The country woke up Tuesday to the chilling news of the sudden demise of retired politician and former National Chairman of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party, Maj. Edward Rurangaranga.
Rurangaranga who played a significant role in the founding of the opposition party back in 1960 passed on in his country home in Kitagata, Sheema district. He was 85 at the time of death.
As one would imagine, the news sent a cold wave across the political spectrum but even a great sense of loss to members of the UPC party.
At the Uganda House based party headquarters in Kampala, several individuals recounted the service and sacrifice of Maj. Rurangaranga in former years with utmost sorrow.
In an interview with ChimpReports at the UPC party headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, Jimmy Akena the UPC President described Rurangaranga’s death as a “terrible loss” that deprives the party of wisdom and historical perspectives.
“As a party, this is a terrible loss. Maj. Edward Rurangaranga was among the founder members of the party. He was there when UPU merged with Uganda National Congress to form UPC,” Akena told ChimpReports.
“He has served the party and country with dedication and commitment. He also played an important role in the 1978/79 liberation of Uganda where he earned the rank of Major but thereafter returned to politics after the war,” he added.
Rurangaranga was the host of Bushenyi One when Obote returned from Tanzania which reignited UPC support. In 2011 was appointed National Chairman for the party.
According to Akena, the retired politician exhibited great consistence in both what he believed in and stood for throughout his entire life. “And uncompromisingly so, he remained committed to UPC.”
Reflecting on what Rurangaranga’s death means for the party, Akena said: “As UPC, we look upon these elders who laid the foundation for the party. We have the task of continuing to build the party on the key basis of what the party stood for. So their lives and service to the country is a guide to future generations.”
“At best, we can honor them by continuing the struggle. We lose a lot of wisdom, understanding and history of the party.”
But Rurangaranga’s political contribution goes beyond UPC. He fought in the war that ousted the despotic Idi Amin regime and later came to serve as a Minister of State for Local Government between 1981 and 1985.
Earlier in the 1960s, Rurangaranga was a member of the ‘Ishengyero’ which was the Parliament of Ankole.
Unlike the selfish traits of corruption exuded by public servants in recent times, Akena noted that: “Rurangaranga didn’t use high office for self-gain. Like many leaders of his generation, his work was for their country not amassment of wealth.”
On his part, Joseph Bossa the former UPC Party Secretary General who has since been claiming party Presidency told ChimpReports; “We received the news with great shock. Maj. Rurangaranga was a nationalist who saw Uganda as one country. And he was steadfast. He didn’t meander from here to there, changing political parties.”
Bossa credited Rurangaranga for his loyalty to the party despite the persecution by later regimes.
“He [Rurangaranga] paid a heavy price for supporting UPC. He was imprisoned for 5 years after the overthrow of Obote and his property including buses and farms were destroyed as a result of change of government. But despite this, he never bent to the powers that be,” Bossa said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Bossa said that Rurangaranga was very instrumental in building the UPC party and keeping it strong especially during the nine years when the party leadership was exiled in Tanzania.
“So, the country has lost a man who loved the country dearly and was ready to pay any price for his party and country.”
In recent times, UPC has come under turbulence resulting from its internal wrangles with two sides contesting for the party leadership. Rurangaranga represented an era that pushed for a united UPC and his demise could be a great blow to chances for the party to resolve its internal bickering.
In response to this, Akena said; “UPC was born out of the need to provide leadership and direction to this country. That foundation remains solid. As members of Congress, we need to rediscover and rededicated ourselves to the roots that made Congress what it was. It’s only with that dedication towards a common purpose that we can forge that unity.”
Similary, Bossa called on the party membership to use Rurangaranga’s death to bring the party together. “Maj. Rurangaranga was very clear about the activities of Jimmy Akena and his attempt to sell the party (UPC) to the ruling NRM.”
He said it would be a great shame if the two factions within UPC bicker in the process of sending off the dead party stalwart.
Meetings with the different stakeholders are ongoing and government has expressed dedication to accord the fallen politician a state funeral. So far, no tentative program has been released.