Although the odds had placed Opposition Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat in position to take the majority share of the votes in Teso Sub-region, his home turf, President Museveni emerged victor in the just concluded general election.
Except Soroti City, which voted for Mr Amuriat, the other areas in the sub-region voted Mr Museveni.
A section of elders and social media elites termed the outcome as betrayal.
“I thought and prayed that the people of Teso were going to utilise this [election] as their bargaining factor for betterment of service delivery by having a protest vote against Mr Museveni, instead they voted for money, succumbed to intimidation,” Mr Paul Edongot, 89, a retired prisons officer from Anyara Sub-county in Kalaki District, told Daily Monitor.
“I am still recovering from the trauma of last week’s election. It would have been better for Mr Amuriat to win the Teso vote and miss out elsewhere,” he added.
Mr Museveni,76, sealed victory with 5,851,037 votes (58.64 per cent) while Opposition front-runner and National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi, alais Bobi Wine, trailed closest with 3,475,298 votes (34.83 per cent) while Mr Amuriat came third with 3.24 per cent of the total vote.
Mr Paul Omer, an FDC mobiliser for Teso/Karamoja sub-regions, attributed NRM’s win to alleged involvement of security agencies and ballot stuffing.
Mr Omer alleged that the level of intimidation residents were subjected to discouraged voters from participating in the electoral process.
“Even in places such as Kapelebyong where the victory for FDC candidate for woman MP was diverted to distant third in favour of the NRM candidate, it was done through the brutality of the UPDF. People feared to be massacred,” Mr Omer, who is also the Soroti City mayor, said.
He said FDC was fighting intimidation by security agencies and NRM voter bribery where money was allegedly channelled through village chairpersons and NRM top leaders in the region.
“All LC1 chairpersons received money to pass to villages, it was a cash in from NRM to voters, unfortunately the bitter pill of the decision taken will live on to haunt the locals in the subsequent years of Mr Museveni’s next term in office,” Mr Omer said.
Mr Charles Okello, an FDC mobiliser in Malera Sub-county, Bukedea District, said they also faced intimidation by security personnel .
He said many armed soldiers and police officers were deployed at polling stations, creating a tense atmosphere tense that was unsuitable for free and fair elections.
Mr Okello said all radio stations in Teso locked out FDC mobilisers, adding that the only option they had to spread their message was through attending funerals.
“This gave NRM leverage to lambast us, without us having a rebuttal,” he said.
Mr Rafeal Ojakol, another party mobiliser in Katakwi District, said security personnel and other NRM stalwarts used the wrangle between the Karimoja and Iteso to spread propaganda.
Mr Ojakol said residents were told that if they voted FDC, Karimojong cattle rustlers would take advantage of the situation to mayhem in Katakwi, Kapelebyong, Tisai in Kumi and Malera in Bukedea.
“To persons who have ever been through the trauma of displacement, this level of intimidation kept many away from the polling station, and those who voted did it through fear,” he said.
However, Mr Mike Mukula, the NRM vice chairperson for eastern region, said his party won the presidential race fair and square.
Mr Mukula said the Iteso shunned Mr Amuriat because they doubted his leadership credentials.
He claimed the Opposition lacks pro-people ideology, saying: “The people communicated their mind through the ballot. It is now time that we embrace peace, development in place.”
He said the infrastructural development which the leadership of Museveni has done in Teso, especially the Soroti –Moroto, Tororo –Soroti to Kamudini road has enabled trade and created jobs.
“The NRM has scored well in areas of water for animals through constructing valley dams, and water for small irrigation, these things are visible to the people of Teso, people. Therefore, they treated messages from Opposition as propaganda,” the vice NRM chairperson said.
Mr Nelson Ochenger, Ugandan Ambassador to Nigeria, who has been on the campaign team for President Museveni in the sub-region, said the peace which NRM brought was the reason why many people voted overwhelmingly for the party in Teso.
“All the pledges which the President made in 2016 where fulfilled, there was no way Opposition would make inroads in Teso. All we are going to do now is to consolidate our gains , by even delivering in a much better manner,” Mr Ochenger said.
Army, police speak out
Lt Gen Charles Angina, the deputy chief coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, told Daily Monitor that the involvement of security agencies in the election had no sinister motive but was aimed at keeping peace.
“Police are the lead security enforcer of law and order, they will always call us to beef up where there is need,” he said.
Lt Gen Angina denied claims that the army is taking sides and intimidating locals.
“People are free to elect leaders of their choice, it is the reason, it is called the secret ballot,” he said.
Mr David Ongom Mudong, the East Kyoga police spokesperson, refuted claims that police are partisan, saying they were deployed to ensure a peaceful election.