Tribute to an upright public servant with a heart of gold

Following Tecla Kinalwa’s death last Friday, several people have described her a kind woman. Emma Masumbuko was a beneficiary of that kindness and he pays her tribute.

“Happy are those who from now die in the service of the Lord! They will enjoy rest from their hard work because the results of their service go with them” said, Rev Semanda Balikudembe of Najjera Catholic Parish citing Revelations 14:13 during the requiem mass at the residence of Tecla Kinalwa.

Kinalwa, a long serving public servant, passed on last Friday. She was 69. According to the priest, the parish has lost one of its strong pillars. “She was instrumental in all church related developmental activities. She treated us like her own children. I remember one Christmas she delivered two crates of beer and soda at my residence. Like a mother, she knew what each of us wanted and when”, he said.

Kinalwa was a principled and no-nonsense person. She was one of the long serving permanent secretaries. Her workmates say her close friends were those doing assignments as required.
“She did not encourage idle talks during work. I have been her aide for the last 30 years and what kept us together was strictly hard work. If she wanted to meet you at mid-day, it had to be mid-day. She has been one of the most principled Ugandan senior government officers I have worked with,” Hajji Muwalo, a State House aide told mourners.

Kinalwa was also a lady with a golden heart who shared her meager resources with the needy.
I almost dropped out of school after completing my Primary Seven from Lugazi East PS. My teachers aised me to appeal for sponsorship in the media.

I visited the Monitor Publications and a story titled “Those with teeth do not get the meat” was published by M Dismas Nkunda and the following day I was picked to meet this golden hearted lady in the name of Tecla Kinalwa at Parliamentary Avenue where she worked as the permanent secretary in the ministry of Trade, Commerce and Industries.

Accompanied by Dismas Nkunda, Kinalwa serving us tea and her aides were surprised on seeing a barefooted primary pupil in torn school uniform at their boss’s table.
She gave me a Bible and emphasised that if I followed the Holy Book, she would ensure my fees is catered for from primary to university.

I almost jumped to hug her but was stopped by Nkunda, currently a manager at United States Agency for International Development (Usaid). She requested for my admission letter and a list of all my scholastic requirements. After purchasing them, she asked her driver to drop me at Manjasi High School in Tororo District.
I completed a Bachelors of Mass Communications from Makerere University with Kinalwa’s support.
In his condolence post on my Facebook wall, Dismas Nkunda recalls how Kinalwa requested them not to mention her names in the media.

“Emma, I know what you are saying! Am testimony as I wrote that story about you. Next day she called me and said she would pay your school fees but me and Waf had to find a school and she wanted to remain anonymous! She had a heart! May the Lord receive her!”

Another journalist, Vukoni Lupa-Lusaga added in a post, “Emma Masumbuko, I remember your story. But unlike Dismas Nkunda, I was unaware that Tecla Kinalwa was the kindhearted human being behind your scholarship. May she have a speedy and unimpeded transition to the ancestral realm. And may you be comforted in your loss. Make sure you honor her memory by being the best you can be and extending generosity to those in need, especially strangers”.

That was the case until one day, excited about joining Makerere University, and enrolling for my dream course, I wrote about my academic struggles and how Kinalwa bailed me out.
She summoned me in her office at State House and warned me never to mention her name in the media. She even asked Wafula Oguttu, the then Monitor Editor-in-Chief, to castigate me.
Kinalwa also hated liars. That again was demonstrated on me.

When the country was hit by sugar scarcity, I delivered some bags of sugar to her as my godmother. While interacting in her office, I received an urgent call from my boss.
I told the boss that I was meeting district officials at Patron Hotel in Lugazi Town council! However, Kinalwa was not amused. She requested for my phone and told my boss, “I am the Permanent Secretary, President’s Office. Emma is right now in my office at Parliamentary Building in Kampala. You know I am his mother and he had dropped me and my aides some free sugar”.

She then sternly warned me never to tell a lie in her presence.
“If you don’t have where to tell your lies from, never tell them from my office again,” she told me.
Kinalwa died late Friday night on her way to Nakasero Hospital according to her son, Henry Louis Kinalwa.

Born in 1945, Kinalwa studied from Trinity College Nabbingo before moving to Mount St Mary’s Namagunga and later Makerere University. She worked as the ministry of Local Government permanent secretary between 1990 and 1996 before moving to State House as Comptroller, a position she served for 10 years from 1996 to 2003.
She was later in 2003 deployed at the Office of the President as permanent secretary before retiring in 2013.
After retiring, she was appointed as a board member at the Uganda Human Rights Commission, a post she had been holding up to the time of her death. She is survived by four children and a husband.

There will a requiem mass at Rubaga Cathedral on tomorrow at 9am and she will be buried at 2pm at her home in Najjera. I have lost a mentor. The lady of integrity who turned around my life. I feel sad that she has passed on before realising the fruits of her struggle. It’s so sad that the country is losing such a wonderful principled lady, a Good Samaritan, and above all, a lady with a golden heart.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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