What you need to know:
It was not easy. "The decision was very difficult because I had worked a for media house that became my home. I worked with people who became my family and became very close. I was being paid quite well. But this was everything to do with people, struggle and the cause for which I am part. It is the fact that we want a new Uganda. A Uganda that we all enjoy with freedom of expression. I made the decision anyway.)"
Late last month, Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala marshalled her female counterparts to mount pressure on the State in a bid to end brutality and inhumane treatment meted out to Opposition MPs during demonstrations and gatherings. Ms Bagala, also the Shadow Minister for Information and Anti-Corruption, has since received death threats from the so-called ‘Association of Tired Officers in Uniforms’.
How has the journey been since you joined Parliament?
The journey has been like any other journey. Sometimes it is smooth and sometimes it is bumpy. Sometimes exciting and stressful. So it is a mixture of ups and downs. Anyone who has been following the elections knows that the journey has had struggles right from when I won the elections. We started with a court case against me at the Mubende High Court where I was defeated in the first round and I won in the second round [at the Court of Appeal] which was more important.
After the court case, it was time to learn a lot of things. Some people thought that having been a parliamentary reporter, I didn’t need to learn many things. But there is so much to learn in Parliament, even with the way we relate with other members.
As the Shadow Minister for Information and Anti-corruption, so you don’t deal with them [fellow MPs] merely as an MP, but to an extent as their leader or coordinator.
Where did you find the courage to take on Lands minister Judith Nabakooba for the parliamentary seat?
Many people know that this was not the first time I contested with her, the first time being in 2016. I believe in myself and in the power of the people. That really drove me. Before I even went into the elections, there were many voices that kept telling me that you cannot take her on. Even my grandmother called me and I asked, “Aren’t you scared that President [Museveni] is talking about you for taking on the minister [Nabakooba]?” But I told her not to worry.
What was your winning formula?
That I cannot say because then if I tell, I would not be a good politician. But at the end of the day, the will of the people prevailed. That is what matters.
How was it transitioning from the newsroom to politics?
It was not easy. The decision was very difficult because I had worked a for media house that became my home. I worked with people who became my family and became very close. I was being paid quite well. But this was everything to do with people, struggle and the cause for which I am part. It is the fact that we want a new Uganda. A Uganda that we all enjoy with freedom of expression. I made the decision anyway.
Did you ever have a fallback position had you failed in the race?
Life is not lived like that. Why should you be so scared to take risks? That is what stops many people from progressing because they are worried. What would happen? I would still do other things. When I didn’t go through in 2016 at the time, I came back. I had enjoyed working for radio a lot [because] I enjoyed people listening to my voice and not knowing who I am physically. So, after the election, I rested a bit and I got a call from (journalist) Solomon Serwanjja and he told me that, ‘our boss [Kin Kariisa] wants you to be the face of the Amassengejje,’ the 7pm news. I was never worried about the next move.
How did you find that period while you battled the two court cases?
I was never afraid. Everyone who had a court case was hardly here [in Parliament], but I kept coming and executing my duties and worked all through. Of course, I knew that there would be manoeuvres [in court], but I was confident that I had won those elections. But then, what happens when you worry? When you worry, it does not take away your challenges. It was very expensive, stressful and wastes a lot of time. But I didn’t give up and here we are!
In the past weeks, we have seen you lead your colleagues in protesting against State brutality and pushing for change on the same. Does that mean you are now looking at activism as your new approach?
We are not looking at just one channel. We are looking at every avenue of asserting ourselves [and] occupying our space. What happened is not just to me because I happened to be just one of the victims. There are so many women whose rights are being violated in spheres of their lives. So this has happened to many others in the past already. The thing is that you get pushed at some point. We have petitioned, spoken on the floor of Parliament [but not listened to]. So it is just a form of intensifying our cause to freely express ourselves and assemble. We have the same freedom as our NRM [National Resistance Movement] party counterparts but have not seen the same happen to the NRM people.
There seems to be a history that the authorities do not heed such calls, and one would expect you to revise your approach. What alternatives are looking at in case protests fail?
I may not be able to tell you what next, but I can assure you that we will not relent. If there is a history of these people not listening, they will listen. We have had them listen when certain situations happen. Maybe we will get to that point when they will have to listen. If they have to listen to protests, then we will speak their language and they will listen.
What do you make of the increasing trend of gun violence and escalating crime rate in the country?
We say so many things in conferences, on radios, TV talk shows and all other forms of platforms but the overall solution for Uganda is change of power. Before this government changes, you won’t see freedom. The gun violence keeps increasing and it continues because every other thing [remedies suggested to end crime and gun violence] they [authorities] keep talking about is the same.
So where should the hope be?
Ugandans should only have hope in change. And every Ugandan who wants an end to the gun rule should have hope in change and should work towards change.
I would like to call upon change agents, even people in the NRM. I am very sure that a huge percentage of people are in the regime but they are so timid and afraid. They are not like us. Some of us are merely honest enough to say that “we are going in the wrong direction” we need to go in the right direction.