Widow, Doctor Shed Light On Last Days Of Brig Kankiriho

“On Monday morning, health Patrick woke up with chest pains. He then told me that he felt like vomiting. I had to support him from the sitting room back to the bed room. It is so painful that he is no more,” Deborah Kankiriho recalled the last hours of the fallen UPDF 2nd Division Commander.

“As Patrick took a rest, I realized that his eyes were gradually turning red. That’s when I knew that something had gone wrong. I told him to go to the hospital but he fired back: ‘You woman, for long will I accommodate your cowardice? I will be ok.’ So I chose to first give him space,” added Deborah, in a soft, grief-laden voice.

Slowly, she broke down. Relatives and friends used handkerchiefs to wipe off tears.


It was not until after a few hours that a family member telephoned Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen Aronda Nyakairima alerting him of Kankiriho’s precarious health situation.

A day before (Sunday), Kankiriho had telephoned Aronda, saying he was “not feeling well.”

“I advised Patrick that he was better off at a hospital. But as brave as he has been, he said he would be ok and had arranged for a medical checkup in Nairobi,” eulogized Aronda.

However, Kankiriho’s situation continued to deteriorate.


Upon being informed of Kankiriho’s declining condition, Aronda called the UPDF officer, directing he seek immediate medical attention.

Kankiriho said the only family car at home had taken kids to school.

“I quickly sent someone to pick and drop him at Nakasero Hospital. I further called Dr Mbonye ‘to do everything possible to keep Patrick alive’.”


A family member said Kankiriho was asthmatic. “When we heard that he had escaped from Mbarara High School to join the bush we knew he would not return because he was so allergic to coldness. But God protected him throughout,” recounted one of the deceased’s first cousins.

Latest information provided by his friends indicates that Kankiriho quit Mbarara High School in 1977 to join the UNLF in Rwenzori Mountains.

He later walked on foot from Rwenzori to Luweero to join the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni. He was received by Maj gen Fred Rwigyema (RIP).

According to Dr Colonel Ambrose Keith Musinguzi, Director Public Health, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), Kankiriho had a medical checkup in Nairobi in May 2012.

However, at Nakasero Hospital on Monday, said Musinguzi, Kankiriho was treated by a one Dr Ssali who found the army officer in critical condition with a high blood pressure of 40/25.

Musinguzi revealed that Kankiriho had defeated cough three weeks ago after receiving treatment at Nsambya Hospital.

Dr Ssali discovered that Kankiriho had “respiratory problems” which necessitated an “anti shock treatment.”

Some medical personnel who tried to save the Brigadier’s life include a one Dr Rajan and Dr Otim, a consultant on diabetes.

“Doctors found that the patient had a severe infection in the chest. Blood pressure was high. The liver was not functioning. The kidney and pancreas were deranged. He was producing very little urine,” recounted Musinguzi.

He further said by midday, Kankiriho was in critical condition and on life support.

The departed commander of Operation Lightening Thunder in which UPDF war planes destroyed rebel LRA bases in Garamba, DRC in 2009, later regained consciousness.

According to the deceased’s wife, Deborah, after regaining his senses, Kankiriho telephoned Aronda.

“I was shocked by this man’s love of the army. I asked him why not call the doctor first but he was hell bent on talking to Aronda before anyone else,” said Deborah as tears rolled down uncontrollably.

Sadly, this was temporary.


A few minutes later, Kankiriho’s condition deteriorated again.

Dr Musinguzi told mourners at the requiem mass today high blood pressure and the malfunctioning of the liver and pancreas led to “multiple organ failure.”

“Doctors tried to stabilize him in vain. They could not do the dialysis because he was in a severe condition. That’s how he died. It was around 6:30pm,” said Musinguzi.

The mass was attended by several army officers who included Special Forces Commander Brig Kainerugaba Muhoozi, Luweero Defence Industries Chief Executive, Brig James Mugira, Phinehas Katirima, Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, UPDF Chief of Logistics and Engineering, Gen Charles Otema and Col Grace Agaba among others senior army officers.


Aronda described Kankiriho as a patriotic, brave and disciplined soldier whose valour on the battlefield was unrivalled. He also described him as the “master of counter insurgency operations.”

The CDF further hailed the deceased for pacification of Northern Uganda through the disarmament of Karamajong warriors and successful military operations against LRA leader Joseph Kony, UNLF 2, Force Obote Back (FOBA), ADF and other rebel groups.

“Kankiriho collected more guns from Karimajong than any other commander at any time,” said Aronda.

He promised to ensure the Brigadier’s family’s welfare is catered for by the army.

On his part, Kiyonga eulogized Kankiriho: “He was definitely a patriot. He was brave and courageous, a symbol of what UPDF stood for. He once told us that he had finished guns in Karimajong and what was left was mental disarmament.”

Kiyonga said Kankiriho later used money allocated for fuel to build housing structures for Karimoja.

“When I asked him why he said; ‘We have to transform the people. We have to show them the way.’ His mindset was flexible and yielding if convinced. Whenever he saw you were in wrong, he would persuade you to tow his line.”

Patrick Nkiriho, one of Kankiriho’s four orphans and a second year law student of Uganda Christian University (UCU) described his late father as loving, compassionate, classless, welcoming and patriotic.

“During the Garamba mission, he spent Christmas in the bush. We never saw him. He later told us that they enjoyed a goat for the festive season,” said Nkiriho, a statement that amused mourners.

The remains of Kankiriho will be laid to rest at his home in Rushere, Kiruhuura District on Wednesday. President Yoweri Museveni is expected at the burial ceremony, according to Kiyonga.

Kankiriho is survived by a widow, three daughters (Desire Kabeho, Daisy Arinda and Daphine Ayebare) and a son, Patrick Nkiriho.

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