From a house girl to a cabinet minister: Agnes Nandutu’s miraculous journey

"I dropped out of school before senior four and I decided to cross over from Bududa to Kenya where I worked as a housemaid in Nakuru and later Nairobi."

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Agnes Nandutu (Right) and Mwasuze program host Faridah Nakazibwe on Friday| NTV Uganda.

The State Minister for Karamoja Affairs in the office of the Prime Minister Agnes Nandutu is a true story of winners never quit.
Nandutu who is also the Woman Member of Parliament for Bududa District, has, in her narrations not only emotional but motivational revelations.

While appearing on NTV’s morning program Mwasuze Mutya on Friday, Nandutu who until becoming MP was working with the media house, poured her heart out.
“I was born in a poor family and my parents separated when I was still young so I grew up with my paternal grandfather. I studied my primary in Bumawali Primary school and we used to first dig before going to school. I got aggregate 5 in P.7,” Hon Nandutu revealed.

Her first time to wear shoes in her feet, Nandutu said came in primary seven when she was going to Mbale town for a drama competition.

After passing her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) highly, Nandutu joined secondary education but she could later drop out due to financial constraints.

She crossed to Kenya and worked as a housemaid for three years but this didn’t go well with her parents especially the mother who was also in the same county doing similar work. Thus, she returned to Bududa.
“I dropped out of school before senior four and I decided to cross over from Bududa to Kenya where I worked as a housemaid in Nakuru and later Nairobi. My mother was working as a housemaid in Kenya too and I worked there for 3 years,” she said.

She didn’t go back to school right away but went to town and started working in bars and restaurants. This was a journey she had moved for some time having worked on people’s farms even at a tender age due to the absence of her mother.

“My mother sent me back to Uganda but I was demotivated to go back to school so I decided to head to Mbale where I worked in a restaurant and bar. My bosses liked me because I was a hard worker and trustworthy. I later came to Kampala with my cousin,” Hon Nandutu added.

Joining Media:

Agnes Nandutu and Faridah Nakazibwe during their time at NTV| Courtesy.

At some point, Nandutu said, she started looking for a restaurant or any other job paying better than what she had been earning in Mbale and there couldn’t be a more suitable place to search for it than Kampala.
Thereafter, Nandutu could come to Uganda’s capital city with the help of her cousin.

“In Kampala we were living in Wabigalo, a slum in Namuwongo and my plan was to land a job in a good restaurant or hotel, make money and go back to school. My cousin had a friend at Radio Uganda and I used to tour the place and one day I gave it a try,” she revealed.

And one day, Nandutu met Andrew Lusiba, her cousin’s friend who took her to the studios and the rest is history.

“I did voice training and started presenting a health show on radio. I was a freelancer then and my first salary was UGX 16000. My friend encouraged me to study journalism so I went to Uganda Institute of Business and Media studies and got a certificate,” the journalist turned politician said.

The hard life that the now honourable minister went through had prepared her for anything that could come her way. Therefore, she muscled her way through.

“When you have gone through hard times, you strive to work harder all your life. I used to walk bare foot to school, I struggled to make ends meet in Kampala as a mother,” she said.

To improve on her livelihood, Nandutu said she had to widen the source of income and hence, she began reporting for Impact FM radio as well as working as a Kampala correspondent for Mbale’s Open Gate Radio. She was also writing for the Daily Monitor at the same time.

“Within the time I joined Impact radio, I had four children. I had to juggle motherhood and about four jobs at the same time. I started reporting at parliament at Impact FM and one time while I was in the field at the workshop I got into labor,” -Hon Agnes Nandutu.
And all this time, Nandutu said the people she worked with didn’t know her hustle.

At Radio Uganda, Nandutu had been given chance to present on Uganda Television (UTV) which has since changed to UBC.
However, Nandutu later left all the other radio jobs and was made a permanent staff at the Monitor, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group that also owns NTV Uganda.

On recommendation from Samuel Ssettumba a staff of NTV, Nandutu started working with the station as a reporter. She resigned from Monitor and crossed to TV even though she said the former had offered to promote her and increase the renumeration.

” My first story on TV was on Buganda road eviction and later I started point blank ,” she revealed.

“My passion for journalism helped me land those jobs despite being a dropout. In spite of my educational background, I never wrote a false story during my time at Monitor. At Monitor, life was good because I had a good salary and I used to travel a lot,” she added.
Nandutu joined NTV April 2008.

Faridah Nakazibwe and Mwasuze Mutya presented Nandutu with a cake after the show|NTV.

Despite being hard working and appearing like she had succeeded in life, Nandutu wasn’t yet done. In 2013 went back to school at Uphill College Mbuya to pursue a Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE).

After successfully completing senior four, she re-joined the same school for Advanced Level but things didn’t turn out the way she wanted them to.
“I sat my senior 6 in the same school in 2015 and I did not pass so I went back in 2017 and re-sat my exams,” she said.

On joining politics:

Agnes Nandutu dressed up for the People’s Parliament program. COURTESY PHOTO.

