President Yoweri Museveni is currently traversing the country in a campaign to ensure food security and enough income through cost-effective wealth creation projects.
Wherever the president goes, he is received by massive crowds dominated by women.
His message remains fighting household poverty in rural areas and improving agricultural practices (agriculture being practised mostly by women).
The president who says his government is committed to women empowerment, is always meeting women groups to that effect.
You may as well as say he has earned their trust and love much as they have earned his.
For example, powerful government offices and authorities are occupied by women.
The parliament for instance has a female speaker, Rebecca Kadaga; the Inspector General of Government (IGG) is headed by Irene Mulyagonja; Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) by Jennifer Musisi and Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) being headed by Allen Kagina.
The First ever female Vice President, Specioza Wandera Kazibwe, served in Museveni’s time.
Recently, Museveni replaced Amama Mbabazi with Kasule Lumumba as the NRM Secretary General (SG).
In a recent opinion poll carried out by the Vision Group, it is revealed Museveni’s appeal is higher among females (75.5%) compared to males (67.3%).
Love and support
All these may serve as indicators that the president has grown to trust women more.
Gauging from the pictures taken from Museveni’s rallies, women form the biggest percentage of the crowds that show up to welcome and listen to him.
Some even dress in dry banana leaves to show their support for the president’s next term in office.
Most of them dress in yellow, the ruling party’s favourite colour as last seen on his visit to Karamoja sub region this month.
While visiting Najjera town council in Wakiso district on Monday, an elderly woman could not stop herself from giving President Museveni the biggest hug of his life as her colleagues chanted “Obeewo…pakalast…”
Last month, Mary Akello Ojudu, 80, a granny who has served as the LC1 chairperson Biashara Cell Town Council for 26 years, while welcoming Museveni to Apach said: “God elected you through the apple to lead us. God will elect you again,” she told the president.
The most eye-catching spectacle was in Bushenyi district on Tuesday where Museveni commissioned the newly constructed Katungu Mother’s Union Centre.
Overjoyed women with gifts of all kinds crowded around the president chanting and singing, encouraging him to go on leading the country.
What’s the trick?
In his 2013 article titled: “Fifty thousand reasons why Ugandan women still love Yoweri Museveni”, Joachim Buwembo, a Knight International fellow for development journalism, chronicles what he thinks are the major reasons why women love Museveni.
Buwembo recalls his brother after the 1996 Museveni oath taking “women had tied Museveni on them.”
“By then, it was already an established fact that Museveni was for Ugandan women and Ugandan women were for Museveni,” Buwembo writes in The East African.
Buwembo agrees Museveni’s NRM had introduced hitherto unknown affirmative action for women, giving them a guaranteed seat on every committee from village council up to the national legislature.
“Girls were given automatic additional points during selections for admission to public universities.
Feminists sprang up at every corner and organisations like Fida opened shop in Kampala to help women stand up to men’s oppression.
So, in an election, every normal woman was expected to vote for Museveni.
Across the country, women’s love for Museveni continued to transcend sectarian divisions during subsequent elections.”
Buwembo further quotes a city woman who told me him thanks to Museveni’s ties with China, they can buy anything cheaply down town Kampala.
The secret Ugandan women share only with their man [Museveni] is something that continues to amaze many.
What critics say
A New York based Ugandan consultant on developmental issues, Eric Kashambuzi, doesn’t seem to look at things in that way.
In his article titled: “Abuse and Exploitation of Women under Museveni’s Regime”, Kashambuzi says Museveni’s original fighters in the bush and throughout the war were women.
“For the first time in the history of Uganda, women believed they had a political ally to advance their cause and protect their rights.”
“On each level of the Resistance Councils established after the war there was a position for a women’s representative. In parliament each district has a female representative. All this has turned out to be window dressing”.
Kashambuzi alleges that with time, Museveni humiliated rather than advance the interests of women citing the likes of Mrs. Gertrude Njuba who served Museveni as an aide throughout the bush war and “as a girlfriend too”.
The Vice President, Dr. Specioza Kazibwe, was the first female promoted to the office of Vice President in Uganda which the critic claims was “motivated more by sexual exploitation than qualification to serve in that high office”.
Subsequently, Kazibwe had to separate from her husband and the scandal resulted in her divorce from her husband.
He also cites a 2004 incident in which senior officers of UPDF reportedly humiliated a woman by shaving her pubic hair in public and on camera.
Relatedly, the shooting of a pregnant woman in the stomach by security officers was also never condemned.
In April 2012, Ms. Ingrid Turinawe, an official of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was attacked and sexually assaulted by the police who, without any justification under the law, squeezed her breast so hard that it bled blood, falsely claiming that she had resisted arrest.
In this case, however, police officially and formally apologised.
Conclusively, while critics say Museveni’s interest in mobilising women’s support is “exploitative”, others believe it is intended to liberate women and advance their interests as a group.