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Longer, analytical article.  Uganda: 2016 Polls - Embarrassment of Women Waiting for Men to Ask Them Nicely

Summary & Comment: Women in Uganda need to be bold and claim their space among the political leadership, however, open display of leadership will come with a prize. Still they must be prepared to be arrested, harassed or sent to prison. MM

Author: Nicholas Sengoba Date Written: 3 November 2015
Primary Category: Gender Document Origin: All Africa
Secondary Category: Eastern Region Source URL: http://allafrica.com/stories/201511030441.html
Key Words: Uganda, women, Besigye

African Charter Article #19: All peoples shall be equal in respect and rights without domination by others. (Click for full text...)

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Pictures speak thousands of words. A photo of an all-male panel consisting of FDC's Kizza Besigye, Go Forward's Amama Mbabazi, plus seven other men, including Kofi Annan, Moreno Ocampo, Olara Otunnu, Nandala Mafabi, among others, did exactly that.

Besigye's wife Winnie Byanyima currently executive director of Oxfam International posted on her Twitter handle, "See the men plotting 2 lead Uganda. Embarrassing! #NoAllMalePanels."

Besigye and Mbabazi are the protagonists in the Opposition coalition project named The Democratic Alliance (TDA) that wishes to have (as misleading as it is) a 'single Opposition' candidate against NRM's Yoweri Museveni.

Misleading because there are other candidates who have been cleared for nomination by the Electoral Commission to stand for presidency and are not part of TDA. The likes of Nasser Ssebagala, Abed Bwanika and Venansius Baryamureeba. There is even a female aspirant whom women are not talking about or encouraging! The import of this is that the effort to replace Museveni is more than TDA, Besigye and Mbabazi.

What should embarrass us most is that women who constitute a greater part of Uganda's population are not keen on plunging further and deeper into the political waters that are laden with risks. Under NRM and Museveni, vying for any electoral position, especially if one is not pro-NRM, is considered political anathema.

The menu of options that awaits you is long. Exile, jail, tear gas, beatings, stripping one naked, frustrating one's business, loss of a job being cheated out of the electoral process and losing one's property in the process. Friends will even ostracise you for their own safety.

To opt for political leadership in Uganda is to ready oneself for trouble. I recall the reason why Winnie Byanyima resigned her hard fought Mbarara Municipality Parliamentary seat for a job at the African Union. She said on radio that she could no longer be effective because she was always in court (on tramped up charges.) She said her son Anselm once asked her if she worked in court! Those who don't want to be harassed just stand aside and leave it to those who are willing to fight with that State and face the dire consequences. Besigye is ever in the news either for being under preventive house arrest or some altercation with the police because of their political ambitions that are considered a threat to NRM and President Museveni.

This is one of the main reasons why Ms Byanyima and other women (and men) do not appear in the 'all men panels' yet they have proven themselves as leaders. But again, it is misleading to think that women should be followers of men. Why doesn't Byanyima resign her job and take up the challenge of contesting against her one-time close confidant Museveni? Women can't eat their cake and have it at the same time. If you pray for rain, you inadvertently ask for your shoes to be muddied. One of the good things about political struggles is that there is free entry and exit. That is how Museveni, and Byanyima ended up fighting in the bush between 1981 and 1986 to 'liberate Uganda,' without being asked by Ugandans to do so. Women are not going to be asked to take on leadership positions in the male dominated political arena. They will have to go for it.

For instance, the elaborate TDA process was open. No women went for the highest positions even if they were part of the process. (I would be with Byanyima if the women were deliberately barred from contesting.)

Women will get nowhere if they play the waiting game and hope that the men will come and ask them properly like a man asks a woman out for a date.

It will not work for women if they are not ambitious. Most of them who have been pushed into the political limelight riding on the tide of affirmative action that reserves the District Women's seat for a woman candidate, have failed to graduate and take on positions that would see them compete with men on an equal footing.

Secondly, there is no encouragement for one another. Women in the 2006 election ignored Ms Miria Obote who stood for the presidency on the Uganda People's Congress ticket.

In 2011, when Ms Beti Kamya, who stood on the Uganda Federal Alliance ticket, fell sick during the campaign she only received a visit from Ms Byanyima while on her hospital bed. None of the numerous women's organisations or women leaders (save one who I forget) ever called to encourage her for leading the way as a woman in a male dominated field. They instead discussed which man could fathom the women's agenda!

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com



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