Tears for a fallen friend
November 12, 2005 will remain a sad day for me. That is the day
I lost a very dear friend. At about 5 p.m. a message came in from
JT - James Tumusiime of The Weekly Observer. I was on my way to
the airport to catch an evening flight to Banjul, Gambia.
The message said: Kevin is dying. Minutes later, I confirmed that
my very good friend John Ogen Kevin Aliro had passed away.
As I recollected myself and cancelled the trip, I did not know
how to react. I had last seen Kevin at International Hospital. He
looked to be in a fine shape. We talked for about one hour, the
subject mainly on the upcoming elections in March 2006 and the army
reshuffles. He told me how he wanted to return to office very soon
and prepare “the mother of all coverage of the elections”.
How unfortunate he did not live to do what he cherished so much.
I had known Kevin since 1987. But our bond came to flourish in
July 1992, when he and six others started The Monitor newspaper.
Hired as a reporter, Kevin became my mentor. Like he later wrote
about me, he helped me cut my journalism teeth.
We had a few things in common. We liked going for some hard stories.
One of the strangest was when he asked whether I could go to look
for a small girl in Hoima who had been partially swallowed by a
python, and how the little girl fought off the python and later
escaped from the jaws of death. With Hassan Badru Ziwa (then photographer
at The Monitor), now at The Weekly Observer, we headed to the unknown
We got the story. It was a story that could make the most soul
hardened individuals appreciate the heroine that the little girl
had become. Such were the kind of assignments that made Kevin a
class of his own. And in the process, he helped many cut their journalism
teeth under him.
When changes came to The Monitor, I was to deputise Kevin. He was
the Chief Sub Editor. But even in this role, which would ordinarily
have bound him on the desk, he always had the knack for a story.
In 1994, driving his personal vehicle, Kevin headed to the front
lines of the Rwanda patriotic Front war during the genocide. No
one who read newspapers then could forget his story of an infant
suckling a mother who had been dead for four days. Two days later
he dispatched me to cover the remainder of the war.
When a group of us left The Monitor to start The Crusader, Kevin
against the set norms, remained close to us. He even asked me to
be his best man when he wedded his wife Elizabeth Birabwa in 1997.
Kevin’s passion was journalism, but his next big thing was
football and nothing could possibly be more important than supporting
Sports Club Villa where he was a long time organizing secretary.
He did not hate the bottle like many of us, and his scintillating
stories under the pen name of Baba Pajero were a few things that
many readers looked forward to reading about the night life of Kampala
without actually getting out of their beds.
Nothing though will I remember like when I went to visit him while
he was admitted about a month ago. He was slowly coming out of a
coma. I sat next to his bed with his wife Liz and one of his SC
Villa colleagues, Sanyu. Kevin did not know what was happening around
him. As the three of us chatted, he opened his eyes. I held his
hand and asked him how he was. I wanted to elicit some response
from him, as he looked he was on his way to recovery. I joked to
him that I had brought him his favourite bu finger whisky. Of course
I had not. Kevin smiled. His wife too smiled, for she had not seen
him smile for a while.
So when last Saturday we headed for his home in Naalya, I did now
know what to expect. I could no longer get him to smile. He was
dead. As I bent over to greet Liz, she burst out crying. “Dis,
Majambere is gone,” she said as she wailed. Majambere was
a pet name that I called Kevin. And he too called me the same.
Kevin’s last story was his interview with General Salim Saleh
at his home, in which the general said he would retire in 2006.
It was a story that caused many in the political circles to question
why Saleh can speak about politics while still active in the army
and others not. It is a story he had agreed to make a follow up
Well, he will never do.
Kevin, rest in peace.
• Adieu, dear Kevin
what a loss!
friend I will never meet
friends, media fraternity mourn Kevin
spirit will live on
for a fallen friend