Why Teso voted against Museveni

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th February 2006 03:00 AM

IT is not surprising that in last week’s parliamentary elections, almost all NRM candidates in Teso lost to FDC candidates. The four who won survived on the basis of their strong personalities and not the party.

By Milton Olupot
--The major cause of problems the Iteso face result from cattle rustling by Karimojong and people here feel NRM lacks the will to end it

IT is not surprising that in last week’s parliamentary elections, almost all NRM candidates in Teso lost to FDC candidates. The four who won survived on the basis of their strong personalities and not the party. The NRM survivors are Charles Oleny (Usuk), Johnson Malinga (Kapelebyong), Musa Echweru (Amuria) and Emilly Otekat (Serere).

The tide of change swept all the three state ministers from the sub-region not because they were not performers but because they belonged to the NRM, which the Iteso feel has neither the will nor the capacity to solve their problems. The ministers are Grace Akello, who is the Minister for Northern Reconstruction and Woman MP for Amuria, Christine Aporu, the state minister for disaster preparedness and Mike Mukula, the state minister for health and Soroti Municipality MP. Mukula delivered in his constituency, especially in the health sector, and was instrumental in flushing LRA rebels out of Teso. His problem, like Akello, Aporu and other NRM candidates, was that they belonged to the NRM.

The issues that are of concern to Iteso include persistent cattle rustling by the Karimojong that leads to displacement of people from their homes, biting poverty, deteriorating quality of education, poor roads especially in Kaberamaido, Katakwi and Amuria districts, and unfulfilled promise to connect electricity to Katakwi and Amuria districts. Therefore the voters did not necessarily have problems with NRM candidates but the only way to express their anger with President Museveni was to punish his agents. The FDC candidates did not necessarily exhibit special qualities of leadership but the party was seen as the only force that could dislodge President Museveni and cause the much-needed change. Thus one only had to declare allegiance to FDC to win.
From time immemorial the Iteso depended on their cattle for their livelihoods and once these were taken by the Karimojong rustlers, under the nose of the government and without compensation, poverty struck. Nowadays very few can even afford a meal, let alone giving their children quality education. Even problems whose causes could be natural such as prolonged famine still rotate around cattle rusting. The cow used to be almost the sole source of income for the Iteso and from it they would get money to pay school fees and support other agricultural activities.

In 2001 President Museveni promised to end cattle rustling if he was given another five years in power. He went back exactly five years later to ask for votes again and many people in Katakwi and Amuria went to attend his rallies from camps where they were pushed by cattle rustlers. On the other hand, Col. Kizza Besigye in 2001 implored Iteso to vote for him if they wanted to leave the camps and go back to their homes. He swore that if they did not vote for him, he would return to campaign in 2006 and find them still living in camps. Not only did he find them there in 2006 but they were also living in worse conditions.

President Museveni’s description of some Teso politicians as asabak (liars), aarak (killers) and terrorists linked to Joseph Kony’s LRA through Besigye also upset many voters. For example at a campaign rally in Amuria, he asked residents whether they would vote for asabak (liars) or alakunak (liberators) to which the crowd defiantly and in unison replied asabak (liars). Interestingly, an embarrassed Grace Akello who was interpreting Museveni’s speech said, “Your excellency they say they will vote for you.” It is not that Akello did not get the message; she deliberately distorted it either to be polite or to please her boss. Akello is liked and hard working but her position in the detested NRM cost her the seat.

President Museveni’s decision to baptise some Teso politicians as terrorists, in reference to former PRA suspects, was a blessing in disguise for Charles Ekemu who trounced Mukula. Ekemu, a former PRA suspect, was recently acquitted by the High Court in Kampala. He has no experience in leadership and his victory can only be attributed to a sympathy vote following his incarceration. But Mukula is also to blame. HE is so proud that he dared anybody who wanted to dethrone him to first uproot the imposing Tororo Rock before contesting against him. Unfortunately the rock still stands and Ekemu is MP-elect.

Christine Aporu entered politics mainly through a sympathy vote after the death of her husband, Dr. Aporu Okol, who was minister of state for animal husbandry. She worked tirelessly for the welfare of people living in the camps, among them her kin. In the end she also paid the high price of supporting the NRM. She was beaten by FDC’s self-employed Agnes Akiror. Not that Akiror has any known or better leadership qualities. She happened to belong to the right party which itself benefited from the protest vote against President Museveni and NRM.

The FDC literally swept the whole of Teso, meaning that all the incumbent MPs who belonged to FDC retained their seats. Thus Elijah Okupa, for example, had no trouble beating his predecessor/NRM’s Augustine Okiror to retain his Kasilo seat and so was Dr. Francis Epetait who also found it easy to retain his Ngora seat by defeating NRM’s Fiona Egunyu. FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso, the Woman MP for Soroti, had probably the highest number of votes in any constituency. NRM is so hated in Teso that former minister Ateker Ejalu and incumbent MP Sam Anyolo were trounced by a butcher in Soroti town, Peter Omollo, for the Soroti County seat. Though popular, Omollo was reinforced by FDC’s popularity.

Former Soroti RDC Ecweru’s victory in Amuria should also be put in context. Though an NRM supporter, voters decided to reward him for his role in resisting the LRA incursion in Teso. However, he was advised early to concentrate on his campaign as an individual and avoid dragging NRM into his battles. He heeded the advice and it worked.

Iteso know that FDC may not solve their problems but they also know that it has the potential to remove the dreaded NRM.

Why Teso voted against Museveni

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