17th November 2005

Observer, friends, media fraternity mourn Kevin

While John Ogen Kevin Aliro lived, he inspired many journalists in Uganda. Below, Weekly Observer staff, media colleagues and friends bid farewell to a great friend.

SARAH NAMULONDO; The Weekly Observer. Being away makes it worse [for me]. I guess right now, all we have to do is pull ourselves through, look back at the memories we had with him (especially those clandestine meetings in Old Kampala) and consider ourselves lucky for having been a part of his life. He gave us a second chance when things looked horrible; he made us believe in our abilities, to know that we would and could. I will celebrate that.

Media colleagues form a Weekly Observer arch above the casket carrying Kevin's remains into Christ the King Church

WILLIAM TAYEEBWA, Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University; worked under Kevin at The Monitor: Ndugu Aliro was one of best journalism professionals at identifying and mentoring young journalists. Several of the best young professionals in the trade passed through this craftsman’s hands. He is not dead since there are many torchbearers he has left behind to take the profession to the level he wanted.

IVAN WERE, Relationship Manager dfcu Bank; worked under Kevin at The Weekly Observer: He always passed on inspiring messages, words of wisdom and encouragement to all his subordinates. I will always be proud of having worked with him and will miss him.
May his soul rest in peace.

EMMANUEL N. MUGARURA, Worked under Kevin as a trainee journalist at The Monitor and as a senior reporter both at The Monitor and The Weekly Observer: He was my inspiration to journalism. Kevin never minced words and was a perfectionist. He would brush you for a mistake committed, yet offer you a cup of coffee the next second.

FDC Vice President, Salaamu Musumba, lays a wreath on the casket
Dismus Nkunda, who was Kevin's bestman, weeps while making a eulogy of Kevin
Kevin's mother, Tereza Namukwaya, lays a wreath on his casket

ABUBAKER MULUMBA, The Weekly Observer: Kevin was like my father whose guidance and parental advice made me fall in love with journalism.

SHIFA MWESIGYE, The Weekly Observer: Before I joined The Weekly observer as an intern, people who new Kevin’s iron hand and perfectionism advised me to find another place. But eventually all I got from Kevin was encouragement. He would bash me one minute and laugh with me the next.

ROBERT KABUSHENGA, Director of Media Centre: I worked with Kevin at The Monitor. He was one of the most resourceful and creative individuals in the media industry. He will go down as one of the most remarkable journalists of this country.

BENON HERBERT OLUKA, The Weekly Observer: He was simply Kevin. He did not need any title, or formalities. Kevin was a father figure, friend, brother and colleague, all rolled into one. Death is cruel, but none more than yours. I will miss you Kevin.

JIM MUGUNGA, Privatisation Unit; Worked with Kevin at The Monitor: He encouraged and moulded the journalist in me just as he did many others of my kind. He was selfless, loving and principled. His footprint lives on.

JEFF MBANGA, The Weekly Observer: I feel so sad but worst of all, I feel cheated. There is no way that the 16 months that Kevin and I sat in the same newsroom and tried to nurture The Weekly Observer could have been enough. Till later, good old friend.

ELIZABETH AGIRO, The Weekly Observer: You believed in me when no one thought I could actually write a story. Thanks to you, I did my very first investigative piece while still at The Monitor. I do not intend to give up now. Not ever. I intend to keep your faith in me burning. It’s never goodbye but see you later my dear friend.

PAMELA OTALI, The Weekly Observer: Kevin declared himself my “self-appointed mentor”. One minute, he breathed fire for a story poorly done and the next, sang praises for something else. And always with a brutal honesty but genuine interest in seeing me improve. His is one more face I will be looking for in that great meeting, to give thanks. Until then, my brother, farewell.

ARCHIE LUYIMBAZI, Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University:
I first met Kevin in my early days of journalism, as an intern at Monitor FM, now KFM. He listened in to my morning show and called me to say I had the potential if only I could be a little more composed. I know that though he has physically gone, he still lives, so long brother.

