Beti Olive Kamya – Founder, Uganda Federal Alliance, 2011 Presidential Candidate, Kampala, Uganda

Words of Wisdom: “African women can change Africa. They need to know the power in their numbers. They need to unite. They are the main victims of hunger, conflict, and child birth. There is so much at stake.” – Beti Olive Kamya

Interview with Beti Olive Kamya – Founder, Uganda Federal Alliance, 2011 Presidential Candidate, Kampala, Uganda

Beti Olive Kamya – Founder, Uganda Federal Alliance, 2011 Presidential Candidate, Kampala, Uganda

Beti Olive Kamya is the first woman to form a political party in Uganda – Uganda Federal Alliance. It was registered as a political party in July 2010. Beti left her MP position of Lubaga North Constituency to pursue her belief that the political system needed to change. Uganda Federal Alliance focused its campaign on the need to change the system of government from a unitary to a federal system.

Beti Olive Kamya left her business career to go into politics in 2001. From politics to forming  Uganda Federal Alliance to being the only female candidate in the 2011 presidential election.  One of two women to bide for this honour in Uganda’s history. Beti will invest the next five years in building structures of Uganda Federal Alliance in preparation for the 2016 elections.    

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version. We welcome comments on the Wisdom Exchange TV website.

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Beti Olive Kamya YouTube promo video (approx. 2 min.)

Beti Olive Kamya – Founder, Uganda Federal Alliance, 2011 Presidential Candidate, Kampala, Uganda

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom!

[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Pursue Political Career:

[ Beti Olive Kamya ]:

  • It was never an aspiration to pursue politics as a little girl, however, I was dragged in with the debates and events that were happening in Uganda
  • I am interested in current affairs, and like to share my opinion. In a way I was dragged into politics
  • In 2001 Dr. Kizza Besigye was going to campaign for president. I decided to campaign for him. But I never sat down and decided to be a politician. I was just sucked in really.

[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Why run for Presidential seat?

[ Beti Olive Kamya ]:

  • No one was saying what I needed to hear.
  • Most people who were running were arguing about the chair; who will sit in that chair, and when they sit there what will they do? For me it was a different argument – was the chair properly designed for the job?  I decided since no one was running for President raising this argument, I felt very passionate that this perspective needed to be discussed. If we just continued to argue about the chair, then we were driving the wrong course.
  • Running for Presidency allowed the highest platform to be heard in this country, so this was the best way to let people know my perspective.

[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Objectives for running for president

[ Beti Olive Kamya ]: To create awareness that the challenge in Uganda is not the President, but the Presidency.

[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Presidential Characteristics needed to make a change

[ Beti Olive Kamya ]:

  1. Be clear in your mind of your objectives
  2. Be a bit daring. Especially if you are not well supported
  3. Have enough passion to pursue
  4. Have courage

[ Suzanne ]: What provided the confidence to pursue the Presidential seat?

[ Beti ]:

  1. There was some calculations prior to decide to run for Presidency.
  2. I evaluated all my competitors
  3. I needed to launch myself
  4. I wanted my message of federalism to be heard

Biggest obstacle for women who want to enter Politics

  1. People don’t take you seriously; they think you are a joke.
  2. There are positions reserved for women i.e. Vice Presidency, in this position, you are appointed by the President.
  3. It is now ok for women to run for parliament, in any position, but Presidency. Even in the rural areas, people say: “come see a woman who wants to run for Presidency”.  The society doesn’t believe that a woman can succeed in that seat.
  4. Gaining the support of women. I didn’t receive any support from any of the women activists or women leaders. None of them gave me a phone call to encourage me.
  5. I believe women think, “not yet” for a women as a President.

Even the top women leaders internationally demonstrate that there is only so far for a woman in politics. In a seminar one of the resolutions was ‘we will “demand” President Museveni to appoint a woman as Vice President.’ I told them they don’t need to demand an appointment when you can elect a woman President. In my opinion, this group of internationally high profile women didn’t see Presidency as the option for a woman in Uganda.

I would have appreciated some acknowledgement from women, regardless of their political beliefs.

What needs to change for women to promote women?

  1. Awareness – sharing experiences
  2. Affirmative action when necessary, it can be a good stepping stone.

Why do you think women in higher ranks didn’t support you?

  • They may not have thought about it
  • Many women belong to a political parties, they have their loyalties to their party, or a responsibility to their party
  • I didn’t spend enough time talking to women; having one-on-one chats so they could see my point of view
  • Federalism ideology is very controversial in Uganda, so people will often play it safe.


You need to merit the status you are aspiring for – woman, man, Catholic or Protestant, European or African


What are some of the biggest perceptions you had to overcome in politics, or running for Presidency?

