Thursday, April 8, 2010

Betty Nambooze is a smart lady and actually a politician

The three Buganda heros who were abducted, and by Grace of God came back alive

While on one FM Radio on the evening of April 8, 2010, Betty Nambooze Bakireke (Mrs) popularly known as madam teacher was asked what her opinion was regarding the Inter Party Cooperation. Her reply was, "If you are traveling in personal cars to Masaka, and on the way you find that a log has fallen across the road, the wise thing to do is get out of your vehicles; lift the load, and once it is out of the way, you can get back to your cars and drive on!"

William Kituuka

The arresting saga of Betty Nambooze

By KALUNDI SERUMAGA (email the author)

Of all the examples of the sorry state of the relationship between the government of Uganda and the independent media and public intellectuals, one that stands out for sheer relentless vindictiveness is the case of author, journalist and Buganda activist Betty Nambooze.

She is currently facing arrest for the fourth or fifth time in the past six years.

What will make it different this time is that the order has come directly from President Museveni, who often refers to her personally in his speeches, and has publicly held her responsible for “inciting” the violence seen during last month’s Buganda-wide disturbances.

In terms of how things have been with the media since early September, this much has come to be expected.

The only thing standing in the way is a doctor’s recommendation of complete rest following a month-long bout of severe illness that culminated in two surgical operations.

Betty Nambooze has not been herself since late 2007 when she was arrested for organising a rally in protest against the large-scale eviction of residents by an aide to President Museveni’s brother, in her native Mukono district.

“I was arrested and police injected deadly substances in my body,” she says of the time.

She was to be violently arrested (more akin to a kidnap) and kept incommunicado, a year later, at various locations during a government round-up of the more outspoken members of the Buganda kingdom government, in August 2008.

Initially charged with terrorism, the case mutated into one of sedition when she was brought before court.

It is widely believed that her work as the chair of the Buganda government Central Civic Education Committee (to which she was personally appointed by the Kabaka, and which was set up to explain its concerns about the proposed amendments to the Land Act) that really landed her in trouble.

In all, the period of detention lasted one week, with Nambooze being kept away from her nursing baby for 72 hours.

As a result of her activism, she has acquired the distinction of having been in jail with three of her biological children while they were still babies.

Nambooze now stands as something of a conundrum for the English-speaking, post-modernist intelligentsia, in a way similar to Gakaru Wanjau, perhaps Kenya’s least known but widest read post-war writer, with whom she shares a passion for promoting native language use.

She was born into a family of modest means, and acquired an education while supporting herself with a series of odd jobs.

She began her professional life as a journalist, working for several now defunct Luganda language publications, and on a state-owned Luganda language radio station.

When Betty and Buganda Ministers were abducted
THEY have been in the news for a week. But who are the three Mengo officials who have been charged with inciting violence and terrorism? carol natukunda unveils them

Betty Nambooze Bakireke, Head of the Buganda Civic Education Committee

If jail was a ticket to power, Betty Nambooze Bakireke would, perhaps, be the most powerful politician by now. The Democratic Party’s right-hand woman has been in and out of cells countless times. In almost all cases, her arrest has been linked to what she says.

In 2003, Nambooze was arrested and jailed on charges of using her position as a law enforcement officer in Mukono, to solicit a sh60,000 bribe from one Kanyike. The case turned political, with Nambooze claiming that her former political opponent Rev. Bakaluba Mukasa was behind her arrest. She was released 11 months later after she successfully appealed her conviction. But her time in prison seemed to have been well spent, as she reportedly wrote two political books.

Soon after she was released, Nambooze was appointed the principal personnel officer for Mukono Town Council and also DP spokesperson, as the party prepared for the 2006 elections. In a closely run two-horse race for the Mukono North seat, Nambooze lost to Bakaluba, a loss she rejected and sought legal redress.

In January 2007, the Constitutional Court ruled that the elections were marred by irregularities and should be repeated. Meanwhile, as Bakaluba appealed to the High Court and vowed to win the second round, Nambooze celebrated without permission and this landed her in jail again. Together with 17 other party diehards, she was arrested and interrogated for 12 hours for holding an unauthorised rally in Mukono. The irony is that when the party later lawfully took to the streets to celebrate their victory, Nambooze was conspicuously missing.

Perhaps that is why critics say she is so desperate for publicity that she only comes out in the face of danger. As the Chairperson of Buganda’s Central Civic Education, Nambooze has been at the forefront in mobilising public opinion against the proposed Land Bill, aimed at protecting tenants against illegal evictions. But her statements have at times been lethal and inciting, which ultimately landed her into trouble. In fact, some people are not surprised that she was recently arrested on charges of sectarianism, inciting violence and sedition.

