It’s not time yet for women to be presidents

Author: Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  •  Mr Kyagulanyi is right. Until Mr Museveni clipped Ms Kadaga’s political wings, she behaved very much like a president-in-waiting and was making pronouncements about public matters that seemed like they were coming from the President. 

The president of the National Unity Platform, Robert Kyagulanyi, was this week quoted by local media as saying that First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Community Affairs Rebecca Kadaga is interested in running for president but fears being victimised by President Museveni.

 Mr Kyagulanyi is right. Until Mr Museveni clipped Ms Kadaga’s political wings, she behaved very much like a president-in-waiting and was making pronouncements about public matters that seemed like they were coming from the President. 

 She was issuing orders left, right and centre. In March 2017, for example, she directed Beti Kamya, then minister for Kampala, to compile a list of vendors who had been evicted from a market. In other words, she had started acting remarkably like a populist politician looking for votes and was dealing with matters beyond the scope of her official job. 

 Mr Kyagulanyi is also right in saying that politicians who want to lead Uganda or those opposed to Mr Museveni’s relentless quest for power get in serious trouble with him. Mr Museveni has made life hell for every popular politician who has tried to run for president. If you have been a presidential candidate and you have not had a taste of Mr Museveni’s wrath and vindictiveness, you have been a political scarecrow in his eyes.

 Against this background, it is all too easy to see why Ms Kadaga would come out publicly, as she did earlier this week, to say that she is not interested in the presidency. There is a stiff price to pay.

 But would Ms Kadaga really become president if Mr Museveni was not a threat? Is there any Ugandan woman who can win a presidential election? The short answer is no. It is not time yet for women to be presidents in Uganda. Women can lead Uganda, but they are unelectable. 

 We have had female presidential candidates in past elections, and we know how they have performed. Here is a quick look at the percentages they got: In 2006, Miria Obote got 0.6 percent; in 2011, Beti Kamya garnered 0.66 percent; in 2016, Maureen Kyalya secured 0.44 percent; in 2021, Nancy Kalembe polled 0.37 percent. Total for all four? 2.07 percent.

 Ms Kadaga would be lucky to secure 8 per cent given the fact that even more popular politicians with a bigger appeal, such as Amama Mbabazi, have performed poorly. As you can imagine, most of her votes would come from Busoga. In Buganda and other regions with large numbers of voters, she would be rejected because she does not have countrywide political appeal.

 In fact, the only election where Ms Kadaga would garner a decent proportion of the vote would be one where Mr Museveni is a candidate. Voters who are fed up with Mr Museveni would be giving her protest votes, not votes based on her popularity and fitness for the job.
 If Ms Kadaga or any other prominent woman contested a presidential election in which Mr Museveni is not a candidate and where Mr Kyagulanyi and Dr Kizza Besigye are candidates, they would perform worse than the former presidential candidates mentioned.

 The Central African Republic (CAR), Malawi, Liberia and Tanzania have had female presidents. But in Uganda, women may have to wait much longer because politics remains distinctly patriarchal. There is any number of women who would still vote for Mr Museveni despite his growing unpopularity but would never cast their ballots for a female presidential candidate.

Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
[email protected]    @kazbuk

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