    1. Towing the line can be frustrating, sometimes you don’t agree. I tow the line up to a point. I often challenge status quo.
    2. The boundaries we operate in are intimidating and limiting.

What opportunity and challenges do you think Women have if they were President on the International stage?

  • There are still gender biases
  • It is up to the women to defend herself and be herself
  • The world is getting use to women leading – it is the era of women.

What does it take to be elected as Presidency in Uganda?

Having a military background is a big factor

For me military is not my aspiration

  • I have been CEO, head of institutions
  • Lead people in a manner that gets women and men to respect you
    • I think going to a co-ed school helps you deal with men better.
    • You grow up with boys and adjust to them

What characteristics do you think a women needs to be successful in politics?

  • Like men, I think it has to do with your background. Did you grow up in an environment that builds self-confidence?
  • Did you come from a comfortable home environment? This helps to learn to survive on your own.
  • Your teachers, the character of your school, all these things influence you
  • You need to be human and compassionate, to feel people and their needs
  • You need a lot of hard work, and resources
  • You need a gift of vision. No where you want to go and what you wish for
  • You need managerial skills. Basic principles of management.
  • You need to be able to communicate the team a common vision
  • You need to provide leadership
  • People need to trust you to be fair and reasonable.
  • You need to manage a vision and organization

What characteristics does a good leader have?

  1. Having business skills
  2. Good morals and values
  3. Have a fair amount of experience in which to draw
  4. Communication skills, conflict resolution skills

What are some key steps a woman needs to do to be taken seriously in politics?

  1. You need to be consistent
  2. To be clear in your communication and in your direction
  3. Develop your people skills and ability to communicate
  4. Learn management skills
  5. Learning about warfare is an advantage
  6. Say what you believe, although it is risky and can be costly
  7. Equip yourself with knowledge and information. Be interested in almost everything. If you have knowledge, people will respect you.

Your most significant impact on the Political landscape in Uganda

I was bold, few would have stood-up to say the things I have said. I thing the biggest contribution I have made is to change the debate, from the personality of the President to the character of the Presidency. Even those who don’t agree with me, at least they are debating it. The President is transient, but the template seems to be the problem. I am glad the debate is gaining momentum.

Most rewarding aspect of my career

  • Being associated with an idea. When you are associated with an idea you own it.
  • Founding a political party, although lonely at the beginning.

What is the biggest challenge in your career?

  • Being misunderstood. People put a spin on everything, i.e. “that woman is power hungry” “that woman is over ambitious. It hurts me to be misunderstood.
  • I like to think of myself as an ordinary person. I want to see what I believe in to be cared forward.
  • People often also want to know who is with you. There are many people with me, but they are not big names. People want big names to support you.

Describe an initiative that did not work?

  • Often in a debate, or presentation where you feel the audience is not responding you need to take a different path. You need to forfeit your presentations. In presentations, you have to succumb to the audience or you can’t move the presentation forward.

Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of you when you push the edge of your comfort zone).

  • Take on difficult tasks i.e. Tap into a friend or colleague to utilize their services. I don’t pass on difficult tasks
  • I will have the difficult conversations that no one else will have i.e. Telling a colleague note to run for President.

Leadership Lessons

  1. You need to keep the team together
  2. Make yourself available to your team
  3. Have regular consultations. Let people feel a part of the decisions made
  4. Need a clearly defined vision. Be passionate about it and communicate it to a team so they become passionate about it.

What is next?

  • We need to build this party. We will be focusing on the grassroots of society. This will take a national and International networking.

What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?

  • I would like to read and write about culture in a place like Zanzibar. I really am fascination with African religion.

Reflective Realizations

Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old Daughter?

Each of my four children, I give them different words of wisdom. I tell them there is no rush, take your time. There will be a time to get into things. Choose what you enjoy. You need to find something you enjoy doing so you can become famous, make a lot of money, and have fun. Don’t do something you don’t enjoy or you will be only mediocre.

Q What do you wish you were told at 10yrs?

I wish we had career guidance at the time. I really don’t know what I wish I heard. We were raised self-confident and independent. My father would ask us to do things that children would not usually be asked at my age.

Words of Wisdom

African women can change Africa; they just need to know they can. They just need to know the power in their numbers. They just need to unite together. They need to know that they are the main victims of hunger, childbirth, conflict, and raising children. There is so much at stake. They need get involved in managing this world. They need to know they can do it with their numbers and educating their daughters and children.

Watch or listen to the interview to gain more insight into Beti Olive Kamya leadership lessons and strategic insights. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom. Share Wisdom Exchange TV with other future leader, they will appreciate it!

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