By Alex Abutu
Denis’ tenure for nearly 10 years as the Executive Director of AATF can be summed up by an Igbo proverb which says the pot produces more content than the mortar but makes no noise about it.
Denis is indeed an accomplished son of Africa from Uganda, a country whose natural splendor, magnificence, diversity of form and colour, profusion of brilliant life endeared the English Stateman, Sir Winston Churchill to simply call it the Pearl of Africa. Denis, like most African kids of his time, was born and raised in rural Uganda where he worked closely with his parents on farms, tending animals and going to school at the same time. His perception of life and interest in agriculture may have been shaped by this childhood experience toiling with his parents daily on the farm yet getting very little at harvest time.
Well-read and respected in the intellectual community for his contributions to his chosen field of study. Very humble and focus, yet he fits into any company and comfortable at mingling with anyone, no wonders at AATF he was just called Denis. This is unthinkable in Africa where the craze for title and recognition is at its highest peak. In most places the word boss, Dr, Chief, Prof. CEO are what you hear but he chose to be Denis.
Right from the day he steps into AATF as the Executive Director, many things remained constant with him even till his last day in office, outstanding among those things include his sensitivity to time – he likes keeping time and often is earlier than expected for meetings – he does not like it when you are late even if he tries to accommodate. He is very human – down to earth and not overbearing, a very good listener.
Denis is a man of quality – always looking clean and neat – his shoes and his African shirts are always well polished and shining. Very jovial and hilarious, loves giving stories especially off office hours but when it is time for work, he gives 100% focus.
When many in his position would push for recognition at any opportunity, he just does what he needs to do when he needs to do it and he lets others take glory. He is a gentleman per excellence –always allowing others and especially ladies to graciously step forward no matter that he is the boss.
As the Executive Director, he was firm, forthright and fair. He took/made tough decisions but in all he may be very empathetic and let people face the consequences of their actions without favour, meaning he can be strict and fair at the same time.
Denis may mean a lot to many people depending on your proximity to him but regardless of how far or near you are to him, you will testify that he enjoys making friends and knowing people, that may account for the how most people describe him: a democrat, caring, performer, team leader, a go getter, a flat-line leader, mentor.
Denis is very good with names and does not forget people easily, he is very particular about what and when he eats and drinks. He loves being Ugandan – I don’t think he would ever want to be anything else but a Ugandan – true African.
Denis’s humility and modest lifestyle while superintending over million-dollar worth of projects, coordinating versatile and erudite scientists and researchers and others in nearly half of the African continent speaks volumes of his sincerity and deserved a place in the African history book. Denis, as is said in Nigeria, deserves an accolade and a clap that will be heard in all corners of Africa and beyond.