Kevin's widow, Elizabeth Birabwa Aliro, son Frank, and The Weekly Observer's Carolyne Nakazibwe
The Weekly Observer editor, James Tumusiime,
and columnist, Fr Carlos Rodriguez
Kevin's daughter, Jojo, cries for her Dad

GASTON ATUSIIMIRE, The Weekly Observer: I will miss his advice and encouragement. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

ROBERT MADOI, The Weekly Observer: Kevin was a father figure to me. His hard-hitting, in-your-face style won him as many enemies as friends. I was one of his friends and great admirers. Kevin shaped me into what I am. He used to joke that some female colleague and I would give The Weekly Observer its first baby. How sad that he has not lived to see my first kid. Pain cannot describe what your death has left behind Kevin. I will terribly miss you!

APOLLO MUNDUA, The Weekly Observer: Kevin was a friend and a brother to me. He did not carry any resentment against anybody and joked about anything that happened to him. It is so sad that he left when we needed him most. We shall always remember him.

RICHARD M. KAVUMA, The Weekly Observer: For a man whose life was about words, it sums up the tragedy that I cannot find the words to describe him. Perhaps I am within the mark to say he was a phenomenon that combined so many attributes. I mourn Kevin the writer, the reporter, the editor, the teacher, the listener, the motivation, the passion, the friend, the brilliant mind, the dad, the husband: Ogen John Kevin Aliro, the leader.

JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE, The Weekly Observer: Kevin was a tough boss, especially when you did not do your work right. “Vianney, you are only giving The Observer five percent of your potential.” The following week he praised me for a good job done. I assure you Kevin, I will keep your advice in my heart and be the journalist you always wanted me to be. You are my hero and I will miss you.

SSEMUJJU IBRAHIM NGANDA, The Weekly Observer: I am bidding farewell to John, a man who hated mediocrity, a man who offered everything he could to a serious reporter chasing a story. In 2003, I requisitioned for Shs 100,000 to facilitate my coverage of a Movement meeting at Kyankwanzi. Kevin, who was editor at The Monitor, told me to double the budget so that I would not have any excuse for doing a shoddy job. He would give you his own money for official work and borrow to help you settle a personal problem. It is not a coincidence that I quit my job at The Monitor to follow him to The Weekly Observer.

PIUS MUTEEKANI KATUNZI, The Weekly Observer: In The Monitor newsroom, we had nicknamed him Bwana ‘Muliro’ (fire) – a code coined out of his tough ways of dealing with sloppiness. His presence was enough to make sloppy reporters nervous because he would openly criticise them about their mistakes before their colleagues. In 1996, I was a prolific reporter with The Monitor, filing several news stories and features. But whenever Kevin failed to see my by-line in a particular issue he would ask whether I was still an employee of The Monitor. I never took offence. That taught me never to be complacent. We shared one strength; we hated postponing work. That is why sometimes we spent ungodly hours in office at the expense of our social lives and families. In Kevin, I have lost a mentor, friend and a person who had confidence in me. I will endeavour not to fail you. May your soul rest in eternal peace.

CHARLOTTE KAWESA NTULUME, Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University; worked under Kevin at The Monitor: This world is not our home; we’re just passing through… Kevin made his mark, no doubt about that. Kevin was the epitome of three things: passion, persistence and perfection for whatever he chose to put his heart to – his family, journalism and soccer. He ruthlessly pursued his dream and did not care what others thought, provided he was doing what he knew was right. He believed in young people and nurtured talent when he spotted it. Even so, he always insisted (rightly) that it took more than talent to excel – perseverance. The Department of Mass Communication had asked Kevin to assist on the Advanced News Reporting and Editing courses of the MA Mass Communication programme because we longed for the students to get a taste, even though outside the newsroom, of Kevin’s insight.

