Abuse and Exploitation of Women under Museveni’s Regime

By Dorothy Lubowa

Gender Department

May 8, 2012

When Museveni went to the bush in 1981, supposedly to fight for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Uganda, most Ugandans naively believed his political rhetoric. In fact some of his original fighters in the bush and throughout the war were women. For the first time in the history of Uganda women believed they had a political ally to advance their cause and protect their rights. The administrative structure set up by NRM soon after the war seemed to vindicate the erroneous conclusion that NRM, and Museveni as a leader in particular, was a progressive leader committed to the promotion of women’s rights. On each level of the Resistance Councils established after the war there was a position for a women’s representative. In parliament each district has a female representative. All this has turned out to be window dressing.

However, as history has unfolded and displayed the true colors of NRM and its leader Yoweri Museveni, the picture we get is one of a leader who exploits women for his selfish political purposes rather than advancing the interests of women. In some cases cited below women have been humiliated and grossly abused beyond imagination.

Museveni’s Sexual Exploitation of Women

It is public knowledge in Uganda that Museveni sexually exploited women who were married at the time for his sexual gratification. These include Mrs. Gertrude Njuba who served Museveni as an aide throughout the bush war. Mrs. Njuba was also Museveni’s girlfriend during that period. The Vice President, Dr. Specioza Kazibwe, was the first female promoted to the office of Vice President in Uganda. Her promotion was motivated more by sexual exploitation than qualification to serve in that high office. Subsequently Kazibwe had to separate from her husband and the scandal resulted in her divorce from her husband. This is just to mention but a few examples.

The Spectacle of Shaving of a Woman’s Pubic Hair by UPDF

In 2004 senior officers of UPDF humiliated a woman by shaving her pubic hair in public, and on camera, without any fear of repercussions from their boss, the commander-in-chief, and as it turned out, Museveni did not condemn this outrageous act committed by members of the institution he heads. Instead the journalists who reported the incident and published the notorious photograph were charged with a criminal offence for revealing “classified” military information! When the poor woman came up to seek justice in the courts she was instead put in jail where she later mysteriously died!

Shooting of an Innocent Pregnant Woman in the Stomach by Security Officers.

At a peaceful demonstration the security officers deliberately short a pregnant woman in the stomach causing her to lose her baby. The woman was very lucky to survive. Museveni did not condemn the wanton act of his security officers. Instead Museveni promised to “crash” the opposition using all necessary force.

Ingrid Turinawe Atrocity[1]

In April 2012 Ms. Ingrid Turinawe, an official of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was attacked and sexually assaulted by the police who, without any justification under the law, squeezed her breast so hard that it bled blood, falsely claiming that she had resisted arrest. There is no law that allows a policeman to do what they did in order to effect an arrest of a woman. The whole world condemned this brutal acts of the police. President Museveni did not say one word about the Turinawe atrocity confirming our belief that Museveni does not care about women’s rights if they conflict with his political interests. Museveni is only interested in exploiting women for his selfish political purposes.


These few but graphic incidents in the history of Uganda have a deeper meaning both for NRM as apolitical party and Museveni as a leader. Although there are affirmative positions reserved for women within the NRM regime and political structure those positions are no more than political bait to attract and trap women within the NRM structure. Museveni is a political hypocrite and sexual predator. If he was concerned about women’s rights he would have responded differently to all the incidents cited above. Two conclusions flow from Museveni’s behavior. Museveni’s interest in mobilizing women’s support is purely exploitative. It is not intended to liberate women or advance their interests as a group. It simply serves Museveni’s immediate political ego.

Secondly, Museveni’s political rhetoric about women has no philosophical foundation. For example, NRM political Bible, also known as, the Ten-point Program which was drafted during the bush war, does not contain any statement about women’s rights. This is not an accident. The Ten-point Program promised, among other things, to democratize Uganda,[2]guarantee security of everyone in the country,[3] consolidate national unity and eliminate “all forms of sectarianism,”[4] build an “independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy,”[5] and, above all “eliminate” corruption and “misuse of power.”[6] NRM has failed to achieve these objectives during the last twenty six years Museveni has been in power. In fact Uganda today is more repressive and a clear enemy of political freedom. Insecurity has returned with a vengeance. Robbers, some recruited by the security officers into organized crime gangs are causing havoc in the country. This has encouraged other robbers to terrorize Ugandans with iron bars and car-jacking. These facts are documented in the press. Moreover, there is more sectarianism today in Uganda whereby non-citizen Rwandese are taking over land in the country and high office jobs while over 80% of indigenous Ugandans are unemployed. Corruption scandals are the order of the day under NRM in which the meager resources of the country are swindled by public officials who are now millionaires. Apart from corruption, abuse and exploitation of women there is neither enforcement of public accountability nor rule of law in Uganda today.

[1] The video available on u tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXiCdzzjo78&feature=plcp

[2] See point 1 of the Ten-point Program, Selected Articles on the Uganda Resistance War, NRM Publications, 1985.

[3]Id. Point 2.

[4]Id. Point 3.

[5]Id. Point 5.

[6]Id. Point 7.