Tribute and Memoriam: Uganda's Fearless Liberation Fighter Barbara Allimadi

Barbara Allimadi
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Barbara Allimadi, fearless fighter.

On April 27, 2020, Uganda lost a brave, fearless and dedicated fighter for national liberation while we, her siblings lost a loving, funny, cheerful and feisty sister, Barbara Allimadi. 

On behalf of the Allimadi family, I thank all of her friends, colleagues, and even strangers who came out to support her when she joined the ancestors and the hundreds who sent kind words and contributions for her send-home ceremony. Her colleagues at the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) including leaders retired general Mugisha Muntu and Alice Alasso attended the home-going. 

Barbara had matured into an exceptional human being whose shocking and sudden demise in her prime has left a gaping void in our hearts. Barbara was thrust into the limelight when she led a “bra- protest” in Kampala after the broad daylight sexual assault of a female opposition leader, Ingrid Turinawe, by a police officer in 2012. From that time onward, she lent her voice, time, resources to many other worthy causes and inspired countless other Ugandans, especially young women. 

I have fond memories of Barbara but one particular incident remains firm in my mind. Many years ago, whilst on my way to the airport in Uganda on my way back to London where I reside after the end of my holiday with Barbara, 10 minutes into my journey I noticed that a car was trailing the taxi I was traveling in. It was about 1 am.  I mentioned it to the taxi driver and he agreed that we were being trailed. I told him to keep on driving.  I called Barbara.

“Where are you now?” she immediately inquired.

 I told her the name of the road.

“Great. There is a police station on that road, tell the driver to stop there. I am on my way”.

I know that she would have been getting ready for bed after we had said our goodbyes.

We stopped in front of the police station and the car that had been trailing us, drove ahead and parked sideways in front of us. The driver came out and knocked on the taxi driver’s window.  I instructed the taxi driver to roll down the window a fraction so we could hear what he wanted.  

They begun a conversation which very quickly escalated into a shouting match. They were speaking in a language that I did not understand and of course I imagined the worst.

The unknown man started to aggressively yank at the car door, which was of course locked and in true Doris’ fashion, I started to scream, “My children. My children. I have children”.  

“No, problem”, the unknown man apologetically said to me. At this point Barbara and my nephew Patrick, arrived. Fearless Barbara demanded to know what was going on. After a short conversation it turned out that the taxi I was in had been hired from the unknown man and not returned at the scheduled time.

Maybe it was not an abduction scheme after all. We will never know; kidnappings are common in Uganda, especially by regime security agents. 

“That is not our fault”, Barbara said, firmly, to the person who claimed to own the vehicle. “We called for a taxi to go to the airport and this is who came. I am not looking for another taxi now or my sister will miss her flight”.  I doubt the unknown man was expecting such boldness. He said he would drive behind us and that the taxi driver could drive back to Kampala after which he would take possession of his car.  Barbara then made a quick phone call.

“We are just taking Doris to the airport now”, she said, into the phone. “No, we can’t wait but you can follow us.  If you leave now, we should get there at the same time. I am going to send you the number plate now.”

She took pictures of both cars that would be traveling to the airport and texted it to no one at all.  It turned out that she had not made a phone call to anyone at all. She just wanted the unknown man to believe that other family members would be following behind. 

She was in command. She was not taking any chances. Barbara knew how to live in Uganda. I will never forget that night.  I was in complete awe of my younger sister.  I had never felt so safe in my life before. 

The past two years have passed so very quickly. I think of her often. Sometimes I cry, sometime, I smile, and at other times I just laugh out loud at the beautiful memories.  

If you knew her, then you would understand why. She was quite an exceptional character. The wounds are still fresh and so very painful. Time does not heal. Time merely teaches us how to live without those we love and have lost. 

I miss my sister Barbara. We, all her siblings, miss her. 

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