Tribalism rears its ugly face in race for new voice of Soroti County

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Mr Peter Omolo, the outgoing Soroti County MP, cuts a cake at a thanksgiving ceremony in his honour at his home in Soroti recently. He has represented the county since 2005 but he is not seeking re-election due to poor health. PHOTOs BY JOSEPH EIGU ONYANGO.  


Posted  Friday, February 12   2016 at  12:51

In Summary

Politics of tribe. The language a candidate speaks is more likely to earn him or her more votes in a particular area as compared to their manifesto


As presidential and parliamentary elections draw near, the battle to replace the incumbent Soroti County MP, Forum for Democratic Change’s Peter Omolo, who is out of the race due to ill health, remains stiff

Unfortunately, however, tribalism has become a prominent feature of this contest between the Iteso and Kumam, the two main tribes in the constituency.

The candidates are Ms Alice Gertrude Atai (Independent), Mr Jonathan Ebwalu (FDC), Mr Francis Edimu of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), Mr Kenneth Esiangu-Etunganane (Independent), Mr Tom Julius Ekudo (Independent), MR David Eroku of National Resistance Movement (NRM), Mr Martin Napoleon Oliba (Independent) and Mr Jimmy Oriokot of People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

Tribalism in the campaign could as well see voters choose candidates depending on what language they speak as opposed to their suitability.

Before he fell ill in 2011, Mr Omolo was considered to be the only man who could unify the Kumam and Iteso. The FDC man had held the seat since 2005. He has been bed-ridden almost from the time he won re-election, defeating NRM’s Vincent Innocent Enomu.

The long illness has left the 61-year-old politician paralysed.
Whoever replaces Mr Omolo, who also represented Soroti during the Constituent Assembly (1994), has their work cut for them. The man has left a solid record as the public defender on land rights. When the government proposed to include a provision in the Land Act, which would take customary land away from the people, Mr Omolo was among the MPs from communities where the land tenure system is based on customary ownership. He walked out of Parliament in protest.

But the giant of the county’s politics is out of it.
“I am quitting politics now and wouldn’t wish to show sides by backing any candidate contesting to replace me,” he said at a recent thanksgiving ceremony in his home area.

“But I advise the electorate of Soroti County to vote a strong person who is capable of leading and representing your views in Parliament.”

NRM’s Eroku, once a presenter at Kyoga Veritas Radio (KVR 91.5 FM), who holds a Master degree in Public Administration and Management, plus a Diploma in Law, says: “I am the best candidate [in light of] the tribalism factor”.

He says the people of Asuret, Kamuda and Soroti sub-counties would settle for him since they are all firmly opposed to a person who hails from Gweri.

However, Mr Robert Okwerede, an NRM supporter and a resident of Kamuda, warns that “close to a decade, NRM candidates have failed to garner support in Kamuda and I don’t see enough strength in our man to beat the rest.”

Mr Okwerede noted that in 2011, in all the six sub-counties that formed Soroti County then, NRM lost virtually all the seats to Opposition candidates with all the LC3 chairpersons being drawn from FDC party.

The NRM candidate also suffers the bitterness and stigma from the post-primaries fall-out. This has helped the Opposition dominate in the sub-region.

Many of the losers in the ruling party primaries are said to have joined the Opposition, while others are contesting as Independents.
The issue of cattle compensation, which government has always downplayed, is also seriously affecting the NRM candidate. People have lost trust in the party over this long unfulfilled promise to compensate them. There are even reports that some beneficiaries, because of age, are dying before receiving their benefits.

Similarly, the burning issue of the continued stay in exile of Mr Peter Otai (minister of state for Defence in the Obote II government) and Prof David Anyoti (minister of Information and Broadcasting, also in the same government), is a bone of contention among the Kumam, who now hold it against the Museveni government.

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