Parliament convened in a special session to honor the late Hon. Cecilia Atim Ogwal, the former Dokolo Woman District Representative recognizing her indelible contributions to the nation. The atmosphere was filled with heartfelt tributes as members commemorated the life and legacy of Ogwal who served as a Member of Parliament from 1996 until her passing on January 18, 2024, at the age of 77, in India, following a brief hospitalization.
Ogwal, a trailblazer in a time when women faced political marginalization, was acknowledged for her pivotal role in advocating for the restoration of multi-party politics. Lawmakers reflected on how she shattered barriers that typically constrained women in politics, with Hon. Betty Amongi, the Minister for Gender Labour and Social Development, highlighting her as one of the few women who fearlessly championed causes beyond the traditional scope of female engagement.
Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs, shared poignant memories of Ogwal’s relentless push for the end of the Movement System. During the debates on the multi-party system, Kadaga recalled how Ogwal engaged with everyone, including the President himself, until a consensus was reached for the return of the multi-party system.
The motion to pay tribute to Hon. Cecilia Atim Ogwal was initiated by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja during a special sitting on January 22, 2024, chaired by Speaker Anita Among. Hon. cthe Minister for Health, underscored Ogwal’s exceptional efforts in championing specialized healthcare, particularly in establishing cancer and heart institutes.
Aceng recounted Ogwal’s pivotal role in a standoff during the Ninth Parliament where she alongside colleagues, opposed the national budget due to insufficient funding for the health sector.
Due to Ogwal’s tenacity, 340 health facilities have been upgraded, and 31 new facilities have been constructed. Her influence also extended to the modernization of equipment at the Uganda Cancer Institute, mitigating the need for expensive overseas referrals for cancer patients.
Beyond her political contributions, Ogwal was hailed for dispelling stereotypes about career women in leadership, demonstrating that one could be a powerful advocate for women’s rights while maintaining a successful marriage. Hon. Nobert Mao, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, applauded her moral integrity, emphasizing that powerful women could be devoted wives and leaders simultaneously.
Despite being a vocal opposition figure, Ogwal was recognized for her remarkable tolerance towards individuals with differing political affiliations. This inclusivity led to an official burial with a gun salute, a gesture of respect from President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who referred to her as his sister. In recognition of her outstanding leadership, President Museveni bestowed upon her the Uganda Leadership Award in 2023.
For many Members of Parliament, Hon. Cecilia Atim Ogwal was not only a respected legislator but also a mentor who inspired numerous individuals to pursue or advance in political leadership. Hon. Abdu Katuntu, representing Bugweri County as an Independent, credited Ogwal for instilling in him the spirit and values that eventually led him into politics, revealing her enduring impact on the political landscape.
The State Minister for Education, Hon. Peter Ogwang recalled his experience while he served with the late Ogwal commonly called Atat.
“Atat was such a legend in the politics of this country, to the Uganda People’s Congress supporters, her commitment, eloquence, and skills were always a reference point. I had the honour of serving with her in the Parliamentary Commission where we benefited from her experience as the longest-serving Member of Parliament,” said Ogwang.
Ogwang said the deceased had started the process of writing her biography which he asked legislators and the deceased family to support.
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon, Joel Ssenyonyi, who seconded the motion highlighted Ogwal’s work in advocating for the rights and welfare of women and girls in Uganda, which also stands out in her political career.
“She embodied peace and was an ardent advocate of affirmative action, the rights of women, and the girl-child in particular. We should credit her for the effort in the global campaign for women’s emancipation and empowerment in our country,” said Ssenyonyi.
Busiro East County MP, Hon. Medard Sseggona said in honouring the late Ogwal, a specialized hospital should be constructed to end the out of reach medical tourism abroad.
Sseggona proposed that government should explore possibilities of footing medical bills for Ugandans who are referred abroad for advanced treatment.
Hon. Jonathan Odur (UPC, Erute South) moved for an amendment to the motion to pay tribute to Ogwal recommending that government should build a specialised women’s hospital in her honour.