The author Doris, right, enjoys quality time with her sister Barbara back in those youthful days.
My last communication with my sister Barbara Allimadi begun like this, “Good morning, how are you guys?” and ended with “Blessed Sunday”, and then in a matter of days, she was dead.
To say that the news of her passing on Monday April 27, shocked and devastated my family and I would be an understatement. Barbara cared deeply about family matters and always wanted to make sure that we were all well and looking out for each other.
She had blossomed from a very interesting child into a beautiful, warm, intelligent and kindhearted woman. Talking to her was such a pleasure. I always learnt something new. We talked about anything and everything, but always found ourselves having fierce global political discussions. She read extensively. When she started reading and quoting Che Guevara, I thought, oh, oh, we have a revolutionary on our hands.
I was so proud of my sister for many things but in particular her fearless pursuit of peace, democracy, justice and equality in Uganda. At the height of her activism she led many marches on the streets of Kampala, to police stations, and Parliament. Who can forget her most famous bra protest, when Ms. Ingrid Turinawe, an FDC opposition party official was violently arrested by the police and during which arrest they attempted to drag her out of her car by squeezing and pulling her breast? Barbara and some ladies marched to the police station, they stood with their bras exposed and Barbara could be seen berating a policeman, asking how they could do such a thing considering that they were all borne by mothers. That protest earned her the nickname Booby Allimadi, and for a while, this was how I referred to her whenever we spoke.
On many occasions I woke up to news of her arrest and yet she remained undeterred; if anything this spurred her on. I recall during one of our phone conversations when I expressed my fear for her safety, that she could be imprisoned, or worse, killed. I whined that she was causing me stress and sleepless nights. Her reply stunned me. Cool as a cucumber, she asked: “Then whose sister should we send to the frontline, whose sister should be killed in this struggle?”
That was the last time I tried to discourage her from a course she was so passionate about and committed to. I resorted to praying for her safety instead. When Mugisha Muntu, an opposition leader, launched his political party, Alliance for National Transformation, (ANT), in 2019, Barbara was appointed its spokesperson for International and Diaspora Affairs. She reached out to all Ugandans irrespective of party political affiliations. She believed that it would take the endeavor of every Ugandan, including those in the diaspora to transform Uganda.
Her efforts, albeit with different modus operandi remained tireless. She continued to fan the flames of freedom and liberty to the very end. May my sister’s struggle not be in vain. Silence to oppression in Uganda, Africa and the world over should never be an option. Tears stream down my face as I write. My heart is overwhelmed by sheer pain, shock and disbelief.
It hurts to know that I will never see Barbara’s face again, hear her voice again, sit at her dinner table in her Kampala home to enjoy chapati with a cold beer. I shall never hear her laugh and tease me for running away from her little dog.
It all just hurts. When I close my eyes to sleep, I see Barbara’s face. So I stay awake, but memories of her engulf me. What do I do? We lost a sister. A beautiful, charming, funny, charismatic and inspirational sister. My children lost their aunty. Uganda lost a brave and courageous freedom fighter.
Barbara once said, “As long as there is still breath in you, keep working towards your dreams”.
Tributes continue to pour in from Uganda, other parts of Africa and the rest of the world. A testament to who she truly was.
The family is comforted. She will be sorely missed.
Barbara will be buried Saturday in Gulu, Uganda.
In lieu of flowers, anyone who wishes to make a contribution in honor of Barbara may do so via our cousin, Dr. Margaret Nyeko Okello (via smartmoney