By Kevin Patrice
About 5 years now into his retirement from elective politics, the people of Kazo still find it hard to come to terms that John Nasasira is no longer their Member of Parliament to the extent that they still refer to him for any vital decisions in the district than the incumbent MP Hon. Gordon Bafaki. But who is Nasasira?
Nasasira was born on the 5th of January 1952 in Ruhoko hospital, Ibanda district to Mr. Esau and Julia Mwoono (both deceased). His father was a muluka chief in Ibanda while his mother was a molokole, one of the converts of the revival movement in Ankole. His parents had migrated from Buhweju to Kazo and because of his clan, the Baliisa; his family was the ruling family of Buhweju kingdom before the colonialists came. “We were the royals of Buhweju before Obote abolished kingdoms in 1967,” he says
The young Nasasira started school at Nyamirima church school in Rwemikoma, Kazo where he studied until primary three before he was changed to a Catholic school, something that nearly cost his father his job as a muluka Chief. Near his home, there was a new catholic school and so to save his son the burden of commuting to and from Nyamirima every day, Esau opted to take him to this Catholic school which was near. Eventually, when this information reached his bosses in Kamukuzi, the headquarter of the district administration, they accused him of having joined DP because he had taken his child to a catholic school yet he is a Protestant. Esau was therefore ordered to find his child another Protestant school or else lose his job and this is how the young Nasasira joined Kazo primary school, the current Kazo model school.
Nasasira was at this school up to P.8 and because of his excellent performance, he was awarded a scholarship to study Secondary at Ntare School by the Ankole Kingdom. In fact, Nasasira was among the last group of pupils that sat Primary Eight exams in 1966. While at Ntare, he was much involved in sports, and later in senior five, he was the cricket captain for his house called Stanley. He at the same time served as food prefect of the school. At A’Level Nasasira did Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics which later qualified him to be admitted for Engineering at Nairobi University.
He had applied for the same course at Makerere University but because of the Exchange Program by the East African Community, he was transferred to Nairobi. “Those days there was the East African Community and there was always an exchange of students. So, when it came to admission, they wrote to us with a threat. They said you have been selected by the Ugandan government to be one of the students to go to Nairobi, and if you refuse, we will decide not to give you the course”, Nasasira said in an interview. However, this later turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him. At Nairobi University, an Engineering course went for three years, unlike Makerere where it took four years. In fact, Nasasira studied the three years and even started working when his fellows who had been admitted at Makerere were still struggling with the fourth year. He did Civil Engineering. “I graduated on July 10th, 1976 and got a job two days later on 16th with a consulting firm”, he noted. “The firm was called CA Liburd – consulting firm near the Central Police Station. I would walk from Kibuli daily, to work and later after work. The situation though was bad. One day in 1976, there was a riot by Makerere students. The town was under siege. Jeeps were all over as people took off for their dear lives.” he said
A few months later, he realized that the general insecurity reigning at the time did not allow him to settle in Uganda and therefore he returned to Kenya where he worked with the renowned engineering firm, Gibbs. The decision to go back to Kenya in 1977, however, was sparked off when people in intelligence began asking Nasasira about his connections with his uncle, Grace Ibingira who was an outspoken politician in the UPC regime. It was while working in Nairobi and western Kenya that Nasasira made contact with forces that had begun plotting the downfall of the second Obote government. Among those he met were now foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and former minister Matthew Rukikaire. “I became active in the NRM in 1982. I was self-recruited,” he reveals but opts to keep details of his exact contribution in the external wing secret. “I will not talk about that in detail but know that I even chaired the Nairobi branch of the external wing. We linked up with the people in the Bush and we gave them support.”
When President Museveni captured power in 1986, Nasasira like the thousands of Ugandans who had fled to exile, decided to return home. “I returned to do my part in rebuilding our country. For six months, I volunteered at the ministry of works. But then, Sir Alexander Gibbs & Partners got a big project in Uganda—the 3rd Highway Project—and asked me to help them. I rejoined them and they actually gave me terms of an expatriate. I was paid in foreign currency and had a provision of taking leave in London with my family.”
The minister notes that by 1989 when he had just become the overall boss of Sir Alexander Gibbs in Uganda, a new calling beckoned.
“We had the first National Resistance Council (NRC) elections in 1989. The elders of Kazo sat and decided to front my name as their candidate,” says Eng Nasasira, The elders, he says, picked him out as their choice even when Eng Nasasira thought Mr. Jotham Tumwesigye (former IGG and now judge of the Supreme Court) was better positioned to run. “Tumwesigye rejected my proposal and instead seconded me too. I obliged and joined the race. Voting was by queuing and I won with 87 percent of the votes.” He represented the people of Kazo in parliament for consecutive 27 years until his retirement from active politics in 2016. The people of Kazo will remember him for many things but most of all, his strong stance against tribal discrimination in the area.
Nasasira held several ministerial positions in Museveni’s government notable one being the minister for Works and Transport, a position he held for 15 years. He was also minister of ICT, Government Chief Whip, Minister of Gender among others. He was recently appointed to chair the national task force on the 4th industrial revolution. The 21 member expert taskforce was selected to advise the government on possible policy interventions to build a technology-based economy in Uganda.
After his retirement, he formed KAN (Kazo And Nasasira) foundation, a not-for-profit organization aimed at giving back to the people that had supported him for close to three decades. “You kept me in Parliament for all these years and my pension has grown to more than Shs300m. I commit a third of it (Shs100m) to a foundation,” he said while launching the foundation. Under the same foundation, he also started Kazo FM, omushomesa, a local radio station in the area.
Nasasira is married to Naomi, who retired as a director from the Bank of Uganda after 28 years on the job. They are blessed with five children; a boy and four girls. One is a lawyer, another an architectural engineer, the third a property manager turned fashion designer (Juliana Nasasira of KWESH), the fourth and the last born also completed their respective courses abroad.
Story credits to KAZO Fm