Maria Emily Lubega Mutagamba,65, succumbed to liver cancer last Saturday at Case Hospital in Kampala.
Before her demise, the fallen economist turned politician, had been admitted to the health facility for close to three weeks after she complained of stomach complications.
She was minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities between August 2012 and June 2016.
Prior to that, she had served the government in different political positions.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda described Mutagamba as a woman, who “has always been clear [and] she has put her country first for unity and the progress of Uganda.”
“That has always been her guiding principles and her focus both before and after joining the National Resistance Movement,” Dr Rugunda told Daily Monitor yesterday.
He said Mutagamba has been an effective minister, who represented Uganda well and headed the African Water Ministers Forum with enormous contribution to the political and socio-economic development of the country.
“She helped pioneer solar irrigation programmes in the countryside and she has provided good political leadership in Rakai and in the country,” Dr Rugunda said.
Mutagamba was Rakai District woman representative in Parliament from 2001 to 2016 when she announced retirement from active politics, citing health reasons.
A lot can be said of a woman, who devoted her earlier political life to democratic struggles and justice.
She chaired DP’s Paul Ssemogerere’s presidential campaign task force in 1996 elections against President Museveni, becoming the second high ranking opposition female politician after Cecilia Ogwal of the Uganda People Congress during her time.
“She coordinated the entire campaign manning activities at both the headquarters (City House) and the Youths Centre at Kabuusu,” said a source familiar with the deceased.
“She was an instrumental player despite the outcome of the election. She vehemently declined the campaign propaganda of alleged rebel activities in Kisoro District right in the middle of the 1996 campaign,” the source said.
Mr Norbert Mao, the DP president, told Daily Monitor that Ms Mutagamba was appointed deputy secretary general at a very delicate time in the history of the party.
“Democratic Party was working with an executive committee which was full of holes because many of them had either died or had crossed [to NRM], and the party was struggling to live,” Mr Mao said.
In regard to running Ssemogerere’s presidential campaigns in 1996,
Mao said Mutagamba’s relentless efforts left behind her a clear trail and record in the pursuit for a multi-party political dispensation.
This, Mao said, is what brought her into the political limelight to be adored by many.
“She ran a very strong campaign and the party was proud of her, I don’t think there has ever been any woman who has held that role in the history of Uganda,” he said.
The decision she took to cross to the ruling party, Mr Mao said should not discredit her earlier contributions to the democratic struggle.
He, however, stressed that her choice to cross to their political rival was a big blow given her position in DP at the time.
“When a senior person crosses, it is a negative development but the Democratic Party is a party that has withstood many storms, so we remained focused on our aspirations,” Mr Mao said.
Mr Paul Ssemogerere, one of the party’s founder members, said Mutagamba has left remarkable history in the democratisation of Uganda.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Mr Ssemogerere told Daily Monitor that even after crossing to the NRM, Mutagamba remained a hard working minister, putting service beyond self.
“I strongly believe that she has been one of the most hardworking members of cabinet, always doing her work with determination and caution,” he said.
“It is without doubt that Uganda has lost a very principled person. May her soul rest in eternal peace.”
Mutagambwa was born in Rakai District on September 1952. She studied at St. Aloysius Senior Secondary School in Bwanda, Kalungu District for her O-Level (1967-1970) and Mount St. Mary’s College Namagunga for A-Level in 1971.
Mutagamba joined Makerere University from 1973 to 1976, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
In 1980, she obtained a Diploma in Computer Programming from the ICL Computer School in Nairobi, Kenya and later acquired a Certificate in Executive Leadership from John F. Kennedy School of Government Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States in 1997.
She served as a banking officer with the Bank of Uganda from 1976 to 1980. And later became a director of the bank from 1991 until 1999.
Mutagamba was a Constituent Assembly delegate between 1994 and 1995. Between 1999 and 2000, she served as DP deputy secretary general before her first Cabinet appointment in 2000, as minister of State for Water Resources, a position she held until 2006 when she was appointed minister of Water and Environment.
Since 2001, Mutagamba occupied several positions at the local and international platforms to champion access to clean water.
She was vice chairperson of the United Nations Task Force on Integrated Water Resource Management in 2001, an open ticket that catapulted her to the Nile River Council of Ministers (2001 to 2012).
In 2005, she was the coordinator of Global Women Leaders Forum for Water and Sanitation, a position she held up to 2012, along with being the president of African Ministers’ Council on Water.