Soroti by-election splits NRM in Teso

Mr Mike Mukula, NRM vice chairperson for eastern region and Vice President Ms Jessica Alupo. 

What you need to know:

  • During the by-election, two NRM camps worked separately, each accusing the other of undermining their role. 

The just concluded Soroti East Division by election, which was marred with allegations of bribery, ballot stuffing and arrest of Opposition members, has set a tone for political supremacy in Teso Sub-region politics.

In the run up to the by-election, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) political big wigs were divided into two factions; that of the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, with NRM vice chairperson for eastern region Mike Mukula against that of Vice President Jessica Alupo.

Ms Among’s group also included the State Minister for Sports, Mr Peter Ogwang, Soroti West Division MP Jonathan Ebwalu, Mr Isiagi Opolot (Kacumbala), Mr Elijah Okupa (Kasilo), and former Ngora Woman MP Jackeline Amongin. 

Ms Alupo’s faction comprised Gen Jeje Odongo, the Minister for Internal Affairs, State Minister for Works Musa Ecweru, and the State Minister for Fisheries, Ms Helen Adoa and several MPs.
Both camps were drumming support for Mr Herbert Edmund Ariko, the NRM candidate, who beat Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Moses Attan.

During the campaign, Mr Mukula tried to play the kingpin in dislodging FDC from Soroti City but his actions met resistance within the NRM.

Mr Mukula and Mr Ogwang criticised the Opposition and NRM cadres opposed to their winning strategies.

As such, Ms Teddy Acam, the Teso NRM mobiliser, and Mr Charles Elasu, the Soroti District NRM chairperson, among others, broke ties with Mr Mukula.

Sensing trouble a week to the election, President Museveni, also the NRM chairperson, sent Ms Alupo to head the team and restore sanity, but Mr Mukula’s faction refused to cooperate with her.

While on a local FM radio station, Mr Mukula accused Ms Alupo of funding the Opposition candidate and fragmenting the party. “All our gains that we had achieved before her entry have been dealt a blow,” Mr Mukula said.

With Alupo’s entry, Mr Sanjay Tanna, the former Tororo Municipality MP, assumed Mr Mukula’s role in the campaign, which infuriated the latter. 

“How could you (Alupo) bring Sanjay Tanna here? This is ironic, unacceptable, and my sister likes to focus on triviality,” Mr Mukula said during the NRM’s victory speech last Thursday.

Mr Tanna and Mukula are not new to political rivalry. The duo faced off in the NRM vice chairperson for eastern region race that saw Mr Mukula take the day.

In the aftermath of the Soroti election, Mr Mukula cited internal contradictions in the party and working in isolation.

“These internal contradictions are alive. I am very concerned some people played the card of intrigue, scheming, manipulation, and they should be brought out to the open. The region shouldn’t be divided. During our time, we never had two parliamentary groups, this is the import of Busoga politics,” Mr Mukula said. He maintained that he is indispensable in Soroti politics, adding that bringing in Tanna was an attempt to undermine his role.

However, addressing journalists last week, Ms Alupo denied the allegations, calling them a spin game that has been on for years against her personality.

Ms Acam accused Mr Mukula of playing divisive politics.

“He has never had Teso at heart. He uses Teso as a business bait, he should be the last man to accuse others of causing disunity,” she said.

Ms Acam decried the alleged election malpractices , which she said were tainting the image of the government.

“What happened is the will of the people was subverted. The people of Soroti East elected Mr Attan, not Mr Ariko who has been imposed on them,”  she said.

Ms Acam added that Mr Mukula has been sowing seeds of discord among the people of Teso. 

Mr Augustine Otuko, the NRM youth chairperson for Katakwi District, said Mr Mukula has been practicing cliquish politics.

He said in the 2016 elections, Mr Mukula supported Mr Ariko, who was then in FDC against party flag bearer Peter Ojur. 

“His hypocrisy must be checked because his ideology in the party is not clear,”  Mr Otuko said. 
Efforts to reach Mr Mukula were futile as he declined to answer our repeated calls by press time .