By Edris Kiggundu
Mariam “Patience” Kategere Nalubega is my former Butambala district woman MP her husband, Thomas Kategere, is the Kamuli LCV chairman.
Mariam Nalubega first came to parliament in 2006 as national female youth MP. For years, she had been weaned on youth politics occupying a number of positions on the national youth council.
Truth be told, Nalubega, an independent, started off well. She brought the vibrancy of her youth to many of the debates in the House. She constantly took on established legislators and government on a number of issues, winning the hearts of many.
She was jolly and positioned herself as a defender of journalists whose rights had been violated.
If I am not mistaken, she led a donor funded forum on the media, even if her knowledge of the workings of the local media did not go beyond her interactions with the parliamentary press.
In 2011 after her first term, she decided to contest against Namiremebe Bitamazire, the former Education minister in Butambala. It appeared like it would be herculean task, but she did the job, confining the elderly politician to retirement.
With another term in her bag, Nalubega put the foot off the pedal. She lost her vibrancy and with talk in the corridors of parliament that she was single and seriously searching for a male suitor, she became distracted in her parliamentary work and got mired in a number of side-shows.
Nalubega eventually got a suitor in Thomas Kategere (which was a good thing).
Yet in a deeply “religious” and culturally conservative country like Uganda, Nalubega’s personal relationship affected her political career in many ways.
She added the name “Patience” to Mariam Nalubega and given that Butambala has a large Muslim population, people started asking hard questions (had she become a Christian?)
Personally, I don’t care much about religion (I believe society would be much better off without it) but I also do not begrudge Nalubega for her choice.
But to succeed as politician in Uganda (and largely elsewhere in Africa) you must appeal to people’s cultural, religious or ethnic sensibilities.
“Here I am, your son, daughter. I am one of you. Vote for me,” local politicians usually frame their campaigns like this (I find this too cheap and hypocritical).
In Butambala, Nalubega or her supporters had played this religious card when she defeated Bitamazire (a non-Muslim) in 2011. In 2016, it came back to haunt her.
She “disappointed” many of her voters after she failed to deal with the issue of whether she was still a Muslim or had converted.
Unable to face tough questions, she started avoiding the district like one would, a leper. She instead became a regular in Kamuli, helping to fight some of her husband’s political battles.
In the 2016 elections, she came third behind Aisha Kabanda and eventual winner, “Lydia” Mirembe (she is one of the wives of Prof Badru Kateregga. She had to assure voters that she had converted to Islam even if she retained her Christian name).
For me the biggest tragedy in Nalubega’s political journey is the fact that she never truly stamped her political mark in the 10 years that she served in parliament (this is my opinion).
She failed to transcend the “youth politics” the way Geoffrey Ekanya or Dan Kidega, the outgoing EALA speaker did.
She had the wit, the eloquence and brilliance to take parliament by storm. At the very least, she could have become one of the more recognizable female legislators had it not been for some missteps.
The good thing is age is still on her side and who knows, she could re-invent herself. But the likelihood of this happening, in my view, is minimal.
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