The woman who rose from obscurity to become one of Uganda’s most influential politicians, is a mother to 25 children and a very religious person. Lulu Jemimah & Mike Ssegawa find out more about this determined woman
You only need to go to Mukono to know how important Nambooze is. Even children, as young as four years of age, can direct you to her home. The boda boda man at Mukono taxi park charges only Shs1,000 to Nambooze’s residence at the hill, about three kilometres out of the town. Shs1,000 only, because on this day, it has rained and given that the road to Nambooze’s is slippery, one would expect a higher fee but the cyclist says, he charges that much for “Nambooze’s visitor”.
In that short journey he tells of how the outspoken Mukono raised politician knows every boda boda man in town by name.
On arrival at Nambooze’s home, she comes out and greets the boda boda man.
“Hey Sematiko, thanks for bringing my visitor,” she says as they engage in small talk.
Nambooze has been dubbed the ‘iron lady’, madam teacher, voice for Buganda and an activist. She is also known as the trouble maker occasionally mentioned in the President’s speeches.
Considering all this therefore, one of the biggest things that will surprise you about her is the size and number of teddy bears in the living room of her home. There is no doubt whose side she is on, going by the three pictures of the Buganda king on display and the fact that everything from the draperies to the decoration in the middle of the room seems predominantly of the Democratic Party colours, green and white.
She has a whispered conversation with a boy in his early 20s whom she later introduces as Peter her son. When asked if he is hers biologically she defensively asks what that means.
“Can I ask you something,” she says forgetting who is interviewing who. “When a hen lays chicks and goes away and another hen sits on them to hatch, who then would be the biological mother?”
Nambooze has 25 children and insists that they are all hers. She states that being a mother is more than just giving birth in a labour ward and makes it clear that in her house, there is no questioning whether she is the ‘real’ mother to any of them.
“All these are my children. They are Bakirekes, our family name, after my husband. Some of them hail from Ankole and others Busoga, Teso…name it, but here, we are a family,” she states.
As we chat, Jane Frances Mulungi, two, Nambooze’s youngest daughter, comes into the sitting room. She wants her mother’s attention. Nambooze talks to her for about three minutes. And later, convinces her to play with her big brother, Joshua Mwesigwa who is busy riding a bicycle.
“Because of politics, I have little time with my children. So when I am around, I can leave anything to talk to them.” Among Nambooze’s 25 children, some have completed university and high school. Julius Mutamba, graduated in Mass Communications at Kampala International University, while Peter Njuba finished his Public Health course at Makerere University Medical School a couple of years ago.
Geoffrey Kiramizi, a Fine Art graduate of Michael Angelo School of Fine Art in Kisubi, now doubles as her driver and Rachael Nambi, a law graduate was married off last Christmas season. Nambooze says she has another bunch of three S.6 leavers who will soon join Florence Nannozi, who is studying Counselling and Guidance, in university.
Nambooze has three biological children in Valeria Tendo, eight, Joshua Mwesigwa, five, and Jane Frances Mulungi. But she says, everyone in her home has an equal stake. Nambooze’s biological children have all been in jail, either when their mother was pregnant or when she was breastfeeding them.
“I try to make up for the time I am not with them. Like when I have an appointment with anyone outside their office, I move out with one of them. Sometimes I am with them in the studio when I am doing my radio show,” she says.
Like most mothers, Nambooze makes sacrifices to provide a decent living for all her children. She says like any average family, they also struggle to keep everyone in school.
She talks about how she opted to drop out of her Law course at Makerere University to keep the rest of the children in school. “Sometimes we have to take a loan at the beginning of the year of not less than Shs3m.”
Now she is a student of Democracy and Development at Nkozi University. “This is what is going to make us the Bakirekes,” she says. “We are diversifying in various study disciplines to be of various use to this country.”