Mastulah Nassaka’s heart was shattered yesterday upon learning that the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Med Ssozi Kaggwa, had died in the morning.
The 19-year-old learnt of the shocking news while attending a media roundtable engagement at the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) offices in Kampala yesterday morning.
Kaggwa passed away after collapsing in his car. He had been expected as a panelist at the media engagement.
Ms Nassaka had spent part of her Tuesday morning with him. Part of the arrangement was that she also acts in his role to have a feel of what his job entails on a daily basis.
UHRC had partnered with Unicef for this particular “girl takeover office” project where a girl is identified to act in his role for part of the day.
In order to effectively act the role, Ms Nassaka arrived at the UHRC offices at about 11am on Tuesday.
Upon her arrival, she was received by one of the staff members who informed her that Kaggwa had briefly stepped out of his office but would return shortly.
Meanwhile, she was briefed on what the entity does and informed on what to expect in the acting role.
When Kaggwa eventually returned, Ms Nassaka was ushered into his office.
Acting the chairperson role
Once inside, Kaggwa handed over the office to her. “He ushered me to his seat before taking another one,” she says.
The duo then went ahead and engaged in a lengthy conversation about his position.
Kaggwa told Ms Nassaka that part of his job requires him to advocate human rights, including those of children.
“He told me that his job mostly involves fieldwork and sensitising people about their rights,” she says.
In addition, Kaggwa said he found joy upon seeing other children’s rights observed and respected.
Regarding the challenges he found on the job, Kaggwa told Nassaka that some of them included limited funds to implement child rights activities, resistance from parents, especially those who rubbish off these rights as well as some children who make it difficult sometimes to have these rights implemented.
“He told me that as much as he fights for children’s rights, they also need to observe and respect them. He gave the example of children who deliberately refuse to study yet their school fees have been paid,” she says.
From their discussion, the 19-year-old says Kaggwa seemed passionate about fighting for children’s rights, adding that Mr Kaggwa was chatty and happy. “He seemed fine during our interaction,” Ms Nassaka says.
After concluding her acting role, she says Kaggwa bid her farewell and emphasised she stays responsible while continuing to fight for the rights of children.
‘How we chose Kaggwa’
Ms Catherine Ntabadde, a communication specialist at Unicef, said: “As we were planning for the commemoration of yesterday’s World Children’s Day, which coincidentally fell on the 30-year anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we looked at the different actors we work with, including agencies that are mandated to protect and fight for the rights of everyone, including children, and, UHRC, a government body is charged with that responsibility. So, we decided to get Mr Kaggwa and his team on board to be part of the commemoration activities and celebrate with us. And, that’s how we ended up identifying Mastullah Nassaka to interact with him and at the same time have an experience of what it means to hold his position.
The experience included sitting in for him for part of the day. Then, yesterday, we had also invited him as a panelist for the media roundtable discussions where he was expected to talk about child rights. Sadly, that did not that happen.”
Dr Patrick Kaliika, the medical director of Case Hospital said Kaggwa was brought in by a doctor from Mulago hospital who found him unconscious in his car. “The doctor started a one-man CPR (resuscitation) with mouth to mouth respiration and cardiac compressions. He was brought to Case hospital while still unresponsive and on basic life support. No vital signs of life were detected on arrival,” Dr Kaliika said. He said the ICU team immediately started advanced life support for one hour but with no return vital signs of life. He was declared dead at 9am.