A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY ACHILLES AHIMBISIBWE, 12 November 1980 – 01 February 2023

On February 3rd, 2023, the Kakuranga Ruhinda family, relatives, friends and alumni of Uganda Martyrs University (UMUAA) came together for the Requiem Mass at St. James Catholic Parish of Bbiina, Kampala, for the departed soul of Achilles Ahimbisibwe. He passed away on February 1st, 2023 after a short hospitalization. He was known to most people as Achie. One year since he was called to higher services, a memorial mass will be celebrated in Achie’s loving memory on Saturday February 10th, 2024 at the same parish, starting at 11 am. It has been organised by the family.

At the main campus of Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi, it was difficult to figure out whether Achie was a student or a member of staff because of the way he freely interacted and got along with students. Yet, an academic leader he was; Achie passed on acting as Dean of the famed Faculty of the Built Environment (FoBE). For close to a decade since his second graduation (when he earned a cum laude Master of Architecture, Professional) from the very Faculty, Achie academically mentored cohorts of proficient built environment designers and architectural researchers to the great satisfaction of the nation (Uganda), the region (East Africa) and much of the globe (Commonwealth). He also had a penchant for sports—and not just sports for the mere sake of physical exercise, but sports too for psychosocial bonding—particularly basketball and rugby, both of which he played with unmatched sophistication. Thus, Achie coached students across faculties for the University basketball and rugby teams while serving as Associate Dean at FoBE. Students and staff alike would long to see Achie; his weekend absence from campus would be conspicuously felt. Friendly and generous are two adjectives that characterized Achie’s social being. Erudite and meticulous are the other two adjectives that characterized Achie’s academic being. “Are you better?”, he often asked. For Achie deeply believed that if better is possible, then good is not enough. As a teacher, research supervisor, coach, sportsman, President of the Rotaract Club of Uganda Martyrs University, Patron of UMU Quiz Night, Salsa and Break Dancer, Scrabble and Crossword Master among other extra-curricular activities, Achie always emphasised to his peers and mentees that “do what Martyrs” (a wordplay for his unparalleled love for UMU) “we shouldn’t be those who simply settle for the second-best option.”

The sudden and tragic loss of Achie was indeed devastating to us all. Yet, in what Achie set out to do and achieved in such a relatively short span of life, we can see a bright light at the end of our tunnel. As the parish priest at Bbina reiterated in the homily of Achie’s requiem mass: “Life should be about doing memorable things and preparing our souls for the heavenly kingdom. Some lights burn bright but burn out faster and others dim but longer.” Achie died young, however, it is not the number of years he lived but the quality and quantity of actions packed in those fewer years that strike us as truly memorable. Months before his deteriorating health and hospitalization, Achie had secured for UMU a very productive collaboration with the University of Antwerp in Belgium for a sandwich Master’s programme in Urban Planning. Along this, he also secured some considerable Belgian funding for Greening Fort Portal City, starting with 8,000 ecologically resonating trees. Achie’s larger aim pointed at Heritage and Eco-friendly Architecture in pursuing such collaborations. He did all this at a time when FoBE was at its lowest of faculty staffing and the limited available staff thinly stretched. In his last substantive email correspondence to the UMU Community in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, Achie assuredly wrote: “At an institution like ours, nostalgia might cajole some to look back at a glory of former times. However, good reason invites us to take a more critical look ahead at the potential for a future unencumbered by redundancy. “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they are not altered for the better designedly” (Francis Bacon)… In looking to embrace Francis Bacon’s philosophy, which sought to look beyond scholastic disputations and towards enlightenment and the increase of human good, we should prepare to meet our various challenges. Those confined by dogma might accuse some of exotic modes of thought. At a faculty level… we have been met with suspicion by the establishment, viewed as being too radical an approach to architectural education, that led to prolonged efforts — the better part of the past decade — seeking to scuttle any progress and achievements. Fortunately, we are now seeing a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. In worship of the unknown instead of overcoming it, some forget that as knowledge grows, fear decreases. In the space of 2019 alone the number of funded projects, publications, press coverage, awards, accolades, graduands, and progress in teaching and response to national growth, through our entire campus/es, is commendable. In Virtue and Wisdom, we lead …”

Achie’s achievements within such a relatively short time at UMU are indeed commendable. We give glory to God for them. How about us who are still here in the earthly kingdom? Let’s accordingly use our bodies and minds to prepare our souls for good solace.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace. Amen. 

By Jimmy Odoki Acellam & David N. Tshimba – alumni of UMU and dear comrades of Achilles

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Written by Odoki Jimmy (1)

Jimmy Odoki Acellam is Coordinator of Heartsounds Uganda and a Mental Health Advocate.

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