There was a gloomy mood at Parliament yesterday as the body of former State minister of Labour Charles Okello Engola was ushered into the House.
The body, which arrived at Parliament at 10am, lay in state as silent tears streaked down the faces of some legislators, Parliament staff and other mourners, especially from the Lango Sub-region.
For the better half of yesterday, the mourners queued to view his body with sad faces, as they paid last respects.
As soon as the clock ticked 2pm, Parliament convened to pay tribute to their own, whose life was cut short by a man charged with the responsibility of guarding him.
Private Wilson Sabiti thereafter took his own.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, in her opening remarks, was visibly vexed by those who celebrated the late Engola’s demise on social media.
“I want to express my displeasure with the unfortunate practice where people celebrate the misfortune of those they don’t agree with. It is inhuman, uncultured, and very immoral to celebrate the death of anyone because you hold different or divergent views,” Ms Among said.
“Charles was with us here, but now he is dead. He didn’t need to be killed. I always tell people not to waste their time killing me because even without me being killed, I will still die. When you kill me, you will go to hell while I go to heaven,” Ms Among added.
The Speaker then read out condolence messages from Parliament and well-wishers, accompanied by a Shs50m contribution from Parliament.
She thanked the government for according Engola an official burial.
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja then moved a motion to pay tribute to the fallen minister.
In her motion, Nabbanja hailed Engola for tirelessly fighting to restore peace in northern Uganda.
She said Engola answered the highest call of serving his country as a professional soldier.
“Engola was a war hero and played a fundamental role in the pacification of northern Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency and acquired the name, “Macodwogo”, meaning, “fire has returned,” Ms Nabbanja said.
Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, said death had robbed the country of a great legislator, whose God-given talents and personal commitments to this country had not yet been fully utilised.
“We are cognizant of his contribution when he took a decisive stance in cancelling licences of non-compliant labour agents,” he said.
Lt Gen James Mugira (UPDF Representative) saluted Engola’s efforts and contribution towards ending the LRA mayhem in northern Uganda.
He said the killing of Engola should not be reduced to the issue of low salary.
“This is indiscipline, period! I want to state that UPDF has never been a mercenary force. Our service to our mother land has always been out of patriotism, ideological convictions and sacrifice all throughout,” Lt Gen Mugira said.
Ms Betty Amongi, the Oyam South MP, also the minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, said Engola, from the time he was a brigade commander based in Minakulu to when he joined active politics, had always worked for peace.
Ms Amongi also said the late Engola fought hard for the rights of migrant workers and sought to improve the welfare of such workers.
“He was working to ensure skilled workers can go and work in Turkey, Canada and other European countries. He didn’t want Ugandans to go and work as domestic workers in the Middle East. He was totally against this,” Ms Amongi said.
The State Minister for International Affairs, Mr Henry Oryem Okello, said Engola didn’t deserve to die in such a harsh manner.
“It is a shame for such a hero to die in a silly way. I wish Charles had been killed on the battlefield. That would be so noble,” Oryem said.
Ms Cecilia Ogwal, the Dokolo Woman MP, moved an amendment to the motion, urging the government to posthumously promote the late Engola from the rank of Colonel to Brigadier for his dedicated service to the country.
The government Chief Whip, Mr Hamson Obua, said the death of Engola had robbed the country of a dedicated leader, who left behind a string of unanswered questions.
Today at 10am, there will be a funeral service at Kololo Independence Grounds before the body is transported to Oyam District for burial on Saturday.