Uganda: Ak – a Colossus of Sport


If you are either a sportsman of yesteryear or a sports administrator and you never crossed the path of Abram Kitumba Peter Mulangira Lutaya alias Abbey Kits Lutaya or AKPM Lutaya (whichever way you wanted to address him), then you missed priceless life lessons.

Such was AK’s persona. A father of many, great leader, fearless counsellor, witty adviser, meticulous planner and mastermind of many successful programmes. He was gigantic in every true sense of the word.

The man with a larger than life character, an ingrained administration touch will be buried tomorrow at his family’s ancestral grounds in Kanoni – Gomba right next to his wife Robinah, a selfless Rotarian, who passed on during the vicious pandemic year that was 2020.

AK’s vigil was held yesterday at the family home at Kanjokya Street in Bukoto and there will be a thanksgiving service at St Andrew’s Church in Bukoto at 9.30am today with another vigil penciled in at 7.30pm in Kanoni.

A man of his words

Many administrators do not practice what they preach but AK did as much to justify that sports and education can co-exist as he ‘sacrificed’ his three children; Marko Lutaya, Belinda Nakiganda Lutaya and Guy Kimbowa Lutaya to the Gentleman’s Game. Belinda captained the Lady Cricket Cranes for no less than 10 years, Guy skippered the Cricket Cranes and Marko won caps at the U-19 Level with distinction.

AK was always a face of questions that desired quick answers. The sight of him after he had summoned you meant that there was trouble brewing but it was also a refreshing sight to find him standing upright holding a glass or bottle of frothy next to his chest. Effortless humour mixed with words of advice were bottomless. Those were special moments but you had to be in his good books to partake in them.

For many, a meeting with AK meant a round of making tough deliberations as he boasted of an interesting hands-on approach which he always used to get the best results from minimal resources. At a time when sporting federations and associations did what they desire and were not accountable, AK – who didn’t play cricket for long as he found a calling in administration – stamped his authority after being appointed National Council of Sports (NCS) general secretary in 1992.

Tackling ‘big heads’

AK’s daring nature saw him engage the Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president David Agong, Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) boss Twaha Kakaire and Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) officials without fear or favour. He engineered stern financial clean-ups of those respective houses, got Lugogo Indoor Stadium buzzing and got the Lugogo Hostel functional to avoid the previously exorbitant fees which officials were sharing with establishment owners all in the name of pseudo residential camps for national teams.

It took his dissolution of Fufa and UAF in 1992 for the sports fraternity to realize how principled and fearless he was. He also clashed with his superiors, especially the line ministers of sport, over the sports budget and spending. He also got suspended a couple of times but for the 11 years he held the NCS office, AK always stuck to his guns.

For that reason, many administrators treated him with contempt but he was unwavering and cared less as he spent his own money to keep the Ugandan flag flying high at the continental and global scene. A case in point was at the 1995 All Africa Games in Harare. He reportedly footed the bills of over 20 Ugandan ‘imposters’ who had been accredited as medal hopefuls.

His relationship with Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) was as laughable as it was forgettable. During one such meeting, he stood up, eyes wide-opened with intent to drive his point home, and barked at the Maj Gen Francis Nyangweso, who was boss at UOC. If you know the latter, he was a true dinosaur and it was beyond imagination for a much younger person like AK to bark at him. But then that was the epitome of AK’s ights – one that flipped his career page as a colossal administrator.

Service beyond Uganda

But AK’s leadership arm didn’t stop just in Uganda. He is a founding patron of cricket in Rwanda and the region at large. Before Uganda became an Associate Member of International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1998, AK had fought several battles for the East and Central Africa Cricket Conference – where all the nations there within played as one team at international events.

He had represented the region as its delegate at ICC and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) conferences at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, UK and pushed for all inclusion. Those fights were never in vain as Uganda earned its status in 1998 and so did Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. Victory came in his biggest accolades – the ICC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 as well as the Vocational Service Award from Rotary in 2017.

“I am humbled. But I don’t think I deserve this award. All the things people have said about me tonight weren’t done only by me. It was never a one-man show. I was blessed and lucky that I had people who always agreed to work with me. This award is actually to you my team,” AK, a former trustee of UCA said back then, to show how modest and appreciative he was of others.

Loathed and loved equally, the no-nonsense administrator lived a rewarding lifetime.

Good thing is that the long illness is no more and AK can finally rest eternally in peace. Family and sports can only celebrate his life.

WHAT THEY SAID;

Charles Haba – Founding Boss Rwanda Cricket Association

AK supported RCA from infancy and may his gigantic soul rest in peace.

Sam Walusimbi – Cricket Legend

People said he was tough. But he never shied away from enforcing what he thought was right. One time he barked at the late Maj. Francis Nyangweso who was boss at UOC as they couldn’t concur. Nyangweso was shocked by this young boy barking at him. His passion for sports is unheralded,

Rotary PDG – Stephen Mwanje

Mr Lutaya has given many of us the lives we boast of today. We awarded him for his dedication to selflessly serving humanity. He was a distinguished senior citizen who used his role and vocation to transform sports in Uganda.

Mark Ssali – Former Sports Editor Monitor Publications Limited

Abbey was an imposing figure of our time – a true dinosaur because he was in sports for long. When we were growing up, the combination of his physical stature and tough talk, basically imprinted on us what an administrator should be. He really cared but perhaps like many in positions of leadership, the flaws show over time. True legend if ever there was one.