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Monday, January 20, 2014

He dropped out of school for 18 years

He has fought for every drop of greatness in him. Without a transcendent desire to acquire university education and the resolve never to give up, he would not be who he is today, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

It is said some people are born great and others have greatness thrust upon them. But Rwabatongore Rweishe has fought for every drop of greatness in him. Without a transcendent desire to acquire university education and the resolve never to give up, he would not be who he is today, seeking to represent the people of Rubabo County in parliament in 2016. 

Mr. Rweishe is eying the Rubabo County parliamentary seat in 2016
For 18 years, Rwabatongore deferred his dream because of circumstances beyond his control. The first obstacle struck in 1983 when he completed primary school. His father told him that was enough education since he could now write his name and speak some English. 

“As heir apparent you must stay home and learn to be a responsible man when I’m gone,” said Rweishe’s father, shattering his son’s dream. His parents Elnest and Joselyn Rwabatongore of Nyakabungo village, Buyanja, Rubabo County, Rukungiri District, did not want their only child out of their sight. They reasoned that there was no need for him to study more since they had enough wealth to give him a comfortable life.

Rweishe kept home for nine years, but never gave up cajoling his parents to let him return to school. In 1992, his father relented and sent him to the nearby Nyabutete Secondary School. Rwabatongore,20, was the oldest student in Senior One with a moustache already forming . 

Soon Rweishe won over fellow students with his outgoing personality and eloquence. He was appointed the Chairman School Council and became a vibrant student leader who was not afraid of confronting irresponsible teachers.

“I once asked a drunken teacher what precedent he was setting by being drunk,” he says adding, “The teacher later became my friend and interested me more in politics by telling me that John F. Kennedy had eight brains and had not even used half of them by the time he was assassinated in 1963.” 

It stirred in Rweishe the belief that to be a great leader you must be very intelligent and knowledgeable. He started reading everything he could find about exemplary leaders. 

“I was profoundly stirred by Kennedy’s challenge to fellow Americans asking what they can do for their country instead of asking what their country could do for them.”

Since then, Rweishe vowed to serve his country as president one day. He began by sharing what he read with the wanainchi to empower them. When he completed O-Level in 1996 at the age of 24, he joined Universal High School in Kampala because it was easier to access books and vital information in the city.
But tragedy struck in 1998 just after Rweishe had completed high school. His father died. Being an only child, he shelved his university plans and stayed home for another nine years comforting his mother and taking care of their home. 

In 2007, at the age of 35, Rweishe applied and was admitted to Kampala International University for a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration on the long-distance scheme. This gave him the flexibility to take care of his three children while he studied. He had married and had a child those days he stayed at home at the urging of his parents. But as fate would have it, his wife had died after their third child, and Rweishe chose not to marry again until all his children are grown up and independent. 

At the time he was studying for his degree, Rwabatongore also pursued a diploma in Mass Communication at the Uganda Institute of Business and Media Studies, as well as a certificate in Administrative Law at the Law Development Centre (LDC). 

He is so concerned with using his discoveries to empower the larger community in Rubabo County where he moves from home to home teaching them how to increase their produce and earn income for self-substance and for investment. 

As a farmer and cattle keeper’s son who was raised on the farm, he understands agriculture and animal husbandry and argues that these sectors alone have the capacity to eradicate poverty, unemployment and boast the Ugandan economy. He showed me a 50-page manuscript titled ‘15-Point Program for National Development’ in which he articulates things that can transform this country from the grassroots and keep it on the economic growth curve.  

"Uganda’s arable land of 5200000 hectares’ produces 610000 metric tones of banana but most of these bananas are not being processed to benefit the economy on a grander scale,” says Rwabatongore. He proposes an Act of Parliament that will establish the Ministry of Food Processing to advance food processing and production. He also wants the government to open an agricultural bank where farmers may get loans to improve and increase their output.

Rwabatongore is passionate about his ideas on empowerment and transformation. He reels off statistics with the adroitness of a professor to back his arguments. He accuses the current Rubabo Country MP Paula Turyahikayo of being a politician rather than a servant of those who elected her, which is why he has chosen to take her on in 2016. 

“A politician is concerned about his lofty office and the allowances he gets while a servant always touches base with those he represents and collects their ideas for implementation,” Rwabatongore explains. “As Jesus said, a great leader must be a great servant.”