Betty Oyella Bigombe

Betty Oyella Bigombe bigraphy, stories - Ugandan politician

Betty Oyella Bigombe : biography

1954 –

Betty Oyella Bigombe, also known as Betty Atuku Bigombe (born 1954), is the current State Minister for Water Resources in the Uganda Cabinet. She was appointed to that position on 27 May 2011.[ Museveni Names New Cabinet May 2011] She is also the elected Member of Parliament (MP), representing Amuru District Women’s Constituency, in March 2011.


Betty Bigombe was born in what was then known as Acholi District in 1954. She is one of 11 children by her father, who was a nurse. She is an ethnic Acholi.

Bigombe attended Makerere University, Uganda’s oldest university, graduating with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Social Science (BA.Soc.Sc). Later she attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. She graduated with the degree of Master of Public Administration (MPA). Her studies at Harvard were sponsored by a Fellowship from the Harvard Institute for International Development.

From 1981 until 1984, she worked as the Company Secretary of the Uganda Mining Corporation, a government parastatal company. From 1986 until 1996, she served in the Ugandan Parliament as an MP.

In 1988, she was appointed State Minister for Northern Uganda, which required her to take up residence in Gulu, the largest city in Uganda’s Northern Region. She was tasked with convincing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) guerilla rebels to lay down their arms, following the failure of military efforts to defeat the rebels. Bigombe initiated contact with the LRA leader Joseph Kony in June 1993. In 1993, she was named Uganda’s Woman of the Year for her efforts to end the violence. Despite meeting with Kony, the talks collapsed in February 1994.O’Kadameri, Billie. in Okello Lucima, ed., , 2002. Soon afterward, the insurgency intensified and no significant efforts towards peace would be made for the next decade.

Following a ten year stint in the Uganda Parliament from 1986 until 1996, she failed to win the parliamentary seat for Gulu Municipality in 1996 and left government service.Kasaija Phillip Apuuli, , African Journal on Conflict Resolution, Vol. 5 No. 2, 2005, p. 35 In 2011, 15 years later, she bounced back by winning the parliamentary seat of Amuru District Women’s Constituency, on the National Resistance Movement party ticket. She won and is now the incumbent for that seat.

In 1997, following her graduation from Harvard, she took up employment with the World Bank in Washington, DC, as a Senior Social Scientist with the Post-Conflict Unit. Later, she served as a Consultant to the Bank’s Social Protection and Human Development Unit. In 1999 and 2000, Bigombe provided technical support to the Carter Center in a successful mediation effort between the governments of Uganda and Sudan.

Following the February 2004 Barlonyo massacre, Bigombe took a leave of absence from the World Bank and flew to Uganda to attempt to restart the peace process. From March 2004 to 2005, Bigombe was the chief mediator in a new peace initiative with the Lord’s Resistance Army, personally financing much of the logistics of bringing Ugandan government ministers and rebel leaders together. The last meeting on April 20, 2005, fell through. However, the failure of the Bigombe mediation is seen as laying the groundwork for the 2006–2007 Juba talks, which were mediated by the government of South Sudan. Those talks collapsed at the last minute when Joseph Kony refused to sign the peace agreement.

In 2006, she returned to the United States and served as a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington DC. Later, she was appointed a Distinguished African Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, also in Washington, DC. In 2007, she received the Peacemakers in Action Award from the [ Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding].

She was appointed the Chairperson of the National Information and Technology Authority in Uganda (NITAU) in 2009. In May 2011, she was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni as State Minister for Water Resources, a position she still serves in today.

Betty Bigombe was at one time married to then Uganda’s ambassador to Japan. by Nora Boustany, The Washington Post, July 11, 2007 She is the mother of two children; Pauline and Emmanuela. As well as English and Acholi, she speaks Swahili and Japanese.