Ms Agnes Nandutu noted that when she started the people’s Parliament, a citizen political discussion program on NTV Uganda, she wanted to give people a voice. However, people started pushing her to stand for MP but she seemed not to be interested. In her mind then, she wanted to retire in the newsroom.
” Wherever I could go, people were pushing me to join politics, my Pastor inclusive,” she said.

Although at first she never had intentions of standing as an MP, the numerous calls from friends including senior political actors in the country gradually changed her mind.

She was becoming ambitious already but there was still unfinished business, yes the business of how to navigate through a Ugandan political terrain that is littered with exchange of money for votes. Nandutu had no money to join the frey.

When she consulted however, a number of people that included political journalist and commentator Daniel Kalinaki encouraged her go to her people and explain what she intended to do for them. She revealed Mr Kalinaki advised that this would act as a lesson that even without money, someone can win an election.

Fast forward, time for the NRM primaries came and she offered herself. She wanted to get the ticket to represent the party for the District woman representative position in the general elections.
“In Bududa primaries, I walked door to door because I had no money and I was well-liked but I lost,” she argonizingly told Faridah Nakazibwe, the show host.

Agnes Nandutu carrying out door to door campaigns before the NRM party primaries. COURTESY PHOTO/ FACEBOOK.

Justine Khainza won with 34,012 followed by Agnes Khainza, who scored 26,234. Wakikona came third with 3,820 while Nandutu trailed with 2,480 votes. However, the latter protested the results insisting there was massive rigging.

Actually, on Friday Nandutu revealed that according to primary results, she had finished third but whe she tried to protest the outcome,the District party registra instead demoted her to the tail end!

Like the other two losers in the race, Nandutu decided to contest as an independent candidate.

The Electoral Commission would later disqualify Ms Agnes Khainza Shiuma and Ms Esther Wetsetse Lois citing discrepancies in names on their academic certificates. It was reported that it was the incumbent who petitioned the EC in fear of tough competition.

Unknown to Ms Justine Khainza was that Nandutu who had according to official figures finished last could later win by a landslide.
With over 45000 votes, Nandutu snatched the seat from Justine Khainza.
” During the general elections, two people were disqualified which worked to my advantage. The incumbent won 2 out of 28 sub-counties only and I cried when I won,” Nandutu Friday said.

Without taking away Ms Nandutu’s energy, vigor and the love from her people, it’s also important not to ignore the intrigue that developed among NRM faithfuls in the district after two candidates had been removed from the race after nominations.

It was reported that Justine seemed to have angered voters when she moved to block her contenders from appearing on that ballot paper, after petitioning the Electoral Commission over discrepancies in their nomination. Therefore, sources familiar with Bududa’s political affairs attributed Nandutu’s victory to a protest vote by the electorate.

For the eventual winner Agnes Nandutu, it was Divine Mercy from the Almighty that she emerged victorious.
“God walked on foot to Bududa and got me into parliament. My opponent won only in two sub counties. Remember I was a first timer in parliament but God Remembered me. God is good.
That is why I will work hard for my people,” said the new minister for Karamoja.

Hon Agnes Nandutu June 21, 2021 was sworn in as State Minister for Karamoja Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister. PPU.

As she was still filled up in Joy over the triumph, another miracle was about to happen. Someone was writing her name on a cabinet list.
“I did not see the ministerial position coming as a first-timer. The president has been my friend for a long time as a journalist but we were not that close. Being an MP was enough for me because winning a seat was a miracle. I read the cabinet list and cried because I was in disbelief, Hon. Nandutu asserted.

More about Agnes Nandutu:

Nandutu attended Bumwali primary school for her elementary education, she then went to Bbulo girls secondary school and later Blucheke secondary before she dropped out due to lack of school necessities.

Despite serving as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Reporters Association in the ninth Parliament, Nandutu was denied accreditation to cover the next term by the organization’s Communications Director Mr Chris Obore.

Obore said Nandutu didn’t meet the minimum requirement of a Bachelor’s Degree for journalist allowed to cover the August House.
But with examples of colleagues with whom she was denied access to the House, Nandutu watered down Obore’s assertions. She said they were being witch-hunted for refusing to be compromised while doing their journalistic work.

In 2020, during the parliamentary campaigns, Nandutu was tasked to present her husband, something she didn’t do and instead asked the electorate over the radio to find her a suitor and implored them to focus on effective representation instead of marriage.
The marriage issue was being used as a smear campaign against her by the opponent.

Though she doesn’t divulge much details, Nandutu proudly confesses that she is a mother of seven children.

Hon Agnes Nandutu and some of her children pose for a photo with President Yoweri Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni after taking oath of office as State Minister in June. PPU.

Having given birth to the seven children in what she referred to as hard life, the Bududa District Woman MP said she wants to have at least one child delivered in the current smooth life.

“I want to have a child delivered from abroad in good life. When I get labor pain, I would like board a plain and fly out just to give birth,” she jokingly said.

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