Kampala: He always wore his necktie tight to the neck, his suit spotlessly pressed. A tradition he probably picked from Busoga College Mwiiri.
Just last week, he drove into grand imperial hotel, his car draped in campaign posters with ‘vote Mutende’ slogans.
He was planning to contest again for Mbale Municipality. However, he was found in bed unresponsive and pronounced dead at Nsambya hospital. As we write this, the cause of death is yet to be known.
James Mutende joined government in 2011 as a junior minister for industry and an ex-officio in Parliament, a position he held till the time of his death.
He was a regular attendant of plenary, always coming in earlier than most of his cabinet friends albeit rarely contributing to debate as is the case with the majority of cabinet ministers.
He has been described, by his Mbale politics colleagues, as hardworking, honest a committed servant, with great dignity, who gave his all to perform his duties and responsibilities. He was also known to be honest and a man of great dignity.
“I first met him in Mwiri when he was in senior three while I was in senior one and when I was joining University he was in third year and so we have been great friends and I will miss him a lot,” Nandala Mafabi (Budadiri West) said, adding that he was “indeed a man of principle.
“I always joked with him. He is used to call me a small boy because of my small size, and I used to call him big boy,” he said. Mutende was actually smaller compared to Mafabi.
Simon Mulongo (NRM, Bubulo West) remembers him as a well-groomed gentleman and academician.
“He was more of a technical person than political. He was never a selfish person and was not a person who used every means to get what he wants.
“In him we have lost a very resourceful person both to the people of Mbale and the country as a whole,” he said.
Mutende was instrumental in drafting the NRM manifesto and helping to build party structures in Mbale.
According to Mulongo Mutende leaves behind the legacy of construction of the industrial park in Mbale, a feat he achieved after talking to the President who provided money for acquisition of land and compensation of affected people
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Hon. Wafula Oguttu said Mutende was humble, social, and never indulged in dubious actions like many politicians of our time.
“Mutende was free from any corruption scandal right from his days at the National Investment authority to his appointment as Minister,” says Wafula.
Mutende comes from a family of distinguished technocrats and politicians. His father Michael Mutende was the first Ugandan Town Clerk of Mbale Municipality, from 1964 until 1974.
His uncle James Francis Wapakhabulo was Uganda’s foreign minister at the time of his death in 2004.
A holder of a PhD in economics he was one of the three most highly educated ministers in Museveni’s current government.
He was born in Mbale in 1962. He attended locals schools before joining Busoga College Mwiri . In 1984, he joined Makerere University where he studied Veterinary Medicine graduating in 1988.
In 1999, he graduated with a Master of Business Administration. He received a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from New School University in New York.
He began his career as a teaching Assistant at Makerere University in 1987, during his final undergraduate year, continuing in that until 1989.
He joined national politics when he contested for Mbale Municipality Member of Parliament seat only to be defeated by Jack Wamayi Wamga. In 2011, he again contested and was still defeated by Jack Wamayi Wamanga before being appointed Minister of State for Industry.
By the time of his death, he was seeking to contest for Mbale Municipality Member of Parliament seat on the NRM ticket. Four children and wife, Lydia Wanyoto, survive him.
May his soul Rest in Peace.