Evelyn Anite did not tell me the make of her car, but she informed me that she was seated in it at the parking lot of PK Supermarket in Najjera. When I got to her seven minutes later, she was patiently waiting for me. There were several cars, but I took a wild guess that she was in the spot clean silver Toyota Prado GX. As I got closer to the car, the window pane of the driver’s seat started sliding down. Our eyes met and Anite motioned me to jump in.
Anite is the Youth Member of Parliament for Northern Uganda and the spokesperson for the NRM Caucus in Parliament. I expected her introductory remarks to be, “I hope you are going to be brief because some youth from my constituency are waiting for me”. Instead, I introduced myself, and what followed was lively conversation. Yes. Just like that. First we talked about the youth fund, and then, about the current crop of youth in the country. Later, when we reached the path to her house, the topic switched to Najjera (how the suburb has evolved overtime).
Even before we commenced the interview, I already had two words to describe Anite; amiable and chatty. I put this to her attention. “Ha ha. I have heard colleagues say the same about me. Maybe you are right. Maybe,” replied the parliamentarian, as we eased into our seats in her simple (no flower vases, art pieces, et al) but immaculate living room.
The room is dominated by family portraits. Some of them answer the questions that I intended to pose. In one, President Yoweri Museveni, is standing between Anite and her husband, Allan Kajik at their wedding day. In another, she is carrying her seven-month-old daughter. The photos reveal that the youth MP is a married mother of one. She confirms this.
From air hostess to politician
Anite the teenager never contemplated becoming a politician. “I wanted to be an air hostess,” she says. This was out of admiration of her aunt who was one. She changed her mind when the aunt told her the prerequisites of pursuing her dream career.
“She said to be an air hostess, I would have to be ready to lead a single life and not to have children. She said that this was because I would be travelling most of the time. Even at a young age, I found those terms unbearable,” Anite recounts.
In her high school, Anite learnt and appreciated that in life, if she wanted to be something or someone, she would have to start acting as that person. She illustrates that if one wants to be president, they have to carry themselves as one, even before they have taken on the post. With this in mind, she started playing out radio shows in her school dormitory, in preparation for being a radio presenter.
Anite, the radio love doctor
At the end of a tedious day in class, Anite would gather her classmates; stand on her bed and posture as a radio host “I would discuss a random topic. At its end, I would send out greetings to my friends,” says Anite, nostalgically.
Sharon Achiro, a social worker who went to school with the lawmaker recalls that Anite’s “radio shows” in the dormitory would air in the morning and evening. “They were a humorous way of waking us up to a new day as well as sending us to bed. Occasionally, there were a few classmates dubbed “bookworms” who complained, particularly about the night programmes. They found them distracting,” says Achiro.
In her Senior Six vacation, Anite sought the feeling of the practical bit of her passion. She walked into the offices of Arua One FM – a popular station in Arua District - to hunt for a job and fortunately, came out with one. She was hired as a relationship show host.
In a few months, her show had gained popularity and consequently, other stations came knocking with better offers. Her stint at Arua One enhanced her love for journalism. When it was time for the youthful parliamentarian to choose what to read at university, she, without any hesitation, settled for journalism.
She went to Uganda Christian University Mukono for her bachelor’s degree. In her third year, like most finalists, Anite was worried about returning to her village – in Adakado, Koboko District - in case she failed to secure a job in the city. She resolved to attend and participate in the weekly political talk shows which were popular around the city then.
The beginnings of her political life
“Every Saturday, I would deduct a portion of my pocket money to commute to Club Obligatto to be part of Radio One talk show. To me, that was an platform to not only appreciate the politics of the country, but to also network with employers,” the MP tells me, and adds,
“My deliberations impressed Fred Opolot, the then executive director of the Uganda Media Centre. He asked me to volunteer at the Media Centre for a year. At the end of that period, I successfully applied to be staff.” At the Media Centre, Anite was in charge of looking out for how Uganda was being reported about in the international media.
