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Committed to a cause

By Joan Akello

Ruth Sebatindira, the outgoing president of the Uganda Law Society (ULS), talked to Joan Akello about leadership and society.

Any three things we do not know about you?

I am a minimalist; for example I have fewer shoes and clothes than my husband, and I love music.

What has made your law firm, Ligomarc Advocates strong?

It’s an amalgam of factors but there are those that stand out. As partners in the firm, we think and work strategically, we care about each other’s personal and professional growth and wellbeing. What is your idea of perfect happiness? To be in a happy, healthy and supportive family where everyone pursues their big dreams. I love it when we laugh as a family.


What is your greatest fear?

The crimes committed against children are on such a high rise. We shall forever live in a vicious cycle of violence if we do not fight crimes committed against our children.

When were you happiest?

I have fond memories of my mother. She was a ‘life eater.’ There was so much laughter in our house because of her.  She was such an eternal optimist. That now is in the past. We now have great moments as a family that I will forever cherish; the laughter, the playing, dancing and singing.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I can be reserved.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

People who pull others down.

What is your current state of mind?

Happy, calm and truly grateful.

On what occasion do you lie?

Most times when I say I do not know. For example if you asked me about my client where the information is confidential, if I do not say it is confidential, I will say I do not know.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My skin breaks out a lot especially when it is hot. But it does not work me up. My skin does clear up when I travel to cold places, I return with baby skin.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

A leader; a man who has a vision and a plan for himself and his family. One who also holds hands and is not afraid to love.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

It is the same as for the man. I truly admire leaders, but they must have emotional intelligence.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My daughter Abigail.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be a tennis player like Serena and Venus Williams.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

For my country, I would start a food security campaign. It is unacceptable to see people go hungry without food yet we are an agricultural country.  To see more women chair boards of directors and lead in their communities, and for myself, to take my leadership skills a few notches higher.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I cannot claim my greatest achievement yet. However, I am profoundly grateful that lawyers reposed their trust in me to lead them as president of the ULS. It is a major life achievement serving as ULS president. I also had the Female Lawyers’ Committee set up and I led it for two years at the ULS to address the barriers that women lawyers face in seeking to be satisfied and fulfilled as our male counterparts within the legal profession.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I do not want to come back.

Where would you most like to live?

Uganda.

What is your most treasured possession?

I do not have such a possession.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Life can treat you well but it turns as cold as ice when you lose a loved one. When my mother passed on in 1994, I was a second year Law student. She was my best friend. My father had passed on earlier in 1992 when I was writing my Senior Six exams.

What is over-rated in society?

Money, sex and power.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I am an unknown warrior.

Who are your favorite writers?

Chinua Achebe, John Grisham, Steve Covey, Wole Soyinka

Who is your hero of fiction?

James Bond.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

William Shakespeare.

Which living person do you most admire?

Larry Page and Sergey Brin – both founded Google while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Their mission was to “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, the man who together with his family decided to educate me and my siblings when both my parents passed on, and my husband Steven Sebatindira for his relentless support.

Do you think women have more power than men?

Power is control and influence – no they do not. Where do you live? Don’t you see the inequality in all aspects of our lives?

Even for women professionals!

How do you want to die?

I would like a very short opportunity to say good-bye to my family.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who challenged the status quo. I know my daughter will say that I had too many meetings but I hope she will remember me as a mother who taught her to dream big and to respect other people, their views and lifestyles.

What is your view about the law?

The law is a powerful tool that we should use to fight poverty, hunger and inequalities. We can use the law as an equalizer without violating other people’s rights to say property, wealth, etc.

What is your philosophy about life?

Life is divine. We should contribute to humanity; live life meaningfully and commit to a cause.

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