I remember him occasionally for many reasons but at this time two stand out: one, an anecdote he told us as children, and the second an excerpt from his book that .
The anecdote was simple: there were two kings somewhere inconsequential to the moral of the story, and one sent his messenger with an envelope to the other king. The messenger went three days across hills and valleys and delivered his message, and the second king sent him with another envelope back to the first king.
Days later, he delivered that message as well and after a night’s rest was sent back with another envelope. This went on for weeks until on one trip the messenger stopped half way and reasoned with himself that surely there was no sense in him carrying this envelope to and fro over such long distances.
Feeling clever at his sudden realisation, the messenger stopped halfway one trip, turned around, went back with the envelope and handed it back to the king.
‘He will never know,’ the chap thought to himself, and must have been a bit surprised during his sentencing and eventual execution, that the king had worked it out mostly because of the time it had taken him to return and the content of the envelope being the same.
The moral of the story for us as children at that time was twofold: a) we needed to avoid making uninformed assumptions and decisions, and b) everybody has a role to play that is only part of the whole, and if we perform our duties well, with focus, everything else will work just fine.
Every so often I am tempted to quote this small anecdote to various people I work with or employ to do simple tasks but who veer off into odd directions that, bless their simple minds, many times result in disaster.
The excerpt from his book is quite simple: “In the government, a bad habit has developed of having unscheduled meetings which take a long time and almost 90% of them never starting on time even when they are scheduled!”
This was back in the 1990s, and if the situation has improved it hasn’t been across the broad board of the government – and my first reaction on reading this phrase was that if he couldn’t make a change at his level then what hope did we have?
But then, linking to the story of the lazy (or fatigued) messenger, perhaps the role of the Minister wasn’t to whip people into line. Thinking too much about it is giving me a headache, and my role seems to be just picking out a couple of stories and highlighting them.
So I’ll do that – for now.
Kategaya played a bigger role, in many ways, and thankfully he wrote at least one book about his work, times and impressions. Sadly, that book, Impassioned For Freedom, is not on every bookshelf in every bookshop in every town in Uganda. Perhaps it is available as course reading material at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi?
It certainly isn’t quoted much at Makerere University, according to a few students of political science I’ve asked, but maybe they aren’t serious scholars or it’s being used in a whole different department.
One day, though, a publisher might pick it up and press out a couple of thousand more copies for distribution to as many people as possible – especially employees of the government and those hoping to get into the management of society.
A really clever publisher might time the publication to coincide with his memorial events in a few weeks’ time – and what a fitting way that would be to remember an intellectual ideologue whose political correctness has had such an influence on Uganda for at least the last 35 years!