Zephaniah Kizza Sseninde and his wife, Rosemary Nansubuga Sseninde, the Woman MP for Wakiso district, have been married for 28 years. The couple said forgiveness and love have brought them this far. SAMUEL LUTWAMA captured their story.
AT 57, Kizza Zephaniah Kikoba Walube Sseninde has almost surpassed his wildest dreams. For a man who had a disadvantaged childhood, he defied all odds to scale the social ladder in a feat which few of his childhood contemporaries would dare challenge.
Sseninde’s early life had lots of hardships. At fi ve months, he was taken to live with his aunt, where he spent most of his childhood. At the age of seven, he started school and did all kinds of menial jobs to raise fees.
As time went on, he dropped out school and started working as a porter at the housing ministry. He scaled the ladders to become a records officer and later stores assistant, after going back for further studies.
While working as a stores and procurement officer in the ministry, Sseninde exposed a highly organised racket of government officials who were embezzling public resources. After thorough investigations, the culprits were netted and Sseninde suddenly became President Yoweri Museveni’s friend. The President helped nurture his political dream.
Sseninde says men should allow their wives to nurture their political dreams
With the presidential nod, Sseninde resigned from the civil service and joined politics. He launched his political bid as the LC3 chairman for Nangabo sub-country, where he served from 1998 to 2001. Having created enough political clout for his family, he embarked on mentoring his wife into joining politics.
Over the years, the couple’s home in Kasangati, Wakiso district, has hosted political and religious heavyweights, including President Museveni.
A reminder of the President’s visit hangs in the couple’s living room, with the inscription, “Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs Sseninde upon hosting H.E YK. Museveni on January 20, 2007.”
At one time the Ssenindes hosted more than 170 legislators. The quorum was enough for them to sign a national Bill. Then came rumours in the media that the couple was on the verge of separation. A visit to their home, however, dispels this. The couple explains how they have supported each other’s career growth.
For instance, Sseninde says he mentored and encouraged his wife, whom he met in the early 1980s, to join politics. He hails his wife for standing by him, saying he is what he is today, largely because of her.
MEETING HIS WIFE
Sseninde sums up his life journey as, ‘so far so good.’ This reveals the role his wife could have played in his life, thus the adage, “behind every successful man, is a woman.” “I first met Rosemary in the early 1980s, when she was living with Bishop Lwanga.
By then, I was young and I could not imagine her being my future wife. However, my perception changed when she joined Trinity College, Nabbingo in 1983. Quite often, I would meet her whenever I went to visit my sister, who was in the same school. I picked interest in her because of her discipline and gentle character.
“At that time, I had children from a previous relationship, which had not worked out and I was looking for someone relatively young to settle down with.” She fitted the bill, he recalls. Upon completing her Senior Six exams, Rosemary temporarily put her education on hold and worked as casual labourer at the finance ministry. During that time, she conceived their first child and everything pointed towards marriage.
“Of course she wanted to continue with her university education, but I desperately wanted to marry and I believed that education would come later in life,” he recalls. Fortunately, the two lovebirds reached a consensus and tied the knot on October 12, 1985.
Rosemary stayed home as a housewife for eight years, before she resumed her education and public engagement. In 2007, she enrolled for a certificate course in teacher education at Lady Irene College, Ndejje, which later propelled her to scale the academic ladder with a Masters in Ethics and Public Management at Makerere University in 2009.
After 20 years of living together, the couple testify that politics has made them what they are today. “We derive social acclaim from politics,” Sseninde confessed. But this social acclaim has dragged their private life into the limelight.
“I think some sections of the media lack professionalism. Instead of working towards building families, they break them,” he said. However, he concedes, like any other normal relationship, they have had their share of challenges, too, but they always ironed out their issues without letting them go beyond their marital bed.
MENTORING HIS WIFE
Sseninde says he mentored his wife into joining politics. According to him, mentoring is essential in helping someone to rise to their full potential. But before, he embarked on his ‘wife’s project,’ Sseninde sought advice from some politicians, who advised him to drop it on the grounds that ‘politics was a dirty game.’
Driven by the pride of having a legislator as his wife, Sseninde persisted. He gave his full support to Rosemary and she contested and won the seat for Wakiso Woman representative in the Seventh Parliament, a seat she has held to date. “I reasoned that if other women could