By Benson Obua Ogwal
Prof Willy Washington Anokbongo got a Hungarian scholarship in 1960. It’s true the Colonial Passport Office denied him a passport. He went to Dr. A.M. Obote at his office close to present day Uganda House. Dr. AM Obote personally took him to the Colonial Passport office to appeal on his behalf. The same white Passport officer flatly refused to rescind his decision. When Obote asked him whether he knew who was talking to him, he retorted that he didn’t care who it was, but his decision was final and irreversible. Obote then told young Anokbonggo in (Leb) Lango that they shouldn’t press the matter further, but he, (AM Obote) would present his case to the Lango Scholarship Committee which was due to meet, so Anokbongo can be given another scholarship with less of such complications.
When Obote and Anokbongo parted, the latter pondered the whole matter all night and made a personal decision not to pursue the Lango Scholarship line so that it can benefit another bright Lango student. He went back to Lango without communicating his decision to anyone, bought a new bicycle, and off he started the long journey to Cairo.
The journey itself was very eventful, but I’ll only highlight the route, and where necessary, few details: He rode from Lira to Achaba and slept there. Then on to Gulu where he slept. Then to Palabek where he slept. Crossed into Sudan and slept at Palotaka Mission. Went close to Torit and headed to Juba where he slept in a PWD camp. He abandoned the bicycle in Juba and boarded a ship en route to Khartoum. He slept off aboard the ship and only woke up in Malakal.
In Khartoum he was stranded for a month, looking for travel documents, while living in a slum. By divine providence, the Hungarian Ambassador in Khartoum heard about him, drove his Benz into the slum looking for him. It was quite a spectacle for locals to see such a sleek car in their vicinity. The Ambassador took him to their Embassy, arranged a fight ticket for him to Cairo that very day and he flew aboard KLM. The Ambassador however informed him that he was late for the scholarship, but he could still be allowed if he gets his travel document in Cairo, since the first part of his study was Hungarian language.
Fortunately, he got his travel document and flew to Hungary via Istanbul.
Independence was such a big deal and he did everything within his power to come back home and witness it first hand.
That’s when he used the opportunity to process his Ugandan passport. The very same Colonial passport Officer was the very one who served him, this time with utmost respect and broad smile.
It’s also true,Prof Anokbongo returned with a beautiful Hungarian lady as his wife, and may the Lord bless the soul of the late Hellen Ilona Anokbonggo whom we fondly called Anyu, pronounced /oonyu/, Hungarian for mommy. She passed on in 2007. Among her six children is my wife and her last born son whom she adopted when he was about a week old and his mother died while giving birth to him. He’s now a mature young man with a Masters degree and rising through the banking hierarchy.
The late Hellen was a talented statistician and computer expert in her own right who rose to become Commissioner for Data Processing at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. She was very instrumental in establishing the electronic payroll system at the Public Service.
Most importantly, she got fully assimilated into a true Lango woman.
Professor Anokbongo has since served this nation in the Medical field very professionally. Upon retirement he became the MP for Kwania.
But his role at Medical School remained the same even when he was MP. He continued to teach and supervise PhD students voluntarily, and still does so. Because of his near indispensability, Prof. Anokbongo was among the very first four academics to be given Prof. Emeritus status by Makerere. In my understanding that means he’ll continue being Professor of Pharmacology of Makerere till his passing.
Prof. Anokbongo was also the first Lango to attain professorship of Makerere University.
Benson Obua Ogwal is the former Mp for Moroto County.