Who is Miria Rukoza Koburunga Matembe? Flash Uganda Media looks at her biography, husband, children, family, work and experience, political career, and education of the former Woman MP Mbarara District.
Miria Rukoza Koburunga Matembe, is a Ugandan attorney, former member of the Pan African Parliament, former Woman Member of Parliament Mbarara District, acerbic critic of President Museveni and former Ethics and Integrity Minister.
She has been a proponent and an advocate of women’s rights in Uganda and a political activist in Uganda.
Early Life and Education
Miria Matembe was born on 28, 1953 in Bwiz Bwera Kashari, in Mbarara District to Samuel and Eseza Rukooza who were peasants. Matembe is the 4th born of nine siblings, five boys and four girls.
Matembe went to Rutooma Primary School, from where she joined Bweranyangi Girls for her O-Level class. She then moved to Namasagali College, Kamuli College by then for her A-Level class.
Thereafter, Matembe joined Makerere University for her Bachelor’s Degree in Law (LL.B), then Diploma in Legal Practice and later achieved her Master’s Degree in Law (LL.M.) from Cewigo the University of Warwick, United Kingdom (UK), 2006 to 2007.
Work and Experience
Miria Matembe began her career as a pupil state attorney in the Department of DPP Ministry of Justice. Matembe stayed there for a little while because she could not stand the injustices.
She then joined Makerere University Business School (MUBS) which was then Uganda College of Commerce as a lecturer and many other Institutions as a lecturer of Law. After 5 years, she moved to the Central Bank of Uganda (Bank of Uganda).
In 1995, she was a member of the Constitutional Commission and later served as a delegate to the Constitutional Assembly that created the Ugandan Constitution. Matembe has well-formulated a governing policy on corruption and helped set standards of ethics for professionals in public office.
In June 2006, she became a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow with the National Endowment for Democracy.
Matembe served as the Mbarara District Woman Member of Parliament from 2001 to 2006. While serving there, she was chairperson of the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline a permanent committee of the parliament and also served as the Minister for Ethics and Integrity.
Matembe is currently the chairperson of Citizen Coalition on Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
She was the former chairperson of Action for Development, Uganda’s leading women’s advocacy organization, an organization she co-founded.
In 1990, she was the deputy general of the Pan African Congress held in Kampala. She has been a lecturer on law and English at the Chartered Institute of Bankers, also in Kampala.
A lawyer by profession, Matembe is also the author of several articles and books, Miria Matembe: Gender, Politics, and Constitution Making in Uganda, on women in politics. Other books include; The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Betrayed, Women in the Eyes of God.
In October 2006, Matembe gave a lecture entitled “Women, War, Peace: Politics in Peace building” at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.
In 2011, she delivered the keynote address at The 11th Sarah Ntiro Lecture and Award held at Grand Imperial Hotel, Kampala Uganda to those women who are either inspiring models or have worked to facilitate girl child education at the Forum for African Women Educationalists (Fawe) organized event and, for the disadvantaged girl child.
The main awards came in two categories; the “Women of Distinction” award that recognized woman whose activities promoted girl child education, and the Model of Excellence award that awarded women achievers who set a good example for young girls.
Matembe who was one of those honoured for her valiant efforts to promote girl-child education gave thanks to God when accepting the award. She said ignorance and lack of resources were some of the issues hampering the advancement of girl child education.
Also, Matembe is a co-founder and former Chairperson of a leading Women’s Advocacy Organization in Uganda; Action for Development (ACFODE).
She has also served as a consultant on women and politics in Africa for National Democratic Institute (NDI), Club Madrid, Isis WICCE, UNDP and ready to serve any other organization on an invite.
Matembe played a crucial role in the founding of some regional women’s organization such as Women Law and Development in Africa (WILAAF) and African Women’s Development Network (FEMNET).
And recently, Matembe Co-founded the Centre for Women in Governance (CEWIGO) for which I am a member of the advisory board.
Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from University of Victoria, 2007
Miria is married to Nekemia Matembe and they have 4 sons, named Godwin, Gilbert, Gideon, and Grace.
- Gender and Constitutions
- Customary governance/legal pluralism
- Human rights
- Judicial system design
- Minority Issues
- Power-sharing (horizontal/vertical)
- Security sector
Miria Matembe joined politics at the height of the excitement of the NRM government capturing power.
She recounts the enthusiasm and hope with which many had joined President Museveni’s government because it showed a promise of changing the tide and prompting democracy and transformation to the benefit of all Ugandans.
“By the time Mr. Museveni came in, this country had gone to the dogs so we embraced the system which had given us hope.”
The 10point Programme that the NRM government had come with, for Matembe, was further proof of the new government’s good intentions. It was a dream comes true for the former minister. The NRM government had brought the opportunity and the platform she needed to champion the cause she had longed for.
The NRM government’s 10-points programme preached politics of good governance, women emancipation, democracy, and for Matembe was an opportunity and a platform for her to champion the cause she longed for, and as a result, she embraced this system.
But that hope, Matembe says, was short-lived. After 10 years of Mr Museveni’s presidency, she started noticing a worrying trend.
The success and the many objectives she thought they had striven for started crumbling after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution. She says she realized Mr Museveni had issues with implementing the Constitution that many including her had worked so hard to write.
Even with these signs that she saw as early as 1996, Matembe still had hope in Mr Museveni.
When Dr Kizza Besigye courted many of them to support his first presidential bid in 2001 arguing that President Museveni had deviated from the objectives they had fought for and had no intentions of leaving power, Matembe gave Mr. Museveni a benefit of the doubt.
Matembe’s fallout with Museveni
Matembe says she had not expected Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to run again for the presidency in 2001, but she was ready to support him one more time so that Uganda would experience its first-ever peaceful transition of power from one president to another in 2006.
She believed President Museveni who had analyzed the country’s problem when he said the problem of Africa is leaders who don’t want to leave power, would not commit the same blunder.
However, it did not take long for the two to fall out after realizing that President Museveni wasn’t willing to leave power.
In 2003, he started a proposal to remove the term limits from the Constitution that deterred him from seeking reelection, “the constitution which I had personally broken my back for, the term limits that all Ugandans were committed to, I had to oppose him. I had already become fed up with what he was doing and how he was reversing our gains,” said Matembe.
She hoped the political instability and lack of constitutionalism that had bedevilled Uganda since Independence were things of the past, and she was proud of her contribution. So she opposed Mr Museveni’s move to delete presidential term limits from the Constitution in 2003.
Reacting to Matembe’s move, Mr Museveni sacked Matembe as minister for Ethics and Integrity.
She was sacked together with the then first deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya (R.I.P) for opposing the move to delete the presidential term limit, many referred him to as Mr Museveni’s childhood friend and was deemed untouchable during his supposed friend’s reign and former Local Government Minister, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali.
As a result, when Matembe’s parliamentary term as Mbarara District Woman MP ended in 2006, she decided not to seek reelection, aware of the battle she would face from the government she had fallen out with and the disillusionment of realizing the country could be headed to the dungeons she had been fighting to pull it out of, or worse.
In Matembe’s analysis, the country they managed to pull out of the dungeons has now gone to the sharks, crocodiles, hyenas and lion following Museveni’s long stay in power.
She then vowed never to return to Uganda’s politics unless she returned as president. However, Matembe returned during the 2021 general election following the announcement of the new post in Parliament to represent the elderly.