getting at her former job. They would later refuse to endorse her resignation because she had been studying while being paid, in essence, she was bonded but she still left and lost most of her benefits.

She was posted to a town away from home, another challenge to the young family, she would do her best to travel back every Friday, do some house chores, be with the family and travel back on Sundays, tight schedule but worth it.

As I write this, she has retired from URA at their mandatory retirement age of 55, and although now trying her hands on private endeavors, she is a satisfied woman. I have heard her stories through the years, her wishes, her hopes and her dreams, for herself and her family and I know she is a satisfied woman.

Family struggles, there was a time in mid and late 1990’s, that the family nearly broke up. There were abuses from my father that angered all of us, his and her frustrations were evident and you could see that she was tired, one straw and the family would have parted ways. It wasn’t starting now, but it was getting worse and you could read that it was almost over. Most times, he took his frustrations on us, the poor defenseless kids, but once in a while he would become confrontational. If I wish you anything, I don’t wish you to ever see your mother cry from abuse. It sucks the soul out of you.

I was preparing to go to my 1st senior year, I was around 13 but there I was, I couldn’t do a thing to change anything, but I was glad I was leaving home.

One of the greatest lessons I have learnt from her is, putting one step in front of the other and believing for a better day to come.