By Tonny Musani
With just a day left to the NRM party primaries, stakes are high in Sebei Sub-region than ever before with seasoned politicians and new entrants combing all corners for votes to take the NRM flag.
Pundits in the sub-region predict this could be one of the tightest contests for a region that has always supported President Museveni’s party during the previous general elections.
In 2016, for example, Mr Museveni got 73 per cent of the votes while the Opposition got 26 per cent.
Sebei covers Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts, with the former being the mother district.
Kapchorwa has two constituents, namely; Tingey and the Municipality.
Kween has Kween County and the newly born Soi. Bukwo consists of Kongasis and the new T’oo County.
In Kapchorwa Municipality, the contest is expected to go to the wire. Mr Sam Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, joined the 10th Parliament in 2016.
The self-proclaimed regional kingpin rose to prominence during his industrious carrier as a head teacher of Sebei College Tegeres.
He won the hearts of many parents and was later rewarded in 2011, winning the district LC5 seat before eyeing the parliamentary level.
Mr Cheptoris says he has unfinished business to accomplish.
“I speak the truth, for people of Kakwingi and Kwoti, the engineers will soon put big pipes and water supply will be improved. I promise skilling programmes. Youth should be given money to do business. I will also work on the power issue,” he said during a radio talk show on Elgon FM on Monday.
However, he faces stiff competition from Maj (Rtd) Leonard Chemonges and Mr Martin Chemonges.
Maj (Rtd) Chemonges, a seasoned politician, is contesting for the 4th time, having lost the past three elections in Tingey.
The former State House worker is, however, riding on the past experience in politics. He says the electorate promised to vote him in 2021, claiming the minister asked for one term.
Mr Martin Chemonges, a former official of Uganda’s embassy in China, recently joined the race.
Born and raised in Kapchorwa Town, now a municipality, he boosts of knowing the plight of the town better than anyone.
For the Woman MP seat, the incumbent, Ms Rukiya Kulany Chekamondo, neither has a smooth ride. She is battling it out with former Woman MP, Ms Phyllis Chemutai.
The duo have been exchanging the seat since 2006.
Ms Chekamondo, a former State minister for Privatisation in the Ministry of Finance from June 2006 to May 2011, during a radio talk show on Elgon FM last month, said: “I want to work on the power issue. I will also keep selling the challenges of my region and lobbying for better services.”
For Ms Chemutai, 2021 poses another opportunity to Parliament.
“Peoples’ households are still in poor state. If I go to Parliament, I will continue helping the needy as I root for better service delivery,” she said during an August 18 talk show on Elgon FM.
The other contestant seeking the NRM flag is Ms Jalia Seiko.
For Tingey constituency, the incumbent, Mr Kenneth Soyekwo, will battle it out with Jimmy Kuka Chemonges and outgoing Kapchorwa District youth chairperson, Fadil Twalla.
Mr Soyekwo has been serving his first term since defeating Mr Stephen Chebrot, who is now Uganda’s ambassador to Qatar.
In Kween District, the incumbent, Mr Mangusho Lawrence, faces three competitors, one of them being his former campaign agent, William Chemonges, and Mr Kireny Wilfred, a former Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officer.
Mr Mangusho joined Parliament in 2016, having been the district chairperson. “I have unfinished business, the cost of water and accessibility is still terrible in Kween. Healthcare services are still a problem, for example, in places like Tuigat and Kasego,” he said.
Mr Chemonges (William) brings in the impetus of ambition. In his mid-30s, he is the youngest of the three.
“Resettlement is a big problem. People near the forest have never been helped. The issue of paying Shs50,000 fine for grazing in the forest is harsh. We need to engage government on this. We also need justice for those who have died in clashes with UWA officials. Household incomes should also be worked upon,” he said.
Soi Constituency has many contestants. Mr Kisos Chemaswet, the former MP for Kween County, whom Mr Mangusho defeated in 2016 hopes to win the NRM flag.
He claims to have fought tooth and nail to have Soi gazetted.
Other contestants for the seat are Mr Isaac Maikut, Uganda’s best farmer in 2017 under the partnership of AVSI Foundation that skills youth, Chapa Satya, Charlse Kurwa, and Sainabu Chemutai.
