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Women who defined 2013

By Stephen Kafeero

It is said that it takes acts of people or acts of God to make a year unique from the others. What would 2013 be without these 20 women?

Rebecca Kadaga; Speaker of Parliament

If this year were a song, the oil debate set the tone, the ‘rebel’ MPs saga was the chorus and the rift with her deputy Jacob Oulanyah was the final stanza. While her NRM party was busy accusing her of being “useless” to President Museveni, the international community was demanding for a piece of her.


Consequently, she was elected as Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians International (CWP), which brings together women Parliamentarians from some 54 Commonwealth countries.

Janet Museveni, Minister Karamoja Affairs

Ever since she was appointed Minister of in charge of Karamoja Affairs, the First Lady has not rested. At an IGAD Ministers Conference in Kampala in October, her counterparts in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan named the Ugandan part of the Karamoja Cluster as the most-transformed area in the four-member region, which was a clear vote of confidence in her efforts.  Earlier in August, the mother of four celebrated a remarkable 40 years of marriage to President Yoweri Museveni upon which they renewed their marriage vows, toasting to love and friendship at a colorful ceremony. Surely, a year couldn’t be any better than that.

Lady Sylvia Naginda, Nnaabagereka

Given the sheer amount of work she does, one can be tempted to think that the Buganda Queen is a government official. 2013 was yet another busy year for her as she remained a pillar of development by playing a major role in sensitizing and mobilizing the general population on issues of education, health, poverty eradication, culture preservation, and empowering marginalized groups such as youth, women and persons with disabilities.  To crown it all, she hosted African queens in Kampala and invited President Yoweri Museveni to launch the African Queens and Women Cultural Leaders Network (AQWCLN).

Allen Kagina; Commissioner General, URA

In 2013, URA made history when revenue collections for 2012/2013 breached the Shs 7 trillion mark for the first time making her 9th year as boss at URA a fabulous one. The tax body has also seen the tax payer register grow by 91% in 12 months thanks to initiatives geared at widening the tax net.  Indeed, URA performed better all her counterparts in the region in 2012/2013, which is largely attributed to Kagina’s relentless efforts to improve efficiency.

Jenifer Musisi Semakula

The soft-spoken but iron-handed KCCA Executive Director made 2013 one of the best for Kampala residents in recent years, though the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago could have another view. The new Wandegeya Market and a spruced up New Taxi Park were just two of the glittering gems in her crown. How she managed to force the notorious boda boda riders to register without the President’s involvement remains a mystery. To crown a great year, Musisi presided over a successful Kampala City Carnival, which literally brought Kampala to a standstill.

Irene Muloni, Energy and Mineral development Minister

Her ever-present smile belies her efficient and courageous character. Indeed, 2013 has been a landmark year for Uganda because of her effective working style.  Apart from several large scale energy projects being launched, key legislation has been passed by Parliament to guide the oil sector.  She managed to calm the storm in the sector that marked the end of 2012. Consequently, the government granted the first oil production licence for the Kingfisher oil field to CNOOC.  Indeed, her 25thanniversary in marriage was a befitting gift for a great year.

Mariah Kiwanuka, Finance Minister

Amid a financial squeeze that was eventuated by the suspension of aid from several donors in protest over corruption in the government, her calmness and smooth working amidst the storm has seen a visibly broke government through one of the most difficult periods in recent years. Also, under her guidance, the government managed to put in place agreeable systems that have convinced the donors to resume giving development assistance.

Idah Nantaba, State Minister for Lands

It takes a tough woman to square up to a war-hardened military general. Well, that is what the Kayunga Woman MP did to Police Boss General Kale Kayihura when she accused him of protecting powerful land grabbers in Kayunga at the expense of the poor peasants. The accusation angered Kayihura but ‘Mama Kayunga’ as she is known, refused to flinch. Instead, she threatened to resign if he did not stop. To many poor people, she has indeed been a heroine as 2013 would have spelt doom for them if it were not for her involvement.

Prof. Lilian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, Court of Appeal Judge

Prof. Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza exchanged Makerere University where she worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor for the Court of Appeal. Several years ago, she was the first woman to be appointed an associate professor of Law in East Africa and the first to be appointed deputy vice-chancellor, academic affairs at Makerere University. She has also become the first female Law professor to be appointed to the Judiciary as a justice.

Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, UN Special Envoy on HIV/Aids

Her year was split between two ups and downs. The controversial former Vice President of Uganda scooped a top job at the United Nations as special envoy to the UN Secretary General on HIV/Aids in Africa. However, her ex-husband Eng. Charles Kazibwe also died and she was controversially denied access to his burial by his family.

