The man who hoisted Uganda flag in 1962 is dead

Maj. Kanuti Akorimo who hoist the Uganda National Flag on Independence Day in 1962 has passed away at Atutur Hospital in Kumi district.

According to Dr. Isaac Omara, the medical superintendent of Atutur hospital, Maj. Akorimo, 85, succumbed to pneumonia at around 7.30 am on Wednesday.

Dr. Omara said, Maj. Akorimo has been in and out of the hospital for the past one year.

He also noted that the late was put on oxygen on Tuesday this week after his condition worsened at the hospital.

Abdul Aziz Ongodia, the LC III Chairperson Kumi district said, Maj. Akorimo was taken to the hospital on Thursday last week after he failed to eat for three days.

Ongodia said the deceased developed wounds in the throat and mouth that made it hard for him to swallow any food.

Maj. Akorimo was the only professionally trained man (not just a soldier) with all the skills and credentials to hoist the Uganda National Flag (UNF) on October 9, 1962 when Uganda got her Independence from the British.

How and why Maj. Akorimo was chosen to hoist the Ugandan flag

While many drummed, sang and ululated as Uganda’s flag was hoisted for the first time on October 9, 1962, one young man stood still, probably shaking in his boots with a mixture of fear and pride. Proud, that he was the one performing this historic role and fear, because it was a huge task for him. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he recounts.

Maj. Akorimo Kanuti’s role was not a simple task – and he knew it.

Just hours before, “the city was tensed, as some people thought the British would resist our independence while the late President Apollo Milton Obote, then Prime Minister, feared that army officer Idi Amin would disrupt the function.

Now living a quiet life in Omatenga village in Kumi district, the 87-year-old carries the accolade of a national hero, but lives a pauper’s life in a dilapidated house.

Nonetheless, he still vividly remembers that day in 1962 with much pride and joy.

Fading heroes

The story of Kanuti only adds to the long list of uncelebrated heroes of Uganda silently fading away in their undignified retirement. 

“Government should not wait for him (Kanuti) to die then spend lavishly on his burial. He should taste the benefits of his service while still alive,” said Soroti District chairperson Stephen Ochola previously.

Decades since he quit the army, the husband of two, a father of 16 and grandfather to 21 is still anxious to receive his reward. 

“I left with a clean record in the army. I committed no crime while in service and I deserve a decent retirement,” he said. A pang of pain reels through his frail voice but with a clear recollection of the past that he is pleased to be associated with.

Several government officials have in the past visited him, promising to bring to the attention of President Yoweri Museveni what the ex-serviceman is going through but with nothing much forthcoming.

Currently living in a dilapidated house built with personal savings from service in the army, it is the dream of Kanuti though that what he has been promised in the past comes forth before he dies.

Among the things government representatives have in the past promised to help him acquire are decent residence, a vehicle and some stipend to survive on. 

“After I lost my first wife, a group of army officials came to offer their condolence and I tried to remind them of the pledges. I am getting advanced (in age) and about to lose hope in anythinG,” he previously said.

“But I am happy even in the conditions I have lived in. I played my role and would not demand for much recognition but a peaceful Uganda.”

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