10 June 2012

Rwanda: Is Any East African Country Ready for a Female President?


Liberia made history when it elected Africa's first female president in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It was not an easy choice since her opponent was George Weah who had acquired a lot of wealth and popularity especially among the youth thanks to his dazzling football career that saw him once voted as African footballer of the year, World Footballer of the year and European footballer of the year.

Malawi recently joined Liberia although the circumstances were not the same. The sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika paved way for Vice President Joyce Banda to take over as per the Malawian constitution. Banda has already become a darling of the west as she tries to reverse the crazy policies that killed the Malawi economy.

Banda is now hogging all the headlines after promising to reverse the ban on gay rights and insistence that Gen Omar el-Bashir is not welcome in her country, unless, he is ready to be arrested and handed to the International Criminal Court. Both issues are enough to have one appearing in all the major world press platforms.

The political temperatures in East Africa are rising slowly and my idle brain wandered into the possibility of our region joining the ranks of being led by a mother. Is East Africa ready for this and where is it most likely to happen? Will it be Uganda, Kenya or Burundi? What about Rwanda and Tanzania?

The newspapers in Uganda has been selling lots of copies after a poll showed that both the First Lady Mrs. Janet Kataaha Museveni and the current speaker of parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga stood a chance to replace President Museveni. Both ladies are elected members of parliament.

Mrs Museveni is also a cabinet minister for Karamoja Affairs while Kadaga as a speaker is already the most powerful female in Uganda and has been a member of the Ugandan legislature since 1989. Whether the rest of Uganda is ready to put any of the two into the coveted State house is something only time can answer.

In Kenya, Martha Wangari Karua, the Member of Parliament for Gichugu Constituency has expressed her desire to become Kenya's fourth president. She has distinguished herself as Kenya's iron lady since the time when she walked out on Pres. Moi as he addressed a crowd in a district stadium.

She is one of the most vocal aspiring candidates and has made it clear that she will not be merging or playing second fiddle to any of the others candidates (who are all male so far). This means that the tough lawyer is going for the juggernaut or nothing else. Standing on a Narc-Kenya party ticket, we shall have to wait and see if she will join Banda and Sirleaf.

Rwanda has a reputation of having more women representatives than men in its legislature something that may also create more ground for a female to lead the country at a certain point in future. It is still quite early to point fingers on any particular one though.

I am not sure about Burundi but considering that they have had a lady heading their football association it would be foolish to think they cannot beat the other four EAC countries in producing a female commander in chief. There is obviously more potential for another Lydia Nsekera to emerge.

I also have this feeling that Tanzania stands a good chance of having a female head of state if one of the big parties makes the decision. In Tanzania a party like Chama Cha Mapinduzi has always been stronger than the candidates and this means that if at the party level a female is chosen by a strong party, then the job will be hers for the taking.

The recent elections of the East Africa Legislative Assembly have also given us a glimpse of where we are headed. The final contest was between two Ugandan women after another female from Burundi pulled out.

What this means is that no matter how they voted, the outcome was that a female was to become speaker of EALA and that is what happened. After the lady from Burundi pulled out, the race was left to Dora Byamukama and Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, the eventual winner.

What all this shows us is that although men are still the ones holding power, the women are not just sitting in the kitchen wearing bitenge. They are close by and ready to take the wheel. Only time can answer my speculations.

Copyright © 2012 The New Times. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.