Hon. Odonga Otto Pays Tribute to Oulanyah




I first met the Late Rt.Hon.Jacob Oulanyah in 1995 at that time I was in Advanced level and a volunteer in an NGO founded by father the late James Otto.(R.I.P)Human Rights Focus.
The NGO would organise human rights workshops and seminars at the height of the LRA insurgency.
This is the platform the made leaders like Hon.Nobert Mao, Hon.Reagan Okumu and the late Rt.Hon.Jacob OULANYAH. They were invited by my late father as resource persons.
In one of the sessions in Gulu District Council hall the crowd broke in tears as Hon.Oulanyah was presenting a paper. There was a standoff until calm was restored.
One elder the late Tiberio Okeny Atwoma shot up and said “oulanyah you are our real son our icon remove the “h” from your name that is not how it’s spelt”.

Later in1996 we had another similar workshop in Kitgum and I remember vividly one December when returning from kitgum in a lorry truck myself, Hon. Oulanyah and his late wife Dorothy who was then pregnant were all behind the truck ,me and Hon.Oulanyah standing and worriedly looking ahead for 115kms incase of the rebels attacked ,that would have been an ultimate sacrifice from Hon. Jacob and wife, all in the name of helping the people of acholi.

let me spend the rest of this piece espousing the most hilarious moments I had in company of the late, life can go but memories live forever.
1.When planning for the 2006 elections I was with the late in the committee of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs he was the committee chairman then .As we walk to the main parliamentary lobby there is a notorious signpost at the entrance of the lobby written: “ENTRY RESTRICTED TO STAFF AND MPS ONLY”
Hon.Oulanyah pointed at the metallic poster and said to me. “hon.otto we have to work hard and ensure that signpost does not apply to us in the future ..that signpost is very dangerous”
Indeed the sign was and is dangerous it applied to him in 2006 and later applied to me in 2021.But its all Gods timing.

  1. During the Interparliamentary games in Arusha Tanzania about 2004 there was a near to fist fight between team Uganda and Tanzania. It started in a bar when an MP Hon.Alituma Nsambu jokingly told a Tanzanian MP that Tanzanians did not liberate Uganda in 1979 they only left children in Uganda.
    A fight nearly ensured as the Tanzania MP couldnt stand those words. Ugandan MPs in their noisy fashion of fighting while alulating sent Tanzanian MPs on their heals followed by the hotel club wielding massai guards out of the hotel.
    The mood was tense Tanzania police showed up ,diplomacy led by our ministers the late Hon. Kiberigye Sebunya failed .
    Hon Oulanyah who was not around but heard the noise came and requested to talk to team Uganda privately. We went to a nearby room in the then 777 roomed Saba Saba hotel. The room was stiltly queit Hon.Oulanyah stood in front and said “hon members I want all of you to clap your hands” the clap started one MP after another and the clap spread to the the entire room .
    “Just keep clapping” Hon.Oulanyah roared.
    There was one MP representing Persons With Disabilities Hon.Hood Katuramu who had one hand and was not clapping .
    Oulanyah said “Hood ” while looking at him. Hon.hood had to lift his one hand and thumped his chest. Everyone burst into the laughter.
    “You should be happy atleast you can still clap, there are those who can’t clap in this world “. The problem was solved we returned to the meeting and embarrassed Tanzanians and everything normalised.
    I am sad today he can’t clap again.
    3.In 2011,I was nominated by the Opposition caucus to run for Deputy Speaker of Parliament,before my candidature Hon. Oulanyah was unopposed.I bumped into him at the national theater entrance of parliament.He walked to me and said “Hon.otto was is this again this thing was mine you have come up again to run against me I have really been through alot I recently even lost my wife “
    I felt so guilty turned told him and said you will definitely win my chances of winning are not there. We laughed it off and he went ahead distrusting his posters. He later won with a landslide victory of over 360 votes. I was even surprised I got 61 votes against such a personality.
    4.After losing the elections 2006 Hon.Jacob met me and asked what strategy he should use to come back to parliament? I told him to join FDC and to talk well to Hon. Reagan Okumu who was then the “king maker” In the region.
    Hon.Oulanyah replied I can’t join FDC “even a mad man was elected in gulu under the FDC ticket to be LC1 chairman just because he was carrying the “key” symbol .After the election the mad man ran home and told his family members that “can you imagine this mad people of FDC elected me “
    We burst into laughter.

The mad man was surprised that the party members didn’t care about his madness but cared about who was carrying the key .
I asked him laughingly who the mad man was? He mattered and pondered and answered “he is called ojoko”
I left with laugging tears.
5.The last memory happened when he nominated me for an official Parliamentary trip to Togo he was then the Deputy Speaker .
One evening while in Togo I walked to his room and found him fixing a machine in his shoes. I asked him if he had problems with his shoes and if he needed my help or we go and buy another one.

He paused fixing the machine looked at me and said “this machine is for stretching shoes I want when I put on the shoes tommorow it would be properly streched and I will be smart”
I asked him if he had carried that stretching machine all the way from Uganda he said ” yes ,being smart is a full time proffesion”
I was amazed . He was always very smart and tidy.That was no coincidence but personal effort.
These are great memories.
In my own words If I am to describe the late Hon. Oulanyah in a sentence I would say “a charismatic personality ,self motivated that in times of distress brings rhythm to live,He leaves an aura wherever and whenever he passes and to whoever he meets”
It is a life well lived though short.
Death is the biggest mystery to humanity just like life.
Death is a journey one has to make alone, even when you die together in big numbers the departure is still alone.
A recent research from one of the leading universities in the world found that “one out of every one person dies”.
I will miss you Jacob.
Restis in pacem.
Hon.Odonga otto


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