Nambooze reportedly warned in her Sunday evening programme on CBS Radio that the non-Baganda in Buganda would have their property burned and be evicted if the Land Bill was passed. “She is so careless in her statements; it makes you fear for her, but she seems not be bothered,” one political reporter observes.

Nambooze has also proved an inspiration to the destitute. Born in a polygamous family and raised by a single mum (her parents separated in 1979), Nambooze used to sell banana leaves as a child.

Her schooling was also shaky, given her deprived childhood. After a long spell in journalism, a freelance reporter for Bukedde, she managed to pursue a diploma at the Law Development Centre and is now doing a course in good governance at Nkozi University.

Before working as a law enforcement officer, Nambooze was elected to represent Mukono County on the district youth council in the early 1990s. This offered her an opportunity to improve her debating skills, which came in handy when she embarked on her political career.

Her story speaks volumes to the common man, who can barely afford to put his next meal on the table. And whatever she speaks on radio, they record and refer to her as “Mama Teacher.”


Medard Ssegona Lubega, deputy Information minister, Buganda Government

Until his appointment as the kingdom minister, Lubega was a little-known city lawyer. In 2006, he wanted to stand for the Busiro South constituency seat but backed off.

Lubega seems to have got inspiration from his colleague, Erias Lukwago. Both lawyers are not only DP diehards, they are also said to be close friends.

Like Lukwago, he strives to ensure that he is heard. When the former Katikkiro Daniel Muliika was sacked last year, Lubega almost assumed the slot. He was a lot more regal and imposing than the acting Katikkiro Emmanuel Sendaula. No wonder when the Cabinet axe fell on other ministers, Lubega, together with his fellow youthful hardliner David Mpanga, the research state minister, were spared.

He is the typical breed of the Nkoba Zambogo Students’ Association, whose purpose is to instill self esteem, as well as to inspire university students to support the kingdom. Since he had been in the association during his time at Makerere University, his passion for the kingdom grew. That is why he is a strong critic of government’s attempt to amend the Land Act, which Mengo views as an attempt to weaken its traditional stronghold over land.

Those who know him say he uses “words of combat,” to respond to criticism. For instance, when Gen. David Tinyefuza said anything critical of Mengo, Lubega would sarcastically reply: “We too can wear the military uniform and hold guns,” as one analyst commented.

“The exchange has been going on for almost two years. I am not surprised the arrests have been made.”


Charles Peter Mayiga, Minister of Information, Cabinet and Lukiiko Affairs, Buganda Government

He is known to be a snobbish man. But you can blame it on his upbringing. Mayiga was born in an affluent family, which could afford to take him to Nabugabo Beach on a good weekend. His elder sister, Theresa Nanziri, then a warden of Africa Hall at Makerere University, always drove him around town, or picked him from boarding school for holidays at her home.

As fate would have it, however, Nanziri was murdered by the Amin forces and this arguably sowed bitterness in little Mayiga’s heart. He lost faith in the Central Government. And by the time he joined Makerere University, he had decided he would be a monarchist. In 1991, he served as an administrative secretary on the Supreme council, which later became the Lukiiko. That is when he started a group of youth elites called Suubi lya Buganda, literally meaning “restoring glory in the Buganda Kingdom.” And at a time when monarchism was looked at as a thing of the older generation, youthful Mayiga came up against all odds. Besides, he was a Catholic from Masaka.

However, he seems to be an adventurous man. It is said that he one time abandoned monarchy issues to concentrate on his private business as a lawyer. At the same time, however, he kept close contact with the Kabaka (who had just returned to the country), discreetly pushing for the reinstatement of the monarchs.

He is also said to have been on the consultative committee for the royal wedding and was grinning ear to ear when it happened. Little wonder then that Mayiga is now the Kabaka’s spokesperson.

However, some critics tagged him “too soft” to negotiate for Mengo’s demands with the Central Government. He was on Buganda’s delegation which was spearheading the promotion of the stalled regional tier — a move which many resolute Baganda thought would radically compromise the kingdom’s status. Moreover, his modest approach was increasingly making him a darling of the NRM. In fact, he had earlier been tipped that he would contest against Edward Sekandi on the Constituent Assembly, but his sense of pride let him down: How would they front a candidate allegedly too proud to shake hands with the electorate?

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