By Nellie Nakitende
As we look back to the year 2020, a lot has happened both in Uganda and across Africa as a whole.
The continent has lost several Africans who in one way or another made a contribution towards the development of Africa in their various fields; from football, arts, media, politics, activism and so many others. They include but are not limited to the following;
In football, Papa Bouba Diop, a Senegalese national, died in November at the tender age of 42 years after battling a long illness. He was popular for his exceptional performance in the 2002 World Cup where he scored a winning goal against France, qualifying Senegal into the quarter finals and becoming the only African team in football history to make it to that stage. Bouba also played for foreign clubs like Fulham, Birmingham City and French Club Lens.
Leona Makuna from Democratic Republic of Congo and Al Hajji Momodou Nije popularly known as ‘Biri Biri’ from Gambian. These are some of the first Africans who played for Europe.
In science, Gita Ramjee, a Ugandan-born South African scientist lost her life in March to COVID-19. Lots of people applaud Gita for her research work on the reduction of the risk of HIV transmission among female sex workers. Two years ago she managed to get an award for Outstanding Female Scientist by European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships.
In Arts, Manu Dibango, a saxophonist, died in March, aged 86 years to COVID-19. His exceptional abilities of combining jazz and funk music with traditional sounds made him popular in the 70s with the song ‘Makossa’.
He became even more popular after he filed a case against fallen pop star Michael Jackson who tried to use part of his song in two songs off his world best-selling Album ‘Thriller.’ They eventually agreed to settle this matter outside court.
In this same category we also saw the demise of Afro beats pioneer Tony Allen, Congolese musicians Aurlus Mabele and Kasongo wa Kanema, Balla Sidibe who is the founding member of the Senegal Orchestra Baoba, Somali king of di oud Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeidi, Kenyan musician John Nzenze, Ladysmith Black Mambazo founder.
In Business, South African entrepreneur Richard Maponya, died in January at the age of 99 years. He was popularly known as the father of black retail. The apartheid restrictions didn’t stop him from creating a long lasting legacy for himself.
In S.A he was known as the first African to set up a BMW enterprise, making it easier for the countrymen and women to acquire these sleek vehicles without much hassle. He went ahead and built the Maponya Mall in Soweto.
In this same category is Sindika Dokolo, the husband to one of the richest women in Africa, Isabel dos Santos, who was a businessman and art collector but lost his life to COVID.
In Medicine, Hawa Abdi commonly known as ‘Mother Teresa of Somali’ also lost her life at the age of 73 years. She was a doctor and human rights activist. In the same vein Dr. Kiggundu, a Ugandan senior gynaecologist and consultant lost his life to COVID-19.
In Politics, Former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, who dominated Kenyan politics for more than 25 years, succumbed to COVID-19.
Also Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa Ghana’s JK Rowling, Burundi’s former president Pierre Nkurunzinza also lost their lives due to COVID-19, while in Uganda former deputy Prime Minister Ali Kirunda Kivejinja, former legislator Ssentongo Robinah, Watongola, former Kampala Mayor Al Hajji Nasser Ntege Ssebagala among others also died due to COVID-19.
In arts, young Ugandan actress Nikita Pearl Waligwa died in February due to a brain tumour that kept resurfacing until her body couldn’t fight it any longer. She died at a time when her parents were mobilising for money to fly her to India for operation.