It was a dream come true for Ronah Ninsiima, an undergraduate and single woman when she defeated the Minister for Agriculture, Hope Mwesigye. Alfred Tumushabe caught up with her and tells her story.
Ronah Rita Ninsiima, 33, nursed the ambition of becoming a politician right from her early days. She saw politics as the ideal field to launch the fight for the welfare of the down trodden.
Her election as Kabale district woman MP on February 18 where she defeated Minister for Agriculture Ms Hope Mwesigye was a dream come true and a fulfillment in her purpose driven life.
Ninsiima's dream has always been motivated and shaped by her own share of the difficulties of life as a child from and a poor family that even struggled to give her minimum education.
Beating Mwesigye, an NRM candidate and minister for agriculture who had represented the constituency since 1994, with only a break from 1996-2001, is interesting and intriguing.
"Leaders at Parliament level have access to resources, can influence policies and can lobby development partners. My desire to help the poor made me desperate to take on Hope," she says.
To many, especially those outside Kabale, Ninsiima's win as an independent candidate was a surprise. Ninsiima, a single woman and first year undergraduate student at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) is from a polygamous family. "My mother is not the official wife to my father," she reveals.
Both her father and mother pooled money to pay her fees at Kigezi High School. "After O'level my mother never had money to pay for my A-level. My father had my other eight siblings to look after yet he never had enough resources. Me and some other siblings dropped out," she says.
While at home Ninsiima, was taken by her maternal uncle the late Dr Abel Twinobusingye and his wife Resty to sponsor her further studies. In 1997 Ronah enrolled at International Professions Academy Kabale where she obtained an ordinary Diploma in Business Management. She the worked at Kigezi Private Sector Promotion Centre before joining the media industry.
While at Voice of Kigezi radio in 2000 she co-hosted a programme; Ruhondeza that focused on the plight of the rural poor. And that is how her ambition to address the plight of the needy grew stronger. "I would not stop at just reading the news and about people's problems. I would go ahead to talk about them during the programme. But I realised this was not enough," she says.
"People would confess to us during field interviews that leaders are not helping them and I would look at these leaders as failing the community deliberately," she notes.
Although Ninsiima wanted to contest for the Kabale woman seat, she was uncertain about her lack of A level, certificate a minimum requirement to contest for the MP seat. And because there was no adult learning centre in Kabale, her option was to enroll in a secondary school as a full time student. This however wouldn't give her chance to carry on with her radio job, yet she needed the money.
"I would not leave work to go for lessons because I never had money, so I looked around for a place with an adult centre and it was in Mbarara. I applied for a job at Radio West (in Mbarara) and fortunately I was given the job of news anchor in 2005," she says. Ronah enrolled for A-level at Mbarara Adult Education Centre and sat for HEL/D exams in 2007. She joined Mbarara University Science and Technology.
After one year at the university, she applied for a dead year and went to contest in NRM primaries where she lost to Mwesigye. Ninsiima's chose to contest as an independent after securing people's approval.
"I believe in myself, I'm confident and I try to fight for my rights. I have a passion for helping the disadvantaged because I come from a humble background. This country lacks honest people. Christians stop at praying, they never offer themselves and that is not enough," she says.
As it was her first time in politics, Ninsiima defied all threats and enticements to sway her off her dream and cause. "I was given money, a good job to stand down but I never looked back. At one time I was offered Shs200m and a job of my choice," she reveals. "I was always told that I would never see the gates of Parliament but come next month I will be there."
Ready to end disunity in Kabale
Ninsiima says she is ready to end disunity in Kabale which she says was perpetuated by her main rival that would later cost her popularity. "I will work with other leaders to re-unite the people of Kabale. It is not that Mwesigye was not hard working. She clashed with fellow MPs, local people and Kabale was divided. We want a united Kabale. I will also work on maternal health and promote the interests of the youth since I'm one of them," she says.
Where she got financial support
Ninsiima depended on financial contributions from friends, vigilance of the youth and the blessing of God to defeat her rival. "With God everything is possible, but you need to trust in him sincerely. I had a team of prayer warriors in Mbarara, Kabale and Kampala. They prayed throughout and fasted. You need to be confident to withstand the challenges. Cultivate relationships with people of all classes. People looked at me as some one who is approachable."
"For those who think that you need to be a daughter of a powerful person, have a strong profession or have wealth to be successful in life, they should know that status does not matter," she says.