Feminist leadership versus numbers: Why it is difficult to fully support Kazibwe for the AU job

Uganda’s Specioza Wandira Kazibwe might be the front-runner for the African Union Commission chairperson job. She is one of three contenders for the position; the other two are Agapito Mokuy Mba from Equatorial Guinea and Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from Botswana.

The main role of the AUC chair was decided five years ago. The chair is to realise Africa’s Agenda 2063, mobilise finances, and oversee peace and security on the continent. The criterion for selection is based on level of education, experience, leadership, achievement, vision and strategy. But perhaps even more than what AU cites as criteria is the country of origin of the candidate. Equatorial Guinea might get some Francophone Africa support but support for Uganda is likely to outweigh all that, even with the $10m and two jets they’ve reportedly thrown at their candidate. Botswana is unpopular in the African Union for not voting with everyone else on ICC so their candidate Venson-Moitoi stands little chance.

That leaves our very own, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe.



She has in the last few months run an intense campaign to replace Dlamini Zuma as AUC Chair. She likely has support from the entire East Africa bloc and countries like Nigeria and the Gambia have thrown their names in the hat too. The main theme of her campaign is Pan-Africanism and she has continuously reiterated that Africans can move their continent with little interference from outside.

The AU summit where the decision might be taken has already started in Kigali. If this decision is not concluded at this AU gathering which ends on 18th July, it will be postponed to January meeting in Addis Ababa. But if she is able to get majority vote, then we will know within a few days who will replace Dlamini-Zuma. It is hard to be excited when the vote is so close, when very soon the headlines might run with “Uganda’s former VP now AUC chair”.

Kazibwe’s story would be a good autobiography to buy and read to young girls in Uganda. It would tell of a girl who made it to the top. She got to be the country’s Vice President when women were not considered for such positions in other countries. A woman who contributed great lines to articles about women participation in the political arena. She is a medical doctor, with a PhD from Harvard School of Public Health. Kazibwe has headed organisations and gone places. She has served as a Minister in the Uganda cabinet and as UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS. Kazibwe has also served for the past two years as a member of the Panel of the Wise of the African Union. It would be an empowering story.

While at the top, she advocated for male circumcision, spoke about multiple wives and told women to get martial arts skills for self-defence. And one of the bravest- and likely most difficult- decision she made, to divorce her husband due to domestic violence happened with the full glare and scrutiny of the country. “I finally had enough of living the life people expected me to lead and decided to break my silence about what was really going on,” she said.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, another woman breaking ceilings, recognises this part of the story. It is why when lobbying for Kazibwe in Cameroon and Central African Republic, with first woman to be Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza, she talked about gender parity and women taking lead in top positions.

Yes, and yes to this. But Kazibwe remains a bit of a problematic candidate. When we think of feminist leadership, does she fit the bill? During her term of office as vice president and Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, she appeared before a parliamentary select committee in 1999 to explain the loss of money meant to construct valley dams in Karamoja, in a World Bank-funded project. The committee had found misappropriations in her ministry including some $677,500 spent on car repairs—an average of $14,490 a vehicle. Querying from the Karamoja leaders apparently provoked the response: “The dams are there and those who cannot see them have no eyes.”

In 2011, she was asked to step down from her position as Chairperson of Microfinance Support Center on the recommendation of the then Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku. This was amidst allegations of mismanagement of funds meant for poverty alleviation: there was talk that the money had been diverted to Museveni’s 2011 Presidential Campaign.

When New Vision wrote about her bid for the job on 11th June, they did not address any of these controversies that usually spring up when her name is mentioned. Not even her Wikipedia page has this.

Is it important? Yes, yes, yes. It is important because feminist leadership should not be just about appointment of women but also advancement for social justice for all. It is leadership for the women and girls in Karamoja who have to spend more time fetching water because the valley dams were not constructed. It is leadership for the less fortunate in the country- female, male, different able bodied, rural, urban, young, old- for whom mismanagement of the funds meant for poverty alleviation was the difference between making it in life and falling through the cracks. It is about taxpayer money used for one individual when thousands go hungry in the country.

Feminist leadership is about changing how power works. With the corruption scandals and the taxpayer money allocations (UGX3.5bn for AU campaign, and UGX2.5bn for Harvard studies), I am failing to see any changes in how power systems work in this country under her leadership.

13 thoughts on “Feminist leadership versus numbers: Why it is difficult to fully support Kazibwe for the AU job

  1. Pingback: Feminist leadership versus numbers: Why it is difficult to fully support Kazibwe for the AU job – Miscellaneous Cogitations

  2. Pingback: Feminist leadership versus numbers: Why it is difficult to fully support Kazibwe for the AU job | AfricanFeminism (AF)

  3. The truth is there is no Person on this planet who can claim to be too holly to be innocent all through. What I can say is whatever happened many years ago shouldn’t be a yard stick to merit a person of Kazibwe status.

