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Brig. Nalweyiso, 1st African woman to be promoted to Brigadier – Congs…

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If it had not been for the brutal government soldiers, may be Brigadier Proscovia Nalweyiso would not have become a soldier.

But fate sent her that way and now, she has achieved another milestone as the first ever female star general in East Africa, and probably the whole of Africa.  In Kenya, there is a woman officer at the rank of Colonel, but not beyond.
Born in June 1954 in Mpigi, Brig. Proscovia Nalweyiso is now 57 years. Her family was large, with 20 children.

“It was a family that liked the Kabaka, so whatever happened to Buganda, we were touched,” she says. So when Kabaka Frederick Muteesa was exiled in 1966, Nalweyiso, then aged 12, heard about it. “I was hurt even if I was a child,” she says. And when he passed on in 1969, it was more hurting.

By 1979, she had started working as a junior teacher and a typist at a church near Gombe, Mpigi district. It was at that same time that the political animal was stirred up.

“I thought that the Democratic Party (DP) had a good mission. So I joined it and was named the sub-county publicity secretary as we moved towards the 1980 elections,” she said.
But when the elections were held, they turned out to be a fiasco. According to Nalweyiso, DP won the elections and celebrations had broken out.

“We were sure we had won and that is why we were celebrating, but we were stunned much later when the radio started announcing that UPC had won,” she recalls. The elections had been rigged. UPC had stayed and Obote was going to be President again! This upset the young woman. 

“A period of persecution then ensued. UPC youth wingers and soldiers were harassing and killing DP members and whoever did not support them,” she said. This is what propelled her into armed rebellion. She joined the National Resistance Army (NRA) in 1982. “I realised that my only way out was to go and fight for my country. The killings that I had witnessed took away any fears that I may have had,” she says. 

Life in the bush was particularly tough for the women. “We are supposed to go into our menstruation periods; however, at times we failed to get real pads to use in the bush. With time, even the periods stopped coming because of the conditions.”

In 1983, a new unit, the Women’s wing was carved out of the NRA. Nalweyiso was named as its first commandant. In 1984, most of the women were ordered by the NRA high command to move to western Uganda from their base in Luweero. T

hey moved together with the sick men and the weak. Although the overall commander of this expedition was the late Maj. Gen.l Fred Rwigyema and the late Brig. Chefe Ali, Nalweyiso played a big role, since she was in command of the women.
By 1985, they had successfully set up the western front and ready to engage in battles. “We were in a unit that attacked Mbarara Barracks, for example,” she said. It was, however, in this battle that he lost the highest number of combatants in a single battle, five women fighters died! They were moved back to Fort-Portal and that is where they stayed until the NRA captured power in 1986.

When the NRA captured power, Nalweyiso was given the rank of Captain and deployed as Commandant of the Women’s Wing in the Army. She was soon promoted to Major and Lt. Colonel by the turn of the year 2000.

In 1986 according to records, the women in the army numbered around 800. “When you become a women’s leader, you play more than the role of command. You are also a counsellor, a mother and an aunt, as well” she said of this role. 
For the last 10 years, she has been based at State House as a Senior Advisor on Defense issues and according to sources, one of the most trusted by the President because of her resoluteness.

She was married to an army officer in 1974, while still a civilian, but separated with her husband. The mother of four readily recommends other women to join the army. She says the army is now devoid of sexual harassment and promotion opportunities are open to all.

“I can confidently say that whatever I fought for has been achieved and I am happy that women made a significant contribution to this achievement,” she concludes.

By Joshua Kato

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