Prakash Joshi
Home arrow Articles arrow UVIC Honours Miria Matembe of Uganda
UVIC Honours Miria Matembe of Uganda
by Prakash Vinod Joshi, medical AScT, prescription Eng.L
Senior Materials Engineering Technologist
Published in “The Link Newspaper” on Saturday June 30, 2007

On June 9th 2007, University of Victoria awarded honorary degree at a convocation to Hon. Miria Matembe of Uganda. As a member of the Pan-African Parliament she also  served as a chairperson of its Committee on Rules. As a former Ugandan Minister of Ethics and Integrity from 1998 to 2003, she formulated the government’s policy on corruption and helped set standards of ethics for professionals in public office. In 2002, she published a memoir entitled “ Gender, Politics and Constitution Making in Uganda”, documenting her experiences and bringing gender issues to the forefront of national politics.

To celebrate her achievements and accomplishments, Ms. Matembe’s sister, Margaret Mubanda (Treasurer of UCNA, Ugandan- Canadian Association of  Canada) and John Halani of Tropicana Hotel, Vancouver, organized a reception on June 11th, 2007 at The Samosa Gardens, in Vancouver.


In answering questions after her presentation regarding her role as a member of Pan-African Parliament she gave a short history of the organization, noting the origins of OAU, Organization of African Union which was formed during the colonial period whose primary objective was to fight aparthied. As the African countries gained independence Pan-African Parliament was formed to facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the OAU and, ultimately the African Union. Primarily, to promote the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa. She laughed and admitted that African countries are slow in  accepting democracy but eventually coming around as leaders like late President Nyerere of Tanzania and President Mandela of South Africa are setting examples to other leaders to step down,  give up their “thrones” , hold elections which she said, “looked positive though they might be rigged,” she said jokingly.    


On gender issues, her greatest victories, she said was a constitutionally mandated quota of at least 28.8 % women in the national parliament, but she felt that the system had brought about complacency and in fact an impediment to real progress for women in Uganda. They regard the quota system as a sign of privilege on the part of government and are therefore unwilling to raise their voice. The women’s right to own property is still a burning issue and the government has been reluctant to pass laws.



“Men, she said, had created enough wars and caused enough violence that it is time to have women assist in creating peace in the world. Men and women both participate in making a baby and takes that takes only a few minutes. Then God made the woman responsible for the human creation and nurturing and bringing up so it is but natural to have a woman be part of the decision making concerning human life.”


Commenting on Aids rate in Uganda, she proudly claimed had dropped from 15% of the population in 1990’s to current low of 6% . This was done mainly due to the local efforts rather than any help from outside. In 1986 when NRM ( National Resistance Movement) came to power, lead by Yoweri Musweni, after years of brutal wars and genocide, by dictators like Idi Amin Dada, there was hope of democracy and the government was very receptive of women participation. Miria Matembe was one of the two women lawyers appointed in putting the new constitution together. Matembe confirmed, “ It was like eating the hand that fed you,” Her last straw with the government was when President Museweni advised her to disregard the two five year term for the president as outlined in the constitution so that he could stay on.  


No matter what the differences were between the two, she explained she supported President Musweni’s  policies  in Northern Uganda. She confirmed that the situation is getting better but the psychological impact on the children torn from their families, raped, used as soldiers for last two decades by LRA (Lord Resistance Army)  and it’s leader Joseph Kony would take long to heal. The Ugandan Government and LRA are now talking, so that’s a good start. There was no discussion about the recent riots which happened in Uganda when a local Indian Industrialist decided to cut-down the pristine Mabira forest to farm sugar cane. There was an uproar amongst the native Ugandans and an Indian called Devag Rawal (NRI) was stoned to death. The press often did not mention the two Africans who died, too in the riot.  As a Ugandan Indian refugee, expelled by Idi Amin Dada in 1970’s I was extremely moved by the gesture shown by President Musweni who sent a delegation to India, headed by Internal affairs minister, Ruhakana Rugunda to personally convey the condolences of the Ugandan people to the Indian government and to the victim’s parents. There was also a compensation of 400,000 rupees awarded to Devag’s parents. This tremendous gesture by the President was once again a commitment to welcome Indians in Uganda and safeguard their interests. This type of gesture was the first of his kind and really not evident in the world, today. 

Prakash Vinod Joshi, AScT, Eng.L
Senior Materials Engineering Technologist
(The above article was published in “The Link Newspaper” on Saturday June 30, 2007)

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