SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
17th November 2005
JOHN KEVIN OGEN ALIRO TRIBUTE

Kevin spirit will live on

Sarah Namulondo

TAMPA - For the entire time Kevin was sick, I never had a moment’s rest. Every single email, SMS and phone-call from Kampala was enough to make me jump out of my skin. I looked forward to any positive news, asking if he had said he would come to work say on a Monday.

My colleagues at The Weekly Observer knew of my state of mind – they kept the information to the bare minimum, saying he will be fine. Then he wrote me what would be the last email. It was very brief, very positive, telling of his state of health, but also asking about “what we had discussed about the paper”. That was Kevin - lived and breathed the “paper”.

My first encounter with Kevin didn’t leave a very favourable impression on me. He had just returned from the United States on the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships in 1997. They told him that The Monitor had acquired two new journalists who would be under his wing – Sarah and Agnes. He was looking down at a paper and without lifting his eyes, he asked which was Sarah and which was Agnes. I was mortified. How was he to have known our identities if he hadn’t even looked us in the eyes! Tales of his bashful manner in the newsroom didn’t make matters any better.

He had a way of scaring the wits out of any rookie journalist. But that was Kevin. Like he later told me, it is because, as the Luganda saying goes, the fly that loves you most is the one that pokes into your wound.
That was then. In March last year, I was his number two at The Weekly Observer and when I left for further studies in the United States, he moaned that his second rib (professionally) had left.

During the past 17 months I have been at school, I have discovered and rediscovered how much he meant to me both as a friend and a business partner. As a rule, Kevin never picked international phone-calls, claiming that the kyeyo (odd job) seekers from around the world had lots of free time to impinge on his valuable time. But he made exceptions, and if he didn’t pick my call, he made sure he called back. He was poor at email, but we had important issues to accomplish, so he was forced to write once in a while.

In short, Kevin became a great friend and mentor to me as I always turned to him to discuss life’s challenges and opportunities. I know he took great pride in my successes, as he should. He had an incredible impact on the few achievements I have posted so far. As an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow, he made sure I join him in that coveted family of journalists and when I did in 2002, he was ecstatic.

He later told me privately how proud he was of me. He said, “You have done well.” When I thanked him for all he had done for me, he said “All I ever asked [of you] in return is that you give back to others in need.” It was a basic philosophy that what goes around comes around, and now it was my turn to help others in need.
Perhaps I will never get the chance to follow in his footsteps, being the successful journalist he was, but as I strive with my doctoral studies, I will remember that basic philosophy that what goes around comes around, and that now it is my turn to help others in need.

I will mourn Kevin’s death, but I will not be overwhelmed by grief because if he were to know that I’m crying myself silly and have refused to go to class, he would do two things: he would be so angry with me, and later, he would make a joke out of it which would probably end up in his Baba Pajero cheeky column.

I know if there is a computer up in heaven, Kevin is busy typing away on it waiting for us to finish the last story so he could “give it a final look”. So, Kevin, I’m almost finished.

Kevin you were a great journalist, mentor and friend. We celebrate your life as one with many accomplishments. Thank you for touching all of us and giving us the joy of knowing you as a colleague, a scholar, a mentor and a dear friend.

Kevin, we take great comfort in knowing that you are now soaring with the eagles and resting in the presence of God. Kevin, with every issue of The Weekly Observer, we will hear your cheers in heaven. We will think of your bright smile and joyous laugh. Thank you Kevin, your spirit will continue to live on in all of us.

snamulondo@ugandaobserver.com/namulond@mail.usf.edu

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