Uganda has a brand-new hero. His name is Reverend Father Deogratius Kateregga Kiibi known simply as Fr Deo.
The 31-year-old priest serves at the Kampala Archdiocese Cathedral of Rubaga as diocesan communications co-ordinator and, until a fortnight ago, was unknown to the public.
Today, he is swamped with requests and invitations to speak at functions. Fr Deo, until recently, was a student at the Makerere University studying for a master’s degree in journalism.
It all started on February 2, when a senior priest instructed him to lead a requiem Mass for famous musician Moses Ssekibogo, also known as Radio, who had died from injuries sustained in a bar brawl.
A few minutes into the sermon, phones and social media were buzzing with people alerting others to either switch on their TVs or radios, or live stream the Radio funeral Mass. The service was being broadcast owing to the deceased’s fame.
The thrust of Fr Deo’s sermon was simple — if you have talent, use it for service of mankind, but learn to manage the fame and money that comes with it.
Life came to a standstill as everyone was hooked on the broadcast. Even passengers in public service vehicles were reluctant to alight from buses that had tuned in to the live radio broadcast. The priest was finally saying what everyone had for a long time been afraid to tell Uganda’s so-called celebrities. That their lifestyles leave a lot to be desired.
Politicians kept quiet because they use them for their campaigns and ordinary people were afraid of being accused of being envious of their fame and fortune. It took a Catholic priest with nothing to lose to tell the “kings” that they were naked.
Since then, the priest’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing as callers thank him for his straight talk to the hitherto untouchable musicians. His admirers have been streaming to Rubaga hill to catch a glimpse of the overnight “star” priest.
His social media accounts are inundated with messages. Someone joked that Fr Deo might also need to learn from his sermon: Managing fame. But in a media interview, the youthful priest said that the over a decade of training they undergo, priests learn to take in and cope with all kinds of situations, so the instant fame meant nothing to him. He said any other priest would have delivered a similar message.
To understand why the public is lionising Fr Deo, you need to know what has been happening in Uganda’s music scene in the past two decades.
Singer Jose Chameleone was probably the last musician to attain fame through his music. But some musicians, including those who helped him rise to the top, got angry that Chameleone was hogging all the fame. So they deliberately started acting outrageously to attract attention.
They started fighting in public. The worst happened when at a ceremony to award Chameleone as musician of the year, a then unknown singer did an abomination. He stepped on the table of the queen of Buganda. The photo of the man’s shoe on the “royal” table was more talked about than Chameleone’s award.
There has been no turning back from bad behaviour. It has worked for young musicians seeking to compensate for what they lack in talent. Fr Deo has clearly burst their bubble. Hopefully, they can now put more effort in singing than drinking and fighting.