Businessman and entrepreneur Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige, alias BMK, was yesterday laid to rest in Nkoowe, Wakiso District.
While it was a bright day, darkness filled the hearts of mourners who occupied five huge tents in the cemetery’s vast yard.
BMK passed away last Friday at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, following a six-year battle with cancer. His son Yusuf Kawooya described the last four years of his father as a “bonus.”
He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
Mr Kawooya said the world class medication he received from Texas in the United States, Thailand, Germany, Israel, Uganda, and Kenya helped defy the odds.
A devout Muslim who never missed a dua or salah, BMK’s belief in the religion of Islam also gave him peace of mind.
“Dad had all the time to prepare for his last hours. He died a happy man, satisfied that he had received the best care. He had a very peaceful death,” Mr Kawooya revealed, adding: “In the last two years, we are the people [who have been] running his business.”
Mr Kawooya, who described his father as a fighter, said doctors gave him two options on Friday morning — to place BMK on a life support machine or to leave him on his death bed for all to witness his last moments.
“It was so [hard] for me to decide alone. I had to consult everyone and we conceded he is not placed on the life support machine,” Mr Kawooya said.
BMK had two days prior been able to speak albeit uncoordinatedly.
Mr Kawooya said it was a norm for his father to attend dua and Juma prayers. He also made it a habit to send a selection of poor people “a weekly sacrifice.”
A day before he died, Mr Kawooya says his father “asked me for the register of his people and we sent them the weekly sacrifice.”
Ms Sofia Kibirige, one of the widows, said doctors allowed the family to stay and pray for the body three hours after BMK’s death. Ms Kibirige said BMK had been critically-ill for the past six months and was unable to walk or help himself.
“As wives, we alternated day or night to take care of him. We spent like six months carrying him,” Ms Kibirige said, adding that BMK willed that his last moments be spent in Nairobi.
In a written statement, National Unity Platform President Robert Kyagulanyi said BMK’s “rise from a humble background to prominence was a source of inspiration to me and indeed many citizens.”
Ms Hadijja Kibirige described her departed brother as a national figure who “continued to invest even during illness.”
The deceased’s business interests spanned sectors such as agriculture, hospitality, construction, real estate and spare parts. Some of them had tentacles in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, UAE (Dubai) and China.
BMK’s brother Haruna said “four events made [the deceased] a happy man.” These include the day he was aboard a Concorde aircraft, when he received an honorary doctorate, when he published his memoirs, and the day President Museveni opened Hotel Africana. Works and Transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala, who delivered the government message, described BMK as a hardworking entrepreneur who will be missed.
Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II in a message read by Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga lauded BMK for supporting the kingdom and humanity.
Ms Susan Muhwezi, the chairperson of Uganda Hotels Association, described BMK as a “pioneer” in the hotel industry. He helped the industry grow from a membership of nine 20 years ago to 800 to date.
“He was approachable and unstoppable in the industry. We have lost a great leader, investor and his legacy will live on,” Ms Muhwezi said.
Mr Godfrey Kirumira, the head of Kwagalana group, said BMK was their chief whip. The group mobilised Shs102m to cater for burial expenses with businessman Manisuri Matovu, aka Yanga, contributing a further Shs30m.
Country has lost a great innovative business leader – Museveni
President Museveni yesterday condoled with Ugandans upon the death of Dr Alhaji Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige, populary known as BMK, who succumbed to cancer last Friday in a Nairobi hospital.
“The country has lost a great entrepreneur and innovative business leader, who profitably took advantage of Uganda’s vast business opportunities to create jobs and incomes for our people. His numerous investments in the services industry, agriculture, manufacturing etc, have created avenues for employment and revenue for the country,” he said.
The President, who is in on a working tour of Karamoja Sub-region where the late invested in a multi-billion hotel complex that has changed the face of Karamoja, said BMK’s unwavering commitment and hard work enabled him to ascend to great heights and to create an international business empire from a very humble beginning and that he leaves behind a great example, worth emulating, especially for the young generation.
“I wish to extend, on behalf of the people of Uganda, my family, the National Resistance Movement Party and on my own behalf, heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family, relatives and friends of the Late Alhaji Bulaimu Muwanga.
My thoughts are with the family during this moment of grief and sorrow. I pray that Allah grant you the fortitude and courage to go through this loss,” he said.