Cecilia Ogwal, Uganda’s first beauty queen dies

Uganda is mourning the death of its first beauty queen, long-serving legislator and senior opposition leader Cecilia Barbra Atim Ogwal, who succumbed to a cancer-related illness while receiving treatment in India. She was 77.

“We mourn the death of a political matriarch” said Speaker of Parliament, Anita Annet Among on Thursday morning.

Ogwal won Uganda’s first beauty pageant in 1969. Later, she joined politics, becoming an MP for Lira in 1996 and later for Dokolo, her home district in northern Uganda.

For her role of advocating for women’s rights and democratic principles during the making of Uganda’s Constitution in 1994, she was referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’.

Ogwal is also remembered for holding the fort for the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), a political party led by former president Milton Obote when the latter was in exile in Zambia.

During her time in Parliament, she was also a commissioner, opposition chief whip, chair to various parliamentary committees and a member of the Pan-African Parliament where her performance was recognised by her colleagues at the continental level.

Eulogising Ogwal, deputy speaker Thomas Tayebwa said, “You were instrumental in guiding and shaping local leaders, as well as advocating for a just global agenda where the voice of the global south was heard, especially in the OACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Your remarkable contributions will forever be etched in the annals of history.”

‘Very brilliant’

Four-time presidential candidate and leading opposition figure in the country Dr Kizza Besigye described Ogwal as a brilliant leader.

“She was one of the few strong competent women leaders our country has raised. It’s a terrible loss for the country,” Besigye said.

In addition, former Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda described Ogwal as a consistent leader who firmly spoke her mind about issues she believed in.


Cecilia Ogwal was born on June 12, 1946 in Dokolo District, Northern Uganda. She graduated with Bachelor of Commerce from the University of East Africa in Nairobi, (present-day University of Nairobi), in 1967. She became Miss Uganda in 1969

Ogwal got a certificate in Human Resources Management from the Institute of Public Administration, present-day Uganda Management Institute (UMI). She worked at Uganda’s Embassy in Nairobi from 1979 to 1980, as the liaison officer for returning Ugandan refugees. She also worked as operations manager at the Uganda Advisory Board of Trade in 1980-81.

In 1982, she was one of the founders of Housing Finance Bank; working there until 1984. She served as the Chairperson of Uganda Development Bank, from 1981 until 1986 later being appointed acting secretary general of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), 1985 to 1992.

In 1994, she was part of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the 1995 Constitution. From 1996, Ogwal represented the people of Lira Municipality until 2005 when she lost the UPC party ticket to Jimmy Akena, Milton Obote’s son. In 2011, Ogwal contested and won the Women’s Representative seat for the newly created Dokolo District, a position she held until her death. She was married to Lameck Ogwal and had seven children.


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