On July 15, Kibaale Woman MP Robinah Nabbanja was beaten up as she attempted to calm down tempers that had flared as truck drivers wrangled with local authorities in Kibaale over a taxi fare. On Thursday that week, she wept in Parliament as she made a personal statement about the incident. Full Woman talked to her about the incident and the issues of violence against women.
Kibaale Woman MP, Robinah Nabbanja, is no stranger to controversy having featured on comic television interviews attacking former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi when the duo was said not be in good terms with the NRM party—which Nabbanja also subscribes to. However, she was recently in the media again after being assaulted.
What happened on that day?
One thing I do not want to remember is that incident. I had never been beaten because my dad died when I was at a tender age- I was about seven years. I have never been attacked in my life. Whenever I remember that incident, I remember staring at death in the eyes.
These people who attacked me are not from that area, neither are they from that roadblock. I think It was a planned move to kill me. I had a radio programme [and traders asked me] about an illegal tax in my district. I told them this tax was abolished.
These people heard, I had the letter so they came to that radio station, picked these letters, photocopied them and gave to almost all the traders. I did not know they were organising themselves for a demonstration.
Monday and Tuesday is when they organised themselves and refused to pay [the tax]. It was a very peaceful demonstration. They wanted the LC 5 chairperson to explain.
I reached the scene and found the road was blocked, I got out to find out what was happening. They were very peaceful. I asked whether they were waiting for the district police commander. I asked who was representing the LC5 chairman. A young man, who did the boxing, said “I am the one”.
I said the vice chairman is Mr Vashigabo, how come you are the one who is representing him yet we have a councillor for this area here present? I asked him whether he had seen the letter?
He said yes, and I asked him how come he was representing the LC5. He said, “why do you ask?” Then I replied, “This man has no capacity. And we cannot let people stay here on the road. Let us remove these barriers because anything can happen.”
Vehicles started moving and there was no commotion at all. But when there were two vehicles remaining, I asked my driver to follow the convoy the driver was a bit behind so I walked down the slope.
I only remember falling on the ground, they had hit me.
Dr Kasirivu’s driver grabbed me from behind, then another one hit me from the side. After falling down, it took me like two minutes [to gain consciousness]. When I woke up, I saw they were trying to lynch him [the attacker]. I told them not to take the law in their hands. I struggled to go to hospital.
The next thing you remember, you are in hospital. Did you spend the night there?
No, I drove to Kampala because I wanted better treatment.
How is your health condition now?
I am still very weak. I am going for a scan to ascertain whether I don’t have any blood clots. I just need your prayers. I think I will be okay.
How did your family react after watching that TV footage?
It is a big shame that people made an attempt on my life.
But again what will they [my family] do, I was beaten and they cannot change that fact. And everybody saw it but I am lucky that the President picked it up and those who beat me are now in prison and the roadblocks are off.
The roadblocks that were milking my people and making them poorer. I think I have achieved what I wanted.
Would you confront them again if this roadblock was put back?
I would definitely go after them.
Don’t you fear for your life?
Of course that day I was going to die but it was okay because I knew I was fighting for the right thing. If you are a leader, you have to be like Jesus Christ who was crucified so that we can have salvation.
You said you had never been hit before? What did you feel immediately after the beating? What do you feel towards the people that assaulted you?
I cannot explain the magnitude of how I felt because I have never been violent in my life. I do not know how to fight. I use my mouth and my brain if I have to fight anybody.
Don’t you ever feel like taking revenge?
Of course, I knew the law would take its own course but what hurt me most was to see the DPC drive there, driving them [the suspected attackers] off and releasing them. I knew the law would catch up with them because what would I have done, would I have killed them?
You have been quoted on TV attacking the PM Amama Mbabazi, and former VP Gilbert Bukenya. Don’t you think your confrontational character contributed to the incident?
I am always open. The country knows me like that. That is why I had to get against the district authorities who were stealing people’s money. That is Nabbanja. I cannot withdraw. I am not the type of leader who will hide behind the scenes and stop because I have been battered.
A platform for other women
There are many women who are assaulted on a daily basis but they do not have a platform like you. What do you think society should do about this? What do you feel about women being assaulted?
It is very unfortunate. But i think there is need for continuous sensitisation about the law because the law will always take its course. But in mycase, it was unfair that along the way, the DPC looked at me as a woman –an ordinary woman that is battered in the village and when the suspects are taken to his office, he releases them [suspects].
That is what I thought inside me when I saw the DPC release the suspects. These people were on radio that very evening bragging that they had beaten a mujinga [fool], and the LC5 also was on radio. I can give you a recording of his comments because I have a CD. He was saying abasajja tebatambalila [if men do not interfere with my business, what about a woman]?
So do you feel that you were beaten because you are a woman?
There is that feeling of course. Secondly, I was beaten because I was sabotaging their income. The money they get from their roadblock does not benefit the people of Kibaale.
As you recover from this, what do you think should be done to men who beat up women? What punishment should be meted out to stop violence against women?
Of course, apart from arresting them and making them face the law, I do not think I can recommend them to be killed because I am above that. That is how I saved his [the attacker’s] life [because] he would have been killed by the mob.
After your personal statement in Parliament, the former LoP Nandala Mafabi was accused of shedding crocodile tears in Parliament and he was later quoted on TV saying that when you were RDC Busia, you also organised beatings against opposition politicians.
We had a by-election in Busia, Mafabi organised a big group of youths from Mbale and they came to Busia and I arrested him. I organised police and we arrested him but he was not beaten.
Maybe, he will never forget that because he thought he would beat up people in Mbale and Sironko to the place where I was working. So since that time, he hates me. And this is a man who wanted to become president of a party. I always see him fight with MP Alice Alaso. We did not beat him. We just arrested him.