In the race for the Kween Woman MP seat, the incumbent, Ms Lydia Chekwel, faces an old rival Emma Rose Cherukut, the current RDC of Kapchorwa, whom she defeated in 2016. Other contestants are Cherotwo Joseline, and Chelangat Judith Kigai.
In Bukwo, the Woman MP seat has attracted a lot of attention. The incumbent, Ms Everlyn Chemutai, has positioned herself as a fearless politician.
She is known for rebelling against her party (NRM) during the removal of the presidential age limit. However, she recently joined a group of NRM MPs who reconciled with her party.
Ms Chemutai faces a stiff competition from former Bukwo Woman MP Eveline Tete Chelangat who lost the seat in 2016. Other contestants for the seat are Paula Chebeni and Benna Chelangat.
For Kongasis, the incumbent, Mr Paul Chelimo, faces of with his old rival Nelson Sabila whom he defeated in 2016.
Other contestants are Mr Febian Kissa, a former banker, and an academician, Charles Charlie Cherop.
Mr Augustine Cherop Kamushak, a retired principal officer of Bukwo District, who is eyeing the LC5 seat, said the NRM party advocates for a fundamental change.
“I want to thank all those who have expressed interest to carry the NRM flag. The government has done its best sending resources to the district, but an oversight role is lacking. Service delivery is poor. The roads are bad, water connection is still lacking.”
In T’oo County, Mr Peter Kitti, Mr Peter Kone, Mr Sailas Kwemoi, Mr Patrick Labu Kamalingin and Mr Solomon Chelangat Alinga have all showed interest in the seat.
Daily Monitor was unable to establish if all are seeking the NRM flag.
Christopher Songhor Chepkurui, the Kapchorwa District chairperson, said: “The district is ready for the NRM party primaries. Many youth participated in the youth elections. I urge everyone to preach peace during this contest. People in Sebei have always supported NRM, and we know the President will keep rewarding us,” he said.
Factors influencing the voting pattern in Sebei sub-region
Water. Sebei is endowed with several water sources such as Sipi River in Kapchorwa, River Atar in Kween and rivers Siit and Swam in Bukwo. However, access to water remains a problem in the sub-region. Many politicians are now using the water factor to challenge incumbents. Mr Sam Cheptoris, the minister of Water and Environment, says he has reduced the cost of water in Kapchorwa Municipality. Some locals also have land in the lower belts of Ngenge and Chepsukunya in Kapchorwa and Kween, but the area is semi-arid.
Unemployment. Some politicians have accused incumbents of lacking a remedy to fight unemployment.The sub-region does not have an industry or incentives that would employ the youth. Coffee is a major cash crop, but less has been done to transform it into a finished product. Politicians say the current leaders have not exploited the potential of the region. New entrants are promising establishment of industries. Corruption allegations among some officials in Kapchorwa have been rife. There have been counter accusations on job recruitment in the district. Many politicians are now using the corruption issue to expose leaders.
Gazetting Kwoti and Tegeres sub-counties out of the municipality is playing a huge factor. Some politicians say the locals were forced into the municipality while the leaders speak contrary. In Kween District, the issue of Uganda Wildlife Authority killings is a main concen for many politicians. Many say the leaders have not engaged government. They say the problem is historical with locals who were envicted from the forest never resettled. The is also justice for the families of those who lost lifes.
Roads. Most of the locals are farmers in the upper belts of the sub-region but cannot transport their produce to towns. They use donkeys instead of vehicles because the roads are impassable. In Bukwo, equipment such as a grader is available, but the roads are poor.
Healthcare services. Sebei does not have a referral hospital. The leaders are reportedly accused of sabotaging efforts to transform Kapchorwa hospital to a referral. Lack of ambulances is a regional crisis.
Land. Some leaders are accused of selling people’s land in the lower belts of Ngenge. Those fighting for the residents are riding on this advantage.
Education. Sebei has been listed among the worst performing sub-region in national exams. Most politicians are using this to make promises in their manifestos.
Sports. Government’s promise of building a stadium in the area is yet to materialise. The sub-region is known for its potential in athletsics. Athletee Joshua Cheptegei is working on his own facility. Politicans are using this to woo voters.