FDCâ€™s Charles Ekemu pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2006 elections when he beat Capt. Mike Mukula to the Soroti Municipality seat. Mukula is the NRM vice-chairperson for eastern Uganda. At the peak of his political might, Mukula said it would be easier for his opponent to uproot and r
FDCâ€™s Charles Ekemu pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2006 elections when he beat Capt. Mike Mukula to the Soroti Municipality seat. Mukula is the NRM vice-chairperson for eastern Uganda. At the peak of his political might, Mukula said it would be easier for his opponent to uproot and relocate Opiyai rock, located in the municipality, than to defeat him.
â€œAnybody who is thinking of removing Mukula should first try to lift Opiyai to another place. I am the rock in this district,â€ Mukula boasted.
But Mukula swallowed his statement as Ekemu won the elections.
During his tenure, Ekemu has distributed chicks to the youth, women and vulnerable groups in the municipality in an effort to help them fight poverty. When floods hit Teso in 2007 and the drought hit last year, Ekemu was instrumental in mobilising for relief items.
Lately, Ekemu has been moving around the constituency to canvass support for his candidature next year. However, this time he has to work harder.
The anti-NRM sentiment that he greatly benefited from in 2006 is no longer strong. Whereas Ekemu has a challenger within FDC in Anthony Ayamba, an employer with a construction firm in Kampala, his real threat will be from the NRM.
Some think Mukula left behind an oversized pair of shoes that Ekemuâ€™s feet could not fit in.
â€œAs minister and MP, he had enough money at his disposal. He frequently threw parties for the youth and women. This appealed to the urban populace. Ekemu was unable to sustain that spirit,â€ a district councillor said.
Mukula has a huge following among the youth and women. Unlike in the past where he castigated the opposition, Mukula has toned down his stance. Of late, he has kept close to the various opposition bigwigs in the region.
His campaign slogan, too, has slightly changed from the enthusiastic â€œNRM Juuâ€ chants to â€œEmorikikinosâ€, an Ateso word referring to unity.
In March, Mukula hosted Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga who addressed a huge gathering in Soroti. â€œI have not come here in the capacity of the Kenyan Prime Minister but just to check on a close friend,â€ Odinga stressed.
Surprisingly, Mukulaâ€™s involvement in the Global Fund scandal has not swayed his support in the constituency. On the contrary, it appears to earn him sympathy support among the masses.
In the primaries, Mukula will face his former campaigner, George William Ekallo, an audit consultant in Kampala.
Ekallo is said to have contributed financially to Mukulaâ€™s campaign in 2006. He has occasionally reiterated that with or without the NRM support, he would seek election in next yearâ€™s polls.
The other NRM aspirant, Stanley Eroku, a former Police officer, is pursuing a diploma in law at the Law Development Centre. At 24, Eroku appeals mostly to the youth. He argues that elders should stop saying the youth cannot do anything. He says the youth in Soroti are disappointed by the performance of the FDC representatives.
â€œAll the positions were taken by one party but the youth remain unemployed, women are not empowered and have been reduced to beggars on the streets,â€ Eroku says.
â€œThis time we want to show that the youth have potential for leadership.â€
Eroku wants to start farming projects like zero grazing, fish farming and poultry. â€œI also plan to empower women groups through SACCOs to help our mothers off the streets of the municipality.â€
He also intends to set up recreation centres for the youth to reduce alcoholism and the use of illicit drugs.
The UPC will be represented by Dr. Godfrey Egwau, the most experienced gynaecologist in Soroti Hospital. He may escape the hassle of primaries as no other UPC member has expressed the intentions to contest.
Egwau has worked in civil service for the last 23 years. He stood in the 2001 elections for Soroti county parliamentary seat and lost to Sam Anyollo.
One would expect that being a gynaecologist, he would get massive support from women, but that might not be the case. Many women have been wondering who will attend to their problems if Egwau goes into politics.
But Egwau allays such fears. â€œI have recruited two gyneacologists and five medical officers to the hospital in preparation for my exit.
I am looking for new challenges,â€ he says. He wants to focus on helping the peasants add value to their agricultural produce so that it is more marketable.
Additional reporting by Jude Kafuuma
Battle is on for Soroti Municipality