Residents of Kitagata in Bushenyi district in western Uganda were filled with sadness when their village compatriot and guardian of the Kitagata Hot Springs, Ian Charisma Muhereza Ibaarah, passed away on after a severe bout of malaria.
Ian Charisma Muhereza Ibaarah was born on Thursday, September 18, 1969, to the Late John Ibaarah and Mrs. Joy Ibaarah.
His education journey took him through Nakasero Nursery School, Nakasero Primary School, King’s College Budo, Namilyango College, Namasagali College, Makerere University in Uganda, and Barkatullah Vishwavidyalaya University (India). As a young lad in the 80s, Ian and his younger sibling Windsor had a shared common interest with this correspondent and on playgrounds from interschool sports tournaments where Ian excelled in athletics from swimming to horseplay at the Kampala Sports Club.
From a professional career in the vibrant telecom sector when mobile telecom revolutionized the communication sector in the late 90s ,Ian was a key player in the roll out of the 4th digital revolution that swept sub-Saharan Africa. He worked with Telchoice Ltd., MTN Uganda, CONTROPOC UGANDA, FORIS Telecom Uganda, and Skydotcom in ensuring that all rural corners of the country from the peasant farmer to grandmama had access to at least a handset to keep in touch with their urban relatives for that urgent medical supply, to receive mobile money, or simply to speak to her city-based son.
However, Ian saw a calling in his rural hamlet of Kitagata following the passing of his father almost a decade ago where he ditched his white collar 8:00 to 5:00 job to take over the mantle of the family estate including herding his cattle and defending the hot springs in Kitagata where his ancestral roots lay.
Taking custody of the hot springs would be an uphill task when Ian and his village mates clashed with the Kitagata Town Council over the management of the hot springs fearing that investors were there to take over the springs which they and their ancestors had visited for hundreds of years for healing.
This was after a Hungarian firm supported by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) approached the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife And Antiquities to refurbish the site.
In the last time of his regular updates with this ETN correspondent in May, 2023, Ian had established toilet facilities with the support of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and extended an invitation to visit which never came to pass.
Extracts from his eulogy read: “He married his wife Pamela Ankunda Muhereza in 2015, and they were blessed with a son, Yanni Asiimwe Muhereza. He was unassuming, well-respected and a tremendous person whose presence was felt wherever he went. He was an ardent book-reader,, a 100-meter sprinter, a superb cook, and a remarkable actor. He will be forever revered for his goodness and grace, his kindness, and his intellect. Ian was summoned by the Heavenly Host on Sunday, July 2, 2023, three months short of his 54th birthday; forever enfolded in the Love of God. He will be forever missed by those who had the good fortune of knowing him.”
Ian was laid to rest on the hills perched above the hot springs he loved to protect in life. May his dreams be fulfilled by his successors for enjoyment of Kitagata Hot Springs by the community and the world at large for eternity.
Kitagata Hot Springs are located in Sheema County in the Sheema District in Western Uganda, There are two hot springs adjacent to each other. According to the locals, one of the springs was used by the former Omugabe (King of Ankole) and is known as Ekyomugabe. The other spring is believed to have healing powers and is known as Mulago, after Uganda’s largest National Referral Hospital. Some locals drink the water. Semi-naked men and women bathe in the warm waters of Kitagata Mulago as the spring is believed to possess healing powers, sometimes as many as 200 in a day. The water in the springs can warm up to 80 °C (176 °F).