Rosemary Mariam Najjemba Mbabali is a former politician, turned fashion designer and owner of Celebrity Styles; a boutique. She was Minister of Urban Planning between 2012 and 2016. She is the former two-term Woman MP for Gomba District until 2016.
Najjemba says her “turning point” came when she met President Yoweri Museveni in 1996. It was all arranged by her mother, the late Aisha Nababi, who was Local Council Woman Secretary and co-organizer of the president’s visit to their area in Maddu a few miles away from Kisozi. Her mother ensured that Najjemba caught the President’s eye during question time. And Najjemba did not disappoint.
As arranged, Najjemba spoke about the difficulty young graduates faced in finding jobs. She had just finished writing her final examinations for a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History at Makerere University Kampala and cited her example and said she could help people of Gomba District; especially with health promotion.
She later met privately with the President and he even appointed her to be his “political officer.” But the letter came four years later!
“The whole process was sluggish and yet I could no longer meet with the President,” she says.
From the same meeting, however, she was also assigned as a health promotion officer in Gomba. There was an outbreak of cholera that many misconceived to be witchcraft. The role meant studying short courses in health education facilitated by the Ministry of Health and Mulago Hospital.
Four years later, she was appointed as Presidential Assistant in charge of Research. She did that for five years. The job exposed her to the political system and eventually influenced her joining active politics.
In 2006 Najjemba was elected Woman MP Gomba District. Her focus was health promotion and she became the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS and Vice Chairperson of the ICT Committee.
In her second term, she was appointed Minister of Housing in charge of Urban Development.
“It was another struggle but I am grateful for the opportunity by the President to allow me to serve my country,” she says, “Many ministers clash for visibility and work.”
During that time, Najjemba was also elected National Women’s chairperson, a position she held until 2018.
She quit politics after two terms, and now concentrates on her fashion business. She sees it as one way to keep her interacting with people; especially women.
Najjemba says that as a child, she was not keen on politics although she held leadership positions in school and was “politically alert”.
She went to Bat Valley Primary School for primary education when her father, Samuel Muganga, moved to Kampala from Gomba in pursuit of better jobs and education. Her father was polygamous and had a big family. So Najjemba says she was among the many “middle children.” She later joined Kitante Hill School for Ordinary Level and Progressive SS for Advanced level.
Today, she is married to Muyanja Mbabaali, the MP for Bukoto South constituency. She is a mother of three children. She says her constituents still ask her to return to politics and she is yet to decide to return or not
Rosemary Mariam Najjemba’s Liteside
Any three things that we don’t know about you?
Some people say that I am tough and yet I am so loving and caring. I am a pillar in my father’s home. I get so hurt seeing people I thought were close to me only for them to stab me in the back.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Family time is real happiness for me.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am too frank something that doesn’t go well with most people. They prefer to have things sugar coated as opposed to the honest truth.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Being two faced doesn’t go well with me. However, I first take my time before signing-off someone.
Which living person do you most admire?
President Museveni remains a father figure to me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I can’t travel and return without perfumes. But I also love so many beautiful things.
What is your current state of mind?
I am happy.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Perceptions about culture and beliefs are too strong to the extent that some people do so many things not for themselves but to please others. I would rather someone takes a decision that makes them happy and realise their goals for the good of society. Some issues don’t need approvals from others and are meant to be self-propelled because it starts from within.
What does being powerful mean to you?
The power to decide, choose and influence for better. Being powerful also means self-approval.
On what occasion do you lie?
I strive to live with the truth.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have managed to work on my weight and so nothing else bothers me.
Which living person do you most despise?
I despise men who keep double standards. They only live to keep up appearances and can never reveal their true selves.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
True love and care.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Companionship, loving and comforting.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband, family, and siblings.
When and where were you happiest?
In 2004, when I gave birth to my son, I couldn’t believe I could bring life to this world. I was also happy at the birth of my second child. I will always live to remember the first time meeting with President Museveni and it remains my turning point. I have never felt as happy and shaken as I felt the day Hon Mbabali made his first official visit to my parents. The feeling is unexplainable.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I sing a lot but only for fun.
Where would you most like to live?
Nowhere else apart from Uganda.
What is your most treasured possession?
I treasure life for myself and family.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Struggle for the scarce resources; especially for children born in very big polygamous families with financial struggles. It results into unhealthy competition.
What do you most value in your friends?
Genuineness and honesty.
Who are your favorite writers?
Bill Clinton in his book ‘My early days’; in his book he describes how he went through struggles but with perseverance, he made it to being president of USA.
Who is your hero of fiction?
I love passionate fashion stars.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Bill Clinton proves that life is a process of ups and downs. It helps to appreciate life the more and live meaningfully.
What is your greatest regret?
I don’t regret anything because life is a process.
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?