    I wish her luck in her search for support.

    If it was the case, Uganda would not have supported the Israel to commemorate the 40 of the entebbe raid. Simply because we had many innocent Ugandan citizens that were sacrificed in the name of saving Israel nationals.

    She might have sounded rudely then but what is the truth on ground? Did the legal system in Uganda implicate her to be guilty of misappropriation of the karamoja funds? NO!

    As a Ugandan, I pride in my country. My prayer is seeing people like Kazibwe, Winnie Byanyima, Anne Mugisha among others keep our national flag high on the global space.

    Therefore, whether feminism or what, we need to view the candidacy of Dr. Wandera Kazibwe in a more patriotic, pan African spirit so as to help ourselves lift one another.

    We need to dream big and think big. African continent should be united and that is when we together fight the common challenges of diseases, security issues, poverty, illiteracy and many other challenges.


    • But shouldn’t we ask more of ourselves than just patriotism? There could be several women- and men- in Uganda who are equally qualified and have good records. Ugandans who will be at the heart of good governance, since we as a country should aspire to more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes dear, your view carries weight however you know our issue in Uganda is still we lack patriotism. Trust me we are.not groomed to promote our own. That is why Makerere University students can make a solar bus #Kayoola bus and instead of Ugandans embracing the project and guiding on how to expand the project, they are seriously politicizing everything. That is why I have issues with Opposing the candidature of Kazibwe. I know and have learnt propaganda and media studies , they can create a bad impression on a person, shape opinions but mine I choose to remain objective and true to my nation.



      • Is the politicizing of Kayoola bus indicative of a lack of patriotism or is it more about policies that don’t work for Ugandans?

        You don’t sound objective if you hide from issues.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am very objective my dear and I don’t need.to apologize for my objectivity. My issue would be when will we all as a country rise up and advocate for something with less or no hiccups? What will be the essence of policies that will never.be implemented? You have previously seen and heard government institutions being let down by politicians who have interests in some issues and they end up causing problems to the general population.


      • I think that is exactly the point. I’m glad we’ve reached it. We shouldn’t support just for support’s sake, and should acknowledge all of the policies that are not implemented plus ask more of the politicians that have let down the institutions.


    • Sounds to me that dreaming big and thinking big should entail more than just unity and patriotism, but also quality and the values we want for the continent. There are citizens who can do that. We don’t have to limit ourselves to the old guards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True I agree that we need to choose the quality and values we need as a continent so we can select people with such qualities. I want to indeed say she (Kazibwe) to me is a tested leader, a visible experience and her contribution to Uganda as a nation cannot ofcourse be downplayed. We only have a problem in Uganda that people do not want to support what they have.

        When former UK prime minister them wrote confirming to support USA in attacking Iraq, whereas it is dangerous, it is worth it since majority of the UK citizens stand with him rather than throwing him to the dogs. Therefore, we can’t accept to throw Kazibwe away with the birth water. She is of value to Uganda and Africa as a continent.



      • Are we to ignore the corruption then when we speak of contribution? Yesterday, MP Ogwal said we should “forgive” but like pointed out in the article, these corruption scandals have real life impact on people in Uganda.
        Is contribution measured by presence or by how effective leadership was? What would you say to the women and girls of Karamoja who have little access to water? Is AU a place that thinks about them or does it concern itself only with patriotism?

        What is the exact value that you speak of? What is the contribution? The blog post acknowledges both what she did (most of it was in rhetoric and not actual political decisions) but also what she failed to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think our focus should be back here on legislation. If she was suspected, was she arraigned in courts of law or even put to reproduce the money you claim was lost due to her failure to monitor the projects.
        In most cases you will find you are accusing even the wrong person. My issue is let us put pressure on our local national law enforcers so we can have people who are in such scandals made to account for what they did.


    • Is Kazibwe the best Uganda can forward to the position? A clean reputation does not mean much to you, but it means a lot to others – those who recognise that corruption and poor governance is one of Uganda’s biggest problems and has held us back a lot. We do not want a sinless person: we want a person who is not tainted by scandal and, better still, has the humility to accept that they messed up when they mess up.

      Kazibwe is not that person.

      What I don’t understand is why this government fronted her, out of all the other qualified Ugandans. It speaks to our politics of the last 30 years that she is the best person we could find – very flawed as she is – to spend our taxes on.

      Your patriotism arguments are silly. In this case, they remind me of Samuel Johnson’s pronouncement on that ideal: when we fail to get good arguments to rally others behind our scoundrels, we fall to patriotism. (And when scoundrels fail to find good arguments to get the support of others they resort to patriotism.) As for Pan Africanism, ineffective and selfish politicians like Kazibwe are the the main reason Africa lags behind.

      Liked by 1 person

Add to the conversation. Tell us what you're thinking.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s