Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Cecilia Atim Barbara Ogwal, one of the longest-serving female Ugandan Parliamentarians, will be laid to rest on Saturday. Glowing tributes about her political career have been heard and will be said further amplified as she finally gets laid to rest. Imat or Atat Cecilia Ogwal died on 18 January 2024 at in India where she had gone for specialized cancer treatment.
Unlike in the past when some Ugandans across the political divide or among ordinary citizens have come up to mock or in jubilation when some prominent person died, Cecilia Ogwal has been mourned by the opposition, the independent in Parliament, the women of Uganda, President Museveni and his ruling NRM party.
Cecilia sharply opposed and critiqued Museveni and his policies each time she has the opportunity to do so. Cecilia Ogwal died at 77.
One time she demanded a medal from her political nemesis, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni saying she had played a role in ensuring that the rights of women, the girl child were upheld.
Ogwal as a Patriot/ Nationalist
At her death, it emerged that Cecilia Ogwal who like Margaret Thatcher of the UK declared that she was the only “Man among the men who was always patriotic” when it came to issues to do with Uganda even when she disagreed with Museveni.
As the Parliament of Uganda paid tribute to Cecilia Ogwal, many MPS said she was patriot and nationalist. But Dr. Abed Bwanika was not comfortable with describing her as a nationalist. He argued being a nationalist had some negative connotations.
Was she a patriot?
Around June of July 2023, Cecilia Ogwal was one of the Members of parliament that accompanied the Deputy Speaker of Parliament to Brussels for the EU/ Africa Caribbean Pacific countries conference. The delegation had other members like Bahir Kazibwe, Theodore Sekikubo, Moses Kibalya and others.
The issues of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and Human rights reportedly came up and that Cecilia stood up and vigorously to defend Uganda. Back in Parliament, Kasanda Woman MP, Flavia Nabagabe said she has faced dilemma on whether to defend Uganda at international fora even when abuses like torture were happening.
“When you mention here that whenever we go out there on those missions, we are fronting the interests or key diplomatic missions of the country, I struggle to understand the relevance of opposition political members in those particular international parliaments” said Nabagabe.
Nabagabe forced Cecilia Ogwal to stand to catch the Speaker’s eye. Cecilia Ogwal used that occasion to defend and explain herself why she never spoke ill of her country either at the Pan Africa Parliament, Inter-Parliamentary Union or at other international conferences.
Cecilia’s Quotes on patriotism
“We carry a different identity when we are outside the country. When we are here, we are Ugandans and we speak like Ugandans”
“I can decide to speak in Lango now if I want because I am in Uganda. If you say you do not understand, I will say you are stupid. Why do you want me to speak Luganda when you cannot speak Lango because we are speaking in Uganda?”
“When we are outside there, nobody knows Lango or Luganda so we have to tailor our – Iam not asking anybody to applaud what I am saying, I just want you to understand what I am saying.”
“Hon. Speaker, we need space in order to understand what we are supposed to do outside the country and this is what I am just pleading for. We need to understand each other”
What other MPs say of Cecelia Ogwal?
Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu confessed how Cecilia Ogwal, Dr. Okulo Epak, Patrick Mwondah and Ben Wacha lured him into politics. “Cecilia Ogwal never looked at herself as a woman, she looked at herself as a leader,” said Katuntu.
While debating in Parliament, Katuntu expressed the wish that parliament did what Cecilia believed in, and then like Nobert Mao, Katuntu said Cecilia Ogwal unlike present female politicians played her feminine role including giving more children than the average female politician would do.
Former Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, also one of the few remaining longest-serving women Parliamentarian revealed how she once feared to travel with Cecilia thinking that the UPC “Iron Lady” who later crossed to the FDC party would expose Museveni’s administration at international gatherings.
“I was worried about what she is going to say at this meeting. But when we got there she said madam I’m a Ugandan. I will never speak against my country. And throughout her tenure, this is what she did. She would attack anyone who was trying to attack Uganda. I credit her for that,” said Kadaga.
Kadaga also still remembers that the late Cecilia Ogwal relentlessly campaigned for multiparty democracy in Uganda.
Cecilia Ogwal, Kadaga, and Anifa Bangirana Kawoya have been the only women from the Constituent who were in the current Parliament. Anifa Bangirana Kawoya remembers that Cecilia Ogwal was a unifying factor among women at the Constituent Assembly.
Ndorwa MP, David Bahati remembers that Cecilia Ogwal was a very prayerful person.
Cecilia Ogwal served in all the Parliament right from the sixth Parliament after the promulgation of the 1995 constitution. We captured her take her oaths after she was reelected to represent Dokolo in the current parliament. After the oath, she told Journalist taut she was happy to the people of Dakolo and Ugandans at large.
She had been a voice of the voiceless. Parliament records indicate that had moved over five thousand motions in the House. One of those included a motion to allow older persons or the elderly to be represented in Parliament.
As she rests, Cecilia Ogwal is remembered for mentoring many women politicians to balance family and politics.