Ruth Sebantindira; President, ULS

Sebatindira made history when she became the first woman president of the Uganda Law Society. It is during her tenure that the ULS controversially issued the current Attorney General Peter Nyombi with a “certificate of incompetence” and “suspended” from the ULS. In June there were calls for her to resign after she gave a ‘green light’ to the controversial appointment of Gen. Aronda Nyakairima as Minister of Internal Affairs without resigning from the army.

Cissy Kagaba, ED, ACCU

2013 has taken the indefatigable Anti-corruption Coalition Uganda boss to another level in the fight against corruption in the country. A focal person in the ‘Black Monday’ – an effort to hold public demonstrations against corruption, Kagaba has made her mark by leading an effort to convince donors to take drastic action to ensure that they take action to stop the theft of public money.

Agnes Konde Asiimwe; MD, NTV

Konde made history when she became the first Ugandan woman to be appointed managing director of NTV Uganda, taking over from Joe Munene, a Kenyan. A highly experienced brand and marketing expert, Konde was what the TV station needed to stave off competition from several upcoming rival stations. As it stands, it will indeed take a stroke of genius to dislodge NTV from its clear market-leadership status.

Amelia Kyambadde,  Minister of Industry and Trade

The former Private Secretary to the President got the real test of her ministerial career in 2013. A Kampala city traders strike over PVOC system almost brought business to a standstill. Despite the President being just a call away, Kyambadde stuck her foot in and vowed to deal with the situation without seeking the president’s intervention.  She eventually came out on top without making any politically-motivated concessions. Regionally, she has also been active with some really positive results to show for her efforts.

Jesica Alupo, Education and Sports Minister

2013 has been a really tumultuous year for the education sector and sports sector. How Alupo has managed to steer her ship through it all is quite remarkable. From universities to primary school teachers, strikes punctuated a difficult year.

On the sports scene, a FIFA ban loomed over Uganda following the failure to qualify for the World Cup, leave alone the confusion that followed the change in FUFA leadership. Through it all, Alupo remained emotionally strong and her calmness and steadfastness made the difference.

Catherine Bamugemereire, High Court Judge

When Justice Catherine Bamugemereire was appointed to lead the tribunal set up by Kampala minister Frank Tumwebaze to investigate allegations against city Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, she probably thought it would be plain sailing. But when she lost her cool on coming came face to face with Lukwago’s belligerent lawyers and supporters, everyone knew it would take a solid person to come through unscathed.  She somehow managed to maneuver the Tribunal through the tempest without a scratch.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam

Winnie Byanyima, is best known for being the wife of former FDC chief Kizza Besigye and a long-standing good governance and women rights activist. 2013 however, set her on a new milestone when she was appointed the Executive Director of Oxfam International, a UK – founded development NGO. This makes her probably one of the most influential Ugandan women on the international scene.

Phiona Mutesi

Phiona Mutesi, the 17-year-old chess player who holds the title of Woman Candidate Master, took the world by storm even capturing the attention of Microsoft Boss Bill Gates. The US tycoon learned about her when she was in the US promoting a book about her experiences, “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster.” Mutesi made history when she became the first Ugandan to play against a world champion.

Bad Black aka Shanita Namuyimba, socialite

Ever since she broke on the social scene a few years ago, Bad Black has made it a point to be a centre of attention every year. 2013 was not any different. After jumping bail when Court allowed her to go abroad to change her “breast implants,” a completely made-over Bad Black was reportedly arrested in Rwanda on allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering. However, for some unknown reason, she has neither been charged nor repatriated to Uganda to complete her 4-year jail term for theft.

Dr. Margret Mungherera

In October, Dr. Mungherera, the celebrated psychiatrist took up office as New World Medical Association President thus becoming the first woman president of the association. She was elected unopposed by delegates at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand.

Ruth Nsemere Komuntale Thomas, Toro Princess

2013 would indeed have been incomplete without the controversy surrounding the marriage of the beautiful Toro Princess and her “estranged” American husband Christopher Thomas.  After a nasty public exchange of messages on Facebook by Komuntale and Thomas, sections of the media picked up on the couple’s nuptial woes thus forcing the evidently embarrassed Kingdom to issue official statements – one signed by the Prime Minister and the other by Komuntale – to the effect that the high-profile marriage had indeed been dissolved. 2013 surely is a year that Komuntale, her family and entire kingdom will want to forget as quickly as possible!

Compiled by Stephen Kafeero

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