PROFILE | When Yoweri Museveni’s ‘liberators’ stormed and overran Kampala on January 26, 1986, before announcing the fundamental change the following day, there were certainly many Phiona Mirembes in Uganda, especially in Busoga where the botanical name Mirembe is common, but there wasn’t Phiona Mirembe, the daughter of Rose and Daniel Bawuna.
The Bawunas, from Kamuli District in eastern Uganda, presumably had seven children at the time, but Mirembe would arrive just in time to be alive when Museveni celebrated two years of NRA Liberation Anniversary.
The former guerilla leader has since served for 33 years while Phiona will only be as many years old in 2021 when Ugandans go to polls with, possibly, herself on offer as a candidate seeking to succeed Museveni in a democratic transition.
Single and with no political encumbrances, Mirembe has decided to throw her hat in the usually heated presidential race that has over the last 20 years been defined by Museveni-Besigye rivalry with many also-ran candidates trailing with measly vote percentages.
Mirembe’s decision, announced on her social media handle and confirmed to Crime24 later, will unlikely turn many heads around in a race that Museveni is expected to lead again. But to family, the decision comes as a bit of a shocker.
“My entire family is scared about me standing for President, but they pray for me,” she said. “I’m a very strong Christian. I put God first in everything I do and live by Christian principles that I’m not ready to comprise about for anything.”
In May 2018, Mirembe suffered a professional hiccup that prolonged into a cancer. The baby she had birthed on August 26, 2014, and proudly named ‘Mirembe and Company Advocates’ suffered a deadly strain of apnoea. She had to close down the law firm that had stopped breathing.
“It was the 18th of June 2017 when I cried the last and most painful tear for my law firm. By just one email, a fee note of $20 million (about Shs70 billion) that I had worked extremely hard for melted in my hands; debt of over Shs900 million loomed over my head. It was huge, to date I still struggle to find words to explain it all to anyone properly,” Mirembe said recently.
After a year out, Mirembe reopened for business in May 2018 with new premises on Plot 8 Upper Naguru Road on Naguru Hill, a bit of an affluent location compared to the weather-beaten one before. How she managed to pick up the pieces and revive the firm is a lesson she wants to hold dear.
“Since then, I have witnessed people calling off our debt in millions; people walking up to Naguru and giving us free money in millions of shillings and thousands of dollars to help with the construction; free construction material delivered to us from well-wishers; clients that fired us amid this mess coming back to re-hire us; new clients handing us instructions under trees of an unfinished office – it’s been one jaw-dropping moment after another.”
From crying and drying up the cheek to living the unfeasible dream of the presidency, that is what a year has made Rose and Daniel Bawuna’s daughter.
Born in a family of 12 siblings, Mirembe went to Stella Maris Nsuube in Nkokonjeru and sat PLE in 1999 before going to far-east at Tororo Girls School that she later swapped for Lugazi Mixed Secondary School for her Ordinary Level education.
She completed Advanced Level from St Mary’s Boarding Secondary School, Kitende, and joined Makerere University from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2010.
During Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Law Development Centre between 2011 and 2012, Mirembe clerked with Shonubi, Musoke & Co. Advocates where she honed her skills in legal practice and picked tidbits on how to run a firm.
“After LDC, I opened a limited liability company called Burkley Consults Limited on November 12, 2012, from which I got the idea to start my own firm,” she says.
And now Mirembe feels she has come far enough to wash her hands and join the political tough muscles at the dining ballot box where, barring some strange occurrences, incumbent Yoweri Museveni will seek re-election on NRM ticket.
She does not subscribe to any of the political parties at large, nor does she have a dream to start one ahead of 2021 presidential election. What she has is a profound belief that the country is ailing in terms of leadership and direction which is “impossible to rectify by giving back evil to those that serve us evil.”
“I’m of the opinion that Uganda is in a state of rot, everything is rotten. You need someone to help you out of a ditch of rot and I believe the person to help Uganda out of the rot is going to be God Himself. I will do my part to stand up and be counted, and I’ll let God do what o can’t do,” she said.