Aringa County: Waiting for an electricity ‘saviour’

Saturday March 28 2015

The Agbinika water falls in Yumbe, which  the

The Agbinika water falls in Yumbe, which the residents believe has potential to generate electricity in Yumbe District, is now used as a political tool to shape the voting patterns in the area. PHOTO BY ROBERT ELEMA 



In an ideal world, people would cast their vote based on principle or on the policies the different political parties promise to implement. That ideal would probably make a lot of sense in a place like Yumbe, which never knew peace between 1980 and 2000 because of the fighting between successive government troops and either the Uganda National Rescue Front or West Nile Bank Front rebels.

Policies affect lives so it is important for voters to judge politicians by what they promise to do. Anything else usually tends to be just hype. However, voters in Aringa County, Yumbe District, seem to have always seen things slightly differently. For them, it seems, religion, personality and protest votes have always largely determined the outcome of elections.

The population in Yumbe is estimated to be 76 per cent Muslim and 24 per cent Christian. This determines the political shape of things. A Muslim candidate usually starts the campaign with an edge over non-Muslim opponents. However, there have been instances when Christians joined hands with Muslims to back whoever they believed to be the best candidate.

The incumbent MP, Achille Manoah Milla, is very aware of just what influence religion can have in a place like this.

“I had to first roof mosques before going to churches, otherwise people would say ‘now he has started favouring Christians’,” he said during a recent interview, adding: “but also, my mediation during the West Nile Bank Front [rebellion] was a key factor for people to see my leadership skills and I love people who are development-oriented.”

Achille says he has also lobbied for assistance from American friends to support Midigo Health Centre IV. Doctors’ pay and drug supplies, he says, were improved as a result of his efforts.

Achile gained support partly because he was a preacher, a fact which drew many Christians to his side in 2011. Being a preacher has given him a humble but powerful personality which helps when dealing with impressionable folk. He may also have benefited from a ‘protest’ vote against the sitting MP at the time.

In 2009, the incumbent, Ashraf Olega, performed poorly by the Parliamentary scorecard, a tool crafted by David Pulkol’s African Leadership Institute to track performance of MPs in an effort to contribute to better governance.

During the presentation of his report, Pulkol was interrupted by MPs, including Joram Pajobo, Olive Wonekha and Olega. The then Aringa MP was quoted saying: “This is not fair. Last time you gave me a zero. I want to know what formula you used to arrive at that. You are destroying us,” Olega said.

It is suspected that the Scorecard’s findings were circulated around Aringa and it could have probably influenced voters, preparing the ground for Achille’s return to a seat he had occupied before.

However, there are voices calling for change. Siraje Azubu, 31, is considering putting his name on the ballot to pioneer this change.

“The current leader needs to be changed. A new leadership with brilliant ideas would work for people of Yumbe. Secondly, voting through religious line is what we should fight against because we need to lobby government to connect the railway line from Pakwach to South Sudan border to ease transport,” he said.

As next year’s election draws closer, the underlying problem of income inequality will be a subject of debate as the poor who feel left behind make themselves heard. As is the case almost across the country, the relatively well to do people here rarely vote, making the poor a majority that one cannot ignore.

The district produces a lot of mangoes, honey, millet and tobacco. Many potential voters plan to back a candidate who can assure them of facilitating their aspirations at commerce. The Koboko-Moyo-Arua road and other routes remain in a sorry state, inhibiting easy movement of goods and persons.

However, the most pressing issue here is the lack of electricity, forcing residents to use generators (which are expensive to run) or solar power for lighting. Yet the district is endowed with Agbinika Falls, which the residents believe is a prime site for a hydro-electricity power dam, which if developed, would make it unnecessary to wait to connect Yumbe to Nyagak power station hundreds of miles away.

A town resident, Sarah Tabu, says if exploited, Agbinika would offer opportunities for small scale industries to be set up.

“It can even attract investors who could set up mango processing factories, banana and shea nut butter oil,” she said.

She will likely be among the scores of voters who will go to the polls to elect.

In 2011, the vote was split amongst 10 contestants. Drajiga Rasul (FDC) got 5,707; Ibrahim Ovuga (Jeema) scored 459; Wilfred Abele (UPC) had 749, Ashraf Olega (Indep), 11,291 and Achile Manoah Milla (Indep) got 16,942.

Others in the game were Boniface Acidri (Indep) 1,477; Moses Dradriga (Indep), 500; Rashid Govule (NRM), 14,975; Zubair Asia (DP) with 427 and Rasul Bombasa (Indep) got 2,668 votes.
In 2006, there were seven candidates who contested. Olega won with 18,413 votes against Achile’s 14,202.

In the previous race, Govule, a former LC5 chairman, ran on the ruling party ticket, touting the 2002 peace agreement between the government and UNRF II rebels as a trump card. He promised to lobby the government to pay the benefits of the ex-combatants, many of whom call Yumbe home. The gambit was not enough although it was very popular with ex-combatants.

The future
This time, Govule told Saturday Monitor: “I will still have to wait to cross-check around October-November, then I will let the public know because I think it is still too early.” he said.

When he makes up his mind, Govule should expect to find Achile in the race.

Born on January 1, 1954, evangelist Achile holds a diploma in Biblical Studies attained at an institute in the USA; a certificate in International Advanced Leadership from Singapore. Other qualifications include a diploma in law and judicial practice. He was a planning and development officer for Madi and West Nile Diocese from 1991 to 1995.

Other likely contestants are the youthful Bruhan Edoni Nasur and Siraji Azubu. Both men are in their early 30s. Nasur, 34, is currently the district agricultural officer and hopes to rally farmers to his side.

Azubu is a former teacher who resigned from his job to join politics in 2011. The district councillors elected him speaker.

Will Aringa walk the talk and refuse to give in to campaign cash flow temptation, and vote a representative who will make their lives better? Only 2016 poll results will tell.

electorate share their expectations

“People of Yumbe should think wisely in electing new leaders in 2016 because some of the past leaders never performed. I would like a leader who is development oriented and I think we need to vet these candidates because some may thrive on bribery and end up winning yet may not deliver,” Saidi Atiku

I need change in some positions because some of the leaders were last seen during campaigns and have never provided political accountability to the voters. Women have been neglected yet responsible leaders were elected so that issues of health, roads, water, agriculture, education and women affairs are addressed,” Samsa Driciru

“Voters in Yumbe should be aware of those candidates who are liars and use undemocratic propaganda elections. We need to see value for the various taxes we pay even though MPs are not meant to construct bridges, schools. We need one who can articulate our issues in Parliament,” Moses Debo