Beti Kamya was my inspiration
Anite recounts that at the talk shows, there was one person who always left a mark on her. Beti Kamya. “She was the only woman in a sea of intellectually rich men. Despite this, she was always articulate. I was impressed and I promised myself that one day, I would be in her shoes,” she narrates. And just like that, the political seed was sown, and it started to grow.
In 2011, Anite resigned her job to aspire for Youth MP for Northern Uganda. She was contesting against nine candidates. Her parents did not initially welcome the idea. They were worried about what would become of their daughter if she lost the election (since she had resigned her job at the Media Centre). The legislator, however, says that she had done her homework and was sure of victory. Indeed, when the poll results were read, she emerged the winner. The icing on the cake was being elected the spokesperson of her party’s parliamentary caucus.
Meeting her darling
Towards the end of the interview, her husband, Allan Kajik, who is a public relations assistant with National Medical Stores, walks in. Anite is visibly happy to see him. She gets to her feet to embrace Kajik – who she calls darling, by the way- while inquiring about his day.
He does not interrupt our interview, except when I ask him about his experience as a husband of a politician. “The beauty of our relationship is that both of us are passionate about politics. I am the NRM youth chairman for Nebbi District, so, I easily understand her and her work. She calls and notifies me when she has to attend late night meetings and sometimes I pick her up afterwards. We are open with each other and have immense love for each other.
The future for Anite
True to her creed of rehearsing before getting where she wants to be, the NRM Caucus spokesperson is already warming up for where she wants to be in 10 years. She says that she hopes to have retired from politics by then and turned to serving people in her region through a non government organisation. “My husband and I registered an NGO called Northern Uganda Agency for Rural Development, whose mission is to help in the development of my constituency,” she says.
I walked out of Anite’s home that day a believer that that anyone could be anything they wanted if they worked hard on it.
Family background: I was born to Steven Dravu, a civil servant, and Sarah Wokoru Dravu, a businesswoman. on November 11, 1984. That makes me a scorpion, a hard worker. I come from Adakado village in Koboko district.
School: I went to Arua Hill Primary School. Then, I joined St Mary’s Ediofe Secondary School for my O Level studies. I did my A Level at Muni Girls Secondary School.
Marriage: I have been married for three years to Allan Kajik, who is a public relations assistant with National Medical Stores. He is also the NRM youth chairman for Nebbi District.
One-on-one with Evelyn Anite
What do your parents think of you?
They are so proud of me. Ever since I become a Member of Parliament, they developed interest in the media. They always follow events in parliament to find out what I have said. And they always remind me about my obligation to the youth of northern Uganda.
Why did you choose NRM?
I found NRM to be the sole party which had programmes and structures that were suitable for addressing the challenges of the youth whom I represent.
What do you like about your position?
I like that I have made friends with very many young people across the country. When I go to Karamoja or Gulu today, I’m sure of meeting very many people who know me. I also like that I have a platform to speak about issues affecting the youth of the country. It has also earned me more respect in my community.
What are the challenges of the job?
The high expectations from some people. Many expect you, for example, to pay their school fees. But I do not have the means to pay for everyone. I would like to imagine that they get disappointed but I try to talk to them to make them understand.
Have you ever had a dream come true? Yes. It was a dream come true to have President Museveni as a guest of honour at our wedding ceremony. He had visitors at his home on that day but inspite of that, he graced our occasion.
Why don’t you use your husband’s name - Kajik?
I use it. It is just that people are not familiar with it, since we got married after I had joined parliament. But, soon, I’ll be embarking on the legal procedure to officially add it to my names.
What is that one issue in our society that disturbs your mind the most?
Teenage pregnancies. It is disturbing to see a 10-year-old who is pregnant. Worse still is that the pregnancy sometimes suddenly pulls the curtain on their bright futures, when they, for instance, never go back to school because they are pre-occupied with motherhood.
A word of advice to the youth?
Every young person has the ability and capacity to achieve whatever they want. Nevertheless, this will only happen when they think out of the box. And no one will do the thinking for them.
Would you permit your daughter to join politics?
Why not? Politics is not bad. It builds self confidence and makes one understand the world better. It also takes you places. So, if it is her wish, I would not stop her from becoming a politician.