By Charles Etukuri
A delegation of religious leaders and elders from Teso on Thursday met President Yoweri Museveni over jailed Soroti Member of Parliament Capt. Mike Mukula.
The group, led by retired Anglican Bishop of Soroti diocese, Geresom Ilukor, also had members of the Iteso Cultural Union (ICU) and elders from each district in the Teso sub-region.
The meeting took place at the President’s home in Rwakitura. Sources who attended the meeting said the leaders begged the President to exercise his prerogative of mercy and pardon the former health state minister in charge of general duties who was convicted last week by the Anti-Corruption Court for allegedly embezzling GAVI funds.
The ICU leader, who is also the Teso Emorimor, Papa Augustine Osuban, confirmed that a delegation of eminent elders from the region went to plead for their son.
“He is still our son, no matter what has befallen him and as a community, we are trying to make out a case for him, so that the President can exercise his prerogative of mercy,” he said.
Another source said Bishop Ilukor presented a memorandum calling on the President to pardon Mukula and highlighted the embattled legislator’s contribution, both to the party and the region.
But Ilukor said he was not at liberty to discuss the details of the meeting.
But the source said the President explained Mukula’s case before the leaders and told them it was the judiciary that handled the case and that there were still avenues available for Mukula to exploit, including an appeal process.
The President promised to, among other things, cater for the legal costs of the appeal.
Soroti district National Resistance Movement chairman, Charles Elasu, said the leaders had chosen the option of dialogue, not violence as had earlier been planned, to seek the attention of the President in securing pardon for the legislator.
“There were mixed feelings in the region when Mukula was arrested and some of the people here wanted to stage riots across Teso and some other major towns.
"Not everybody is civilised and we knew some people would take advantage of the riots to cause destruction. We asked our people to remain calm as we sought peaceful means to resolve the incident,” Elasu said.
Mukula's political profile
The 56-year-old has been a legislator since 1996, save for a five-year hiatus (2006-2011), when the Forum for Democratic Change nearly ‘wiped out’ the ruling NRM in the Teso sub-region.
A national vice-chairperson of NRM in the eastern region, Mukula’s stature in NRM has steadily been rising, resulting into his appointment as Minister of State for Health (2001-2006).
A chairman of the Pan-African Movement – Uganda chapter, Mukula is one of the most influential NRM figures in the east.
He famously took the rap of NRM’s top echelon for insinuating that there was sectarianism in government appointment of bearers of key offices, giving it as the reason why the party was ‘rejected’ in the 2006 polls in Teso.
Mukula has often publicly made his presidential ambitions known.