An open letter to the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta: The case for more women in cabinet and a female Speaker of Parliament:
OPEN LETTER | MAY 21, 2021 | The Women’s Movement of Uganda congratulates the people of Uganda and its leaders for a fairly successful election process and further extends its message of felicitation to the 11th Parliament and the President of Uganda on his swearing-in ceremony. The 2021 election process was not without its own share of challenges. We take cognizance of the plight of families that lost their loved ones, those who got injured and demand that government releases all political prisoners and ensures that those accused of offences under the country’s criminal law books are tried in a free and fair process. Justice delayed, as the old mantra goes, is justice denied. As mothers of this nation, we feel the pain of families whose caretakers, breadwinners and loved ones became victims of an election that was characterized by violence and abuse of the law, power and the gun by elements in our country’s military, police and other security outfits.
We reiterate the demand for justice for these families and bringing to book the bad apples in our country’s security system. We recognize therefore, that all is not well in our body politic, our country is bleeding and that whereas elections are over as the President said on his swearing-in day, the nation still needs healing. We pledge our utmost commitment and support for that process of national healing.
That said and in the spirit of the country picking the pieces and forging a way forward, we take cognizance of the fact that with the President and MPs sworn-in, the next important phase is the appointment of cabinet and election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament. It is in this spirit that we write this open letter to the President and particularly, in no uncertain terms, invite His Excellency and the coterie of advisors and strategists he works with, to put critical thought to the issue of gender parity in the new government.
We call upon the President to have more women in his next cabinet. This, we say, fully conscious of the fact that under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) administration, since 1986, our beautiful country has made significant strides in addressing the socio-political injustices women suffered historically, even though it is not yet uhuru. By the 1980s for instance, as then First Lady Mama Miria Kalule Obote noted in her 1984 speech on International Women’s Day, “There are no women in the Cabinet. There is only one-woman Member of Parliament. The number of women on Boards of various parastatal and other bodies is minimal. There are no women judges. At Makerere University, there is only one-woman professor. There is only one woman Permanent Secretary and three Under Secretaries.”
Even the harshest critic of the President or the NRM would give credit where it is due and appreciate that under President’s Museveni’s tenure in office, the country has registered some important strides, some of which spring from the affirmative action provisions in the 1995 Constitution. Therefore, we are preaching to the already converted and our call to you, Mr. President, is to consolidate these gains of your government by ensuring that more women are placed in strategic decision-making positions in the new cabinet not as a matter of tokenism or sheer gender balance but from recognition of the fact that the women of Uganda have demonstrated excellence and ethical leadership in most places where they have been entrusted with the mantle of leadership.
And so, Mr. President, we urge you to populate cabinet with more women not only to ensure that the country achieves more in regard to closing the gender parity gap but also to give our motherland’s women a chance to play a more pronounced role in the development of the country where they are the majority of the population but minority in the public sector offices.
Secondly and with equal importance, we as members of the women’s movement are unapologetic in our support for the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga to serve as the Speaker of our next Parliament. Owing to the fact that the executive and judiciary are led by men, and alive to the reality of the scarcity of women in our country’s key decision-making architecture, we do not take for granted the fact that Kadaga, whatever the criticism detractors may level against her, represents the best possible chance for our country’s women to be at the fore front of leadership. Next door Kenya, the celebration of the country’s first female Chief Justice designate is in the air. The women’s movement in Kenya is right to celebrate because these things matter and attempts by some quarters to water down the gender aspect of political leadership are rather retrogressive and should be resisted. They reek of the malignant tumors of patriarchy still existent in the body of our society.
A total of 173 (32.89%) women, for instance, were elected to represent different constituencies in the 11th Parliament of Uganda out of 529 MPs. Of these, 146 are District Women Members of Parliament, out of 353 direct seats, 14 women were elected, and out of 30 seats for special interest groups, 13 women were elected. It is no brainer that without affirmative action, our Parliament would have been a men-only affair. We cannot therefore, emphasize enough, the importance of being deliberate about closing the gender-gap in the running of public affairs.
The case for a female Speaker of Parliament as an inspiration to more women and girls is one that deserves little emphasis. Even more importantly, the case for Kadaga is a strong one because beyond the fact that she is a woman, there is no dispute that her performance in that office has been impressive.
Conclusively, we reiterate our plea to His Excellency the President to appoint women ministers in key strategic ministries like Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, etc so that they are able to make decisions that positively affect the lives of women in the rural and urban areas. In the same vein, we invite the 11th Parliament in its multiparty nature, to elect Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga as Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda for it is in the best interest of our nation.
For God and My Country
LETTER BY FOWODE, FEMME FORTE, WOMEN’S PROBONO INITIATIVE & ADOVIC