What you need to know:
- A day before Oulanyah’s burial, a joint council meeting chaired by Omoro District speaker, Mr Richard Bongomin Luganya, squashed a proposal to ring-fence the MP seat for one of Oulanyah’s children.
The scramble for the Omoro County MP seat that fell vacant on March 19 following the death of Jacob Oulanyah is gathering steam.
On April 7, the Electoral Commission (EC) officially declared that the seat is up for grabs.
EC spokesman Paul Bukenya said the Clerk to Parliament (Adolf Mwesige) sent a notification on March 26 of an urgent need to fill the seat as per constitutional provisions.
“We have notified all political parties about the need to [fill] the seat, but we are officially releasing the detailed programme for this exercise…so that people can start to prepare for campaigns,” Mr Bukenya said.
Oulanyah was the Omoro County MP from 2001 to 2005 and then from 2011 until his death.
Saturday Monitor has established that several individuals started drumming up support for their candidacy even before Oulanyah’s body was flown to Lalogi in Omoro District for a final send-off.
In an interview, Mr Francis Mawa, the prime minister of the Puranga Clan—to which Oulanyah belonged, said the chiefdom has summoned several clan members who have declared interest in the seat.
Mr Mawa said this is for counselling and reconciliation purposes. Whereas Mr Mