When she was invited to the podium that sunny Wednesday afternoon, she majestically moved, adjusting her kitenge as she reached for her sunglasses.
She looked from left to right at the many eyes and ears that eagerly waited for her maiden public speech.
“Ours is not going to be the politics of praise and favour; it will be politics of a service, inclusiveness and humanity,” Dr Lina Zedriga Waru Abuku said after being unveiled as People Power deputy principal by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, last month.
She translated these words into Acholi, Langi, Alur, Lugbara, Luganda and Swahili. Those were the words that had been alluded to by Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama earlier last year during the Catholic Peace Week summit in Lira organised by Gulu, Arua, Nebbi and Lira dioceses (GANALS).
Just like that, Dr Zedriga, who has a rich background in politics and activism, kick-started her journey in what she refers to as “the unstoppable revolution which will cause change in the country in the near future.”
From her long speech, it was clear that the 59-year-old was passionate about her next task. Given that she is a staunch Catholic as she recently told Sunday Monitor in an interview at her home in Gayaza, Wakiso District, Dr Zedrga at her unveiling filled her message with biblical allusions and anecdotes.
Joining People Power
Having held different positions in many organisations, including at the Centre for Peace and Security Governance in Juba, South Sudan, and the Uganda National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, Dr Zedriga, a lawyer by profession, says she had opted to retire and concentrate on empowering girls in northern Uganda.
She adds that it took her more than five months to reach a decision on taking up the People Power deputy principal position that was proposed to her when People Power leaders led by Bobi Wine first met her at her home in Gayaza.
“I had decided to go back to my village and retire quietly with my grandchildren. Making this decision did not come easy. I wanted to go be a catechist, but I only learned that the principal was researching about me before he approached me,” she says.
“In the start, they did not want a deputy principal. They approached me so that I could become a coordinator for northern region. I don’t know how it finally turned out that I would be given the position of deputy principal.”
According to Bobi Wine, Dr Zedriga has been tested on all fronts and qualifies for any position that would cause impact to their political group that is eyeing the presidential seat in 2021.
“We have done enough research on Dr Zedriga and we are sure he is fit for this position. Our team took time to assess what she does. And the different people she has impacted talk highly about her. Lina is a lady who wears many hats, she’s got the experience, the intellect and the resolve to weather the storm which a struggle like ours comes with,” Bobi Wine says.
Dr Zedriga says the turn of events that brought about the death of two People Power supporters, Ritah Nabukenya, who was allegedly knocked down by a police vehicle in Nakawa, Kampala, and Dan Kyeyune, who was shot dead in Nansana, Wakiso District, cemented her decision to join the political pressure group.
“The desperation of the people, the melancholy and disillusionment of the relatives, swept me off my feet. I vowed to preach peace again through politics,” she says.
Joining elective politics
In August 2001, Dr Zedriga’s husband, Darius Zedriga, disappeared on his way to Gulu District.
He was from Kampala where he was supposed to do a consultative meeting following the post-election court process in which members of the Reform Agenda, headed by Dr Kizza Besigye, believed that they had been rigged.
Darius had been pivotal in the mobilisation for northern Uganda. To date, he has never been seen again. But his wife remains hopeful that one day, the father of her five children will reappear.
Dr Zedriga says she was called in 2004 by former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga (RIP), informing her that her husband was sighted in the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, where he was shot dead before being buried in the same city.
“At that time, I didn’t have hope that I would ever join politics. I always discouraged Darius about politics, but he really wanted to achieve his dream, so I left him. However, after his disappearance, my mind about politics started changing. I started getting engaged and I have since engaged in elective politics,” she says.
In 2016, Dr Zedriga stood against Gabriel Ajedra Aridru for the Vurra County MP seat, but lost to him.
Despite her belief that she was rigged, she also says the Democratic Party (DP) did not trust her much, the reason she has joined People Power.
“I have mentored many prominent politicians in this region, especially women MPs. Even when I ran for my constituency seat, my greatest support came from the women,” she says.
Some of the politicians she says she mentored include Ms Evelyn Anite, the State minister of Finance for Investments and Privatisation, Ms Betty Amongi, the minister for Kampala Affairs, and Ms Betty Awol Ocan, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), among others.
Ms Amongi speaks highly of Dr Zedriga, but cautions her of the realities of politics.
“I know her as a very knowledgeable and intelligent person. She also stands firm for the women on different fronts, but now that she is coming into direct politics, she will have to adjust. What we see in the NGO world are the ideals, but in politics you are hit with reality. She will have to compromise on certain things, but I wish her well as she supports another candidate different from mine,” Ms Amongi, also the Oyam South MP, says.
Ms Awol Ocan says Dr Zedriga is zealous and will make a very big difference in the Opposition.
“I am happy she has the opportunity because the time I interfaced with her, I didn’t know she had intentions of joining active politics. I would have loved her to be on my team, but since we are all forces of change, we shall meet at one point,” the LoP says.
Bobi Wine says Dr Zedriga will be charged with grassroots mobilisation, especially among the women.
“Dr Lina brings on board a wealth of experience in legal, political and leadership spheres. She is a great asset to the struggle to liberate Uganda, a struggle she knows so well having borne the brunt of it, including losing her husband,” Bobi Wine says.
Dr Zedriga says she does not only bring on board the women, but also wants to tap into the elite class that has always posed a challenge to the movement.
“I want to tap into the elite because they are quick to ask questions and yet when the time to vote comes, they are in a closet. We need them to be included because they keep judging by what they say, and not what they can do,” she says.