INTERVIEW: Ingrid Turinawe on being fearless
Ingrid Turinawe, the 42-year old secretary for mobilisation of the opposition Forum for Democratic (FDC) is renowned for her run-ins with police during protests. She told The Independent that she would rather die like a lion than live like a rat.
Turinawe says her fighting spirit stems from growing up in a polygamous family of 22 children which filled with competition among the different women as mothers and children. They lived in Kashojwa village, Rugyeyo sub-county, in Kanungu district. Her father was Stanley Bakwatilenda. Her mother, Jane Bakesiga, had 10 children – the majority.
“My mother hated failure and went through a competitive life to have us get the best and mould us into what we are,” Turinawe says.
Today, she is a mother, politician, business woman and activist who says that regardless of how hard the struggle might be, she is not about to give up.
“No situation can break my resolve to fight for our rights. The defiance campaign has just started and we have to intensify the struggle to regain our lost victory,” remarked Turinawe.
After her Senior Six in 1992, Ingrid married Jackson Turinawe – a prominent businessman in Rukungiri town and they have five children. Turinawe also continued with her education at Kabale National Teachers’ College and attained a Diploma in Education. She, however, opted to run the family’s pharmacy business in Rukungiri town.
In 1998, Turinawe plunged into active politics and was elected district councilor for Buhunga and Ruhinda sub-counties in Rukungiri district council. It was here that she first met FDC’s founding leader, Kizza Besigye who was a minister in the NRM government and attended Rukungiri District Council meetings as an ex-officio and chairman of Rukungiri District Development Association.
In 2001, when Dr Besigye declared his bid for president and as a political mentor, Ingrid did not hesitate to support him. As a member of Reform Agenda, Turinawe became one of the founding members of the FDC political party in 2005. Meanwhile, she had risen to positions of Deputy Speaker and Speaker of Rukungiri district until 2006. She was later elected chairperson of the FDC Women’s League, a position she held for two terms.
In 2006, Ingrid ran for Rukungiri District Woman MP and lost. In 2010 when Rukungiri became a municipality she sought the party flag and lost. She then went for the Rukungiri District Woman MP seat and lost again. In 2016 went for the Rukungiri Woman MP slot and lost in the party primaries. Finally, she chose to go for FDC national mobilisation slot which she won.
Over her political struggles, Turinawe has been arrested and detained in police cells countless times. She has spent two months in Luzira Maximum Security Prison. She has also been hospitalised twice after being assaulted by police; at Nsambya Hospital in Kampala in June 2010, after police sprayed her with dangerous chemicals, and Kabale Medical Centre, following beatings by police.
But Turinawe is one woman who walks off the hospital bed, out of a police cell or prison ward, back onto the streets to engage in running battles with the police. She says at first police used to show remorse when they tortured civilians but appear hardened now.
“May be their thinking is that it is normal,” she says.
But she is not about give up her determination to be remembered as a human rights defender.
“Whenever I set out to do something, I don’t want failure. I want to pursue everything to its conclusion,” she says.