How NRM crafted Ojok’s win in Omoro by-election

NRM party’s  Andrew Ojok Oulanyah (carrying flag), celebrates his anticipated win with his supporters in Lalogi Town on Thursday evening. PHOTO / TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY. 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Ojok’s win was announced at about 10:10pm by the Omoro District Returning Officer, Mr Moses Kagona, in the company of the Electoral Commission (EC) chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) party candidate, Mr Andrew Ojok, on Thursday evening emerged winner of the Omoro County parliamentary seat by-election.

Mr Ojok’s win was announced at about 10:10pm by the Omoro District Returning Officer, Mr Moses Kagona, in the company of the Electoral Commission (EC) chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.

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Mr Ojok beat five others to the seat that fell vacant after the death of his father and former Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah. The NRM flag bearer garnered 14,224 votes (83.3 percent), while his closest contender, Mr Simon Toolit Akecha of the National Unity Platform (NUP), got 1,633 votes.

Mr Terence Odonga (Independent) polled 532 out of the 17,069 valid votes to place third. Mr Justine Odong, who was handed the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) flag at the 11th hour, scored 529 votes to come in fourth.

Mr Walter Jimmy Onen (Independent) got 88 votes, while the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) candidate, Mr Oscar Kizza, brought up the rear with 63 votes.

Mr Ojok struck a reconciliatory tone in his victory speech.

He added: “I am going to work with the people the way my father did before his demise. If we are to develop Omoro County, it requires a combined effort and not me alone.”

Omoro was replacing Oulanyah, who was its lawmaker from 2001 to 2005 and then from 2011 until his death.


Crafting the win

While receiving hundreds of ‘converts’ from the NUP camp on Wednesday, Mr Richard Todwong, NRM’s secretary-general, revealed that they made the most of the confusion in the Opposition’s ranks.

“Our message was clear, we asked the voters not to join misleading Opposition groups that would not get them out of poverty because once they remain in Opposition, they may miss out on government programmes,” Mr Todwong said.

Once nominations were complete and the ground set for campaigns, Mr Todwong, NRM’s director for mobilisation Rosemary Seninde, and NRM’s director of communication Emmanuel Dombo, all pitched camp in Opit Town Council.

The trio took charge of mobilising youth groups, women leagues, boda boda riders, the business community, and religious leaders to spread their message and back them in hunting for votes for Mr Ojok.

On May 18, Mr Todwong met LC1 and LC2 chairpersons from all the sub-counties in Omoro County at Acet Central Ward, in Acet Town Council to galvanise support for Mr Ojok. On May 20, the NRM secretary-general also met catechists and laity leaders under Opit Catholic Parish at the parish headquarters in Opit Town Council, seeking their backing.

Meanwhile, at Opit Secondary School, Ms Seninde, Mr Dombo and NRM’s director for finance Naham Medina, met youth, boda boda and women groups across the county over the same.

“What we did was to reinforce our structures beyond those of the party in order to gain support from almost every corner of Omoro County,” Mr Dombo revealed.


Intimidation, bribery

The Opposition candidates, however, continue to be up in arms about perceived cases of voter bribery, intimidation, and harassment during the poll. The Opposition claimed they were not able to cover all the 292 villages in Omoro County due to intimidation.

On Thursday, police arrested Chwa West MP Patrick Polly Okin Ojara, and four others over allegations of attempting to disrupt the election exercise. While Mr Okin, who was reportedly arrested at about 3:00am, was detained at Gulu Central Police Station; the others were being held at Omoro Central Police Station.

Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi, the FDC party president, alleged that security operatives raided their office and destroyed several items while arresting their agents. Mr Amuriat said the pattern of harassment was more pronounced in the four days before polling.

Mr David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa River Region police spokesperson, said the police work was intended to curtail saboteurs, whose intentions were to disrupt the voting exercise. He added that they mounted many checkpoints to block “political intruders” from other districts, whose intentions were sinister.

Besides the intimidation, alleged cases of bribery also came to light.

NUP party secretary-general Lewis Rubongoya and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, both alleged that from Monday, the NRM party distributed money to people in a bid to canvass votes.

They added that when President Museveni touched base in Omoro, voters got cash inducements of anywhere between Shs1,000 and Shs20,000.

NUP flag bearer Toolit also said he was not in doubt that Mr Ojok’s camp “ferried voters from other areas outside Omoro County to go and vote at polling stations in Acet Town Council, Lokot, and Binya.”

To validate Mr Toolit’s claim, Saturday Monitor tracked the proceedings of the voting exercise in Acet Town Council and discovered several irregularities.


Ferrying voters

For instance, four people were critically injured on Thursday afternoon after they fell off a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) pick-up truck. It is said the pick-up truck was ferrying people from Odek Sub-county to vote at polling stations in Acet Town Council.

We also met and interacted with the accident victims, who were receiving first aid at a health facility in Acet Town Council. Medical reports confirmed that Patrick Okello, 34, Edward Obang, 22, and Denis Ekol, 20, sustained deep cuts to their arms.

They also suffered torn ligaments. Bosco Ojok, 36, sustained a fractured ankle and injuries on his back.

The pick-up truck—whose registration number was reportedly concealed—would later be seen in Acet Town Council with about six Field Force Unit police officers driving towards Lalogi Town.

Mr Okello told Saturday Monitor that he was ferried from Ogwari Village, approximately eight kilometres from Acet Town Council. His three other colleagues were ferried from Odek Trading Centre.

“They even drove us past the polling station near Acet Primary School where we were meant to vote. We then heard a man from inside telling the driver to branch off the main road in order to evade the trailing police van,” he said.

“That was when four of us fell off to the ground and the trailing police van nearly stepped on one of us,” he added.

Police later confirmed the incident and said the victims were undergoing treatment.

At Binya Trading Centre, a grey double-cabin pick-up truck with a covered registration number was seen ferrying people from Odek and Lalogi sub-counties.

Earlier, Mr Toolit had petitioned the EC to intervene over the concerns of voter bribery, and intimidation that his camp was reportedly facing. The NRM protested its innocence, with Ms Seninde saying it’s not a crime to “give your people a drink.”

Results
Andrew Ojok (NRM) garnered 14,224 votes (83.3 percent). Mr Simon Toolit Akecha (NUP) got 1,633 votes.
Mr Terence Odonga (Ind) polled 532 out of the 17,069 valid votes to place third. Mr Justine Odong (FDC), scored 529 votes to come in fourth. 
Mr Walter Jimmy Onen (Ind) got 88 votes. Mr Oscar Kizza (ANT) got 63 votes.
 

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