The Weekly Observer society editor, Elizabeth Kameo,
and administration manager, Hellen Netta

He had agreed to meet the students “soon”, but God had a different plan! Thank you KA, and rest in peace.

HALIMA ABDALLAH K., The Weekly Observer: Kevin had leadership qualities that I am yet to see elsewhere. I will always remember how he joked that I would get pregnant before finishing a sensitive story about the existence of PRA he assigned me to do. Indeed, I was in my very early stages of pregnancy. Recently when I delivered, his message in a card from office said it was the first ever ‘Observer baby’. And when I called him on phone a week before his death, he wished I had one month more of rest.
See you then Kevin, for it’s not time to say goodbye.

MOSES AGABA, The Weekly Observer: A challenge for The Weekly Observer is to take the paper he moulded to greater heights in honour of his name. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

JAMES OYENA, Privatisation Unit. I first met the late Aliro when we were elephants in the great Lumumba Hall, Makerere University in 1984. He was a close pal to a son-of-the-soil – the late Richard Olal Tebere with whom they later worked together in The Weekly Topic, then The Monitor before Richard tragically perished in a motor accident in Karamoja while on his debut motor rally. It will be hard to find two finer journalistic souls with a zeal for adventure and life and the truth. Their love for Afrigo music aroused my curiosity and made me take a harder look at Afrigo Band. Those two were, in no small way what kept me steadfast at some postings I held in my career and their joint effort and resounding success at the breakaway from The Weekly Topic to form The Monitor is an inspiration to many who aspire to join the private sector.

Kevin's children, Susan Akech (Tiny), Joan Athieno (Jojo), Frank Kisakye and Ian Ortega.

CAROLYNE NAKAZIBWE, The Weekly Observer:
Two things ring in my mind when I think of Kevin. One is when in 2002 we went in the same group for a team-building retreat for The Monitor at Banana Village. Later that night around a bonfire, Kevin told me, with tears in his eyes: “Carol, people misunderstand me. I am a very compassionate person, although I appear harsh. I never intend to hurt anyone.” I looked at him and for the first time met John Kevin Ogen Aliro.

The second instance was on August 24, 2005. He sent a text message saying: “A small tree fell on me at casino. 3m! So I have 100,000 for your weekend. Is that bad? K.”
Kevin, I am glad I saw the soft man so many people missed. Godspeed, my dear boss!

JAMES TUMUSIIME, The Weekly Observer: It was a wonderful experience working with you, my brother Kevin. You have left me a mountain to climb. But I promise not to let you down. Together with this wonderful team you helped assemble, we shall keep The Observer flag flying high. Fare thee well!

JOAN ATHIENO (JOJO); Kevin’s Daughter; I will always keep you in my heart. Because of you I have what I need. Thank you, Daddy. I will always keep you in my heart. May your kind and loving soul rest in eternal peace. My father died on 12th November, 2005. I love you. May the Lord I serve keep you.

HASSAN BADRU ZZIWA, The Weekly Observer: In 1994 Kevin, the late Hassan Abdi (a BBC correspondent) and I gripped each other while driving through the battlefields of Rwanda. We were following tyre tracks to avoid stepping on landmines. Kevin drove the 8 hours under those instructions up to Rwamagana.
In October 1998, Kevin and I missed the plane that killed Col Jet Mwebaze. We left later with another flight to Kisangani. We almost died during friendly fire between UPDF and RPA. This could not stop Kevin who insisted that we had to cover the battle field.
It is sad for Kevin to survive such and die in a simple way!

EDRIS KIGGUNDU, The Weekly Observer: Kevin, if there is anybody who inspired me to join journalism, it was you. You are one of the finest journalists I have ever known worldwide. May your soul rest in eternal peace.

Adieu, dear Kevin
Kevin: what a loss!
A friend I will never meet
Observer, friends, media fraternity mourn Kevin
Kevin spirit will live on
Tears for a fallen friend