Retired Major Edward Rurangaranga, the former Uganda People’s Congress-UPC chairman is dead.

Rurangaranga collapsed at around 1am in the wee hours of this morning at his home in Kitagata in Sheema district.

His wife, Winfred Rurangaranga told URN this morning that her late husband has been battling diabetes for days, adding that his condition worsened during supper on Monday night. According to the widow, Rurangaranga had just returned from Ntungamo district where he had gone to attend the burial of his close friend, Francis Buringa.

David Kabigumira, the area Local Council 5 Councillor, says that he received a phone call from the deceased’s family at around 1:30am notifying him that Rurangaranga had breathed his last. Kabigumira says Rurangaranga’s body is lying at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital mortuary for postmortem and further management.

Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the Sheema North MP told URN that the deceased’s family and friends are working on burial arrangements. In August 2015, Rurangaranga was airlifted from Sheema and admitted in Intensive Care Unit at Nakasero Hospital where he was treated for advanced diabetes.

Reports had earlier circulated on social media that the former UPC stalwart had died, but it was vehemently denied by the family.

Uganda People’s Congress – UPC party members have described former Chairman, Retired Major Edward Rurangaranga, as a hero whose contribution to the party and country shall forever be remembered.

Rurangaranga collapsed and died in the wee hours of Tuesday at his home in Kitagata in Sheema district following a protracted battle with diabetes. He was 87.

Rurangaranga was until recently UPC National Party Chairman during the reign of Dr. Olara Otunnu between 2013 and 2012.

Jimmy Akena Obote, the UPC party President, says they will remember Rurangaranga for his unwavering dedication and commitment in serving his country and the party. Akena, a son to Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, the former President of Uganda, said he knew Major Rurangaranga during his tenure as Minister of State for Local Government during Obote’s second reign between 1981 and 1985.

He described the late Rurangaranga as a great man.

Okello Lucima, the UPC party spokesperson under Dr. Olara Otunu, the former party president, says both UPC and Uganda have lost a soldier, patriot, liberator, and an elderly statesman.

He says in remembrance of Rurangaranga all UPC supporters and patriotic Ugandans must embrace unity in diversity, equality of opportunities and before the law, and development with equity and fairness; and to continue the struggles for national democratic liberation, for which the deceased and his contemporaries dissipated their youths.

“UPC expresses its sincere sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and relatives, and the communities of Sheema, Bushenyi, and Ankole,” Lucima said in a statement this morning. Adding that, “We salute him, and his comrades -in-arms, of the Kikosi Maalum, for their service to country and people. May God grant Maj. Rurangaranga everlasting life, and may Christ carry the burdens of death for his family, the people of Sheema and entire Bushenyi, his Party and country.”

Bonny Ocen, a producer at the national broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation -UBC says UPC has lost a great man who was at the forefront in the struggle to overthrow Idi Amin and return Milton Obote from exile.

Obote was the founding leader of UPC, a party he led from 1959 until his death in 2005. It is his party that formed a government in 1962 after Uganda attained her independence.

Obote’s government was overthrown in the 1971 military coup that brought General Idi Amin to power. With support from Tanzania, however, Obote mobilised the Uganda exiled groups that over threw Amin out in April 1979. Rurangaranga played a significant role in the war as one of the commanders of Kikosi Maalum, the biggest fighting group during the war.

When on May 27, 1980 Obote stepped on Ugandan soil for the first time in nine years, Rurangaranga was on hand to welcome him, first at Nyakisharara Airfield in Mbarara and then in Bushenyi where the UPC leader addressed his first rally.

After the controversial general elections in December 1980, Obote appointed Rurangaranga to cabinet as state minister for Local Government.

Other commanders of Kikosi Maalum included Lt Col David Oyite Ojok who later became a Major General and Chief of Staff of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) before his death in a plane crash in December 1983. The group also had Col Tito Okello Lutwa and Major Bazilio Olara Okello among others. Lutwa was later elevated to the rank of General and appointed UNLA Army Commander while Bazilio Okello was promoted to Brigadier. It is these two who spearheaded the July 1985 coup that overthrew Obote, for the second time.

-URN