Man who demarcated Rwenzori National park dies at an approximated age of 120 years

Abraham Lincoln Kaliba, the man who spent nearly seven years planting the boundary line for what would become Mount Rwenzori National Park, has died.

Kaliba passed on at his home at Bwera Cell in Mpondwe-Lubiriha town council, Kasese district in the early hours of Easter Sunday, according to his grandson Abjeed Kitalemire. He died of natural causes, the family says.

Kitalemire, 40, describes his departed grandfather as “a great historian and a living library who told stories of most of the events that have happened in Kasese district over time.”

Kaliba’s actual age at the time of death is not known, though family members base on stories he told them while still alive and historical accounts to estimate his year of birth to be around 1890s. This would put his age at over 120 years.

Uganda Radio Network could not independently verify this information, but Kitalemire says Kaliba told them he was born during the time Omukama Cwa II Kabalega’s army, the Abarusura, had raided Tooro and annexed it.

In his 1994 book, A Thousand Years of Bunyoro Kitara, Professor Kihumuro Apuuli writes that Omukama Kabalega had sent in an army and annexed Tooro back to Bunyoro Kitara until 1891 when British colonialist and military officer, Captain Frederick Lugard, helped restore the Tooro Kingdom. This same year, Lugard helped the young Prince Kasagama proclaim himself new ruler of Tooro at a place called Busongora in present-day Kasese district.

Kaliba is known for his hash decisions when he led a team that demarcated the boundary of Mount Rwenzori Forest between 1932 and 1939. His grandson Kitalemire says Kaliba was appointed by Sir George David Mathew Kamurasi Rukidi III, the then King of Toro to supervise the planting of the boundary trees on the Rwenzori Mountain forest on behalf of the British colonial government. Part of this forest would be gazetted in 1991 to become Mount Rwenzori National Game Park.

He also served in the Tooro Kingdom parliament before working as a civil servant in the colonial government.

Kaliba did not return home in Bwera for the seven years he supervised the forest demarcation work. As a lead surveyor, he instructed his workers to plant trees along the entire 996 square-kilometre-boundary across the current districts of Kasese, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo.

Kaliba produced 14 children from three wives. All his wives are now deceased and so are some of his children.

At about 131 years, Yohana Ahuruma, a resident of Busunga village in Bundibugyo district, is believed to be the oldest person in Uganda. Ahuruma was baptised by the missionaries at Virika in Fort Portal, in 1895. Since there were no records at the time, the missionaries estimated his age to be about 10, placing his year of birth at 1885.

Rev. Misaki Bulemu, the deputy head teacher of Bwera Secondary School, describes the late Kaliba as a great pillar of education in the district because he used his leadership to help found schools including this one in his neighborhood.

Rev. Bulemu says the school community will miss the senior citizen because to the administration he was an advisor and to the students a friend who used to serve them with free mangoes.

“Lincoln Kaliba meant a lot to us as a community of Bwera Secondary School. He used his leadership experience to advise us especially on land and to the students he handled them as great grandchildren,” Rev. Bulemu told URN on phone.

Metusera Bwambale, an ICT expert in Kasese told URN on phone that he helped graze Kaliba’s goats while studying at Bwera Secondary School in 2006 and the reward would be keeping him at his home when the school administration sends him away for fees.

In his widely circulated audios about the history of Bakonzo, Herbat Mukuke a famous folk story teller, describes Kaliba as a man who was enthusiastic and determined to complete whatever task that came his way.

Mukuke says that during the demarcation of the Rwenzori mountain forest, Kaliba with hundreds of porters threatened chiefs who could not cooperate by snaking the boundary further in community land.