Uganda Tourism Supporter Pietro Angelo Averono Passes While in Italy

Pietro Averono - image courtesy of T.Ofungi
Pietro Averono - image courtesy of T.Ofungi

eTurboNews pays tribute to Pietro Angelo Averono, an Italian-Ugandan with a big heart for the African country and its peoples (August 1, 1950 – May 6,2024).

Long time cultural attaché at the Italian embassy, Kampala Pietro Angelo Averono, passed away on Monday, May 6, 2024, in Italy. According to his close friend Wafula Bichachi, he had traveled to Italy in December where it was discovered that he had a cancerous tumor in his brain. Sadly, his condition deteriorated until he eventually succumbed to his ailment.

At the time of his passing, Averono had invested in the tourism sector which he was passionate about building the Lodge Bella Vista along Fort Portal Kasese road at the edge Lake Nyamiteza in Bunyangabo district, Western Uganda.

On his first visit to the Uganda Tourism Board, Averono was awed by one of the giant backlit images of a crater lake in western Uganda eventually fulfilling his dream to own a piece of this scenic gem

Life in Uganda

Averono first set foot in Uganda in 1980 at a tumultuous time for the country when dictator Idi Amin had been driven out of power as the country was smoldering from the ruins of the 1979  “Liberation War” after an 8-year tyrannical regime.

He first worked with Larco an Italian company dealing in concrete products before joining the Italian Embassy in Kampala in 1983.

As Averono was being laid to rest in Turin on May 8, a funeral mass was hastily organized by the Uganda Bikers Association held at St. Peters Catholic Cathedral, Nsambya, which was the deceased’s parish.

Patrick Okello, a commissioner in the Prime Minister’s office, said in his eulogy that he had been a beneficiary of Averonos’ generosity since he first came to the country, from pampering him and other little children with sweets to setting up an Italian restaurant he named Mamamia. The restaurant was first located at the former Hotel Equatoria building before shifting along the upscale Speke Hotel promenade in Kampala. It was able to sustain his charitable gestures including supporting several disadvantaged children whose education he funded. He even built a pizzeria bakery at his home in Nsambya where he routinely hosted friends to mouthwatering Italian dishes.

Averono and Okello were later to join the prestigious Makerere University as undergraduate freshmen in the faculty of Social Sciences in 1990.

Wafula Bichachi, currently with the foreign service, had met Averono as a freshman, recalled how Pietro then in his early forties, stuck out as the only white man in a class of over 150 students half his age. Their friendship grew further when Averono, due to juggling work at the Italian Embassy and class, had to catch up on lecture notes from Wafula. 

At his faculty, he was jovial and a friend to all, even reaching out to classmates who had difficulties in meeting their educational needs.

In later years, Averono recommended Wafula for employment at the Italian Embassy after learning that his friend was out of employment, before the duo returned to the university to pursue Masters in International Relations partially funded by Averono. Through this acquired experience, Wafula was recruited in the Foreign Service where he still serves.

Speaking on behalf of the Uganda Bikers Association where Averono was an ardent member and owner of a BMW SK800 motorbike, James Mugerwa said although he was frail, he managed to join the bikers last year on a charity ride to Nairobi and even in his ailing, he had spoken of how he planned to return to Nairobi 2 days before his passing away.

Architect Jonathan Nsubuga, whose late father was a former hotel owner, had employed Averono at his first job in Kampala. Nsubuga in his eulogy said how he also met Averono as a child, eventually taking on several of his construction projects.

Working with Uganda Tourism

As a staffer with Uganda Tourism Board, this correspondent interacted with  Averono since 2005   during preparations to mark centennial celebrations commemorating the first scientific expedition to the  5109-meter snowcapped summit of Ruwenzori Mountains of the Moon. The 1906 expedition was led by  the Prince Amadeo  Italian mountaineer and Duke of Abruzzi and an expeditionary team comprised of photographer Vittorio Sella and members of the Alpine Brigade accompanied by porters who had journeyed from the East African coast in Mombasa on the then newly constructed Uganda Railway before continuing their journey by water and on foot.

As head of the celebrations, Averono chaired several meetings in conjunction with the Uganda Tourism Board and several industry stakeholders including Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, University of Turin, University of Makerere Kampala, Museum of the Mountain “Duke of Abruzzi” in Turin, and Uganda Museum. This was in preparation for a series of events to relive the expedition by the descendants of the original expeditioners dubbed “In the footsteps of the Duke.”

Prior to the big day, a photo gallery exhibiting printed photographs from the original expedition was organized at the Uganda Museum in Kampala, one of the images exposing the glaring extent of the rescinding snow line when contrasted with recent photos.

An anthropological lecture by visiting Professor Cecilia Pennancini from the University of Turin was also delivered later in October 2006 in Turin and in Kampala contrasting some of the earliest photos and contemporary photos by Craig Richars depicting memorable photos from the expedition of  Bakonzo porters crossing the Mobuku river of ordinary women carrying baskets donned in beads and with tattoos all over their bodies and a drummer heralding the duke’s arrival at the king’s palace in Toro to the snowcapped mountains and vegetation.

Averono also helped secure funding to publicize the event at the annual BIT Milan Tourism Exhibition in February 2006 where the Uganda Tourism Board showcased the Uganda pavilion themed on the Ruwenzoris.

Back at the Uganda National Theatre, Averono animated the expedition playing the role of the Duke dubbed “Voices of the Rwenzori” to a local audience as the build up to the big day in 2006 expedition approached.

Eventually between June 12-24, a team of mountaineers from Italy accompanied by local journalists climbed the Ruwenzoris where a descendant of the prince was also available to attend the crowning event hosted at the Italian Embassy in Kampala.

Averonos also published a book documenting photographic images that he had captured since he first called Uganda home 44 years ago in 1980.

Great Humanitarian

It was his wish to be buried in Uganda having proudly brandished his Ugandan passport, and he had already shared plans to construct a monument along a roadside corner where he wished to be buried by the crater lakes, only to die in Italy. So revealed longtime friend, Okello, who vehemently discouraged Averono from doing so, considering it a taboo in African culture to fathom the idea.

“He was a great humanitarian…” wrote Wafula in his final tribute in a WhatsApp message to this correspondent. “He supported dozens of poor children and families, many of whom he just found on the streets of Kampala. Let’s pray for him, let’s pray for him,” he said as he implored mourners gathered at the church where he concluded his eulogy before he walked off the pulpit on that somber evening.

Father Fredrick Tagaba who celebrated the funeral mass switching between Italian and English could only thank Peter (Pietro) for having chosen this name, saying “for it is this very cathedral of St. Peters church Nsambya that we are celebrating him. For having chosen the name Angelo, may the angels receive him. It’s the significance of his name that we celebrate.”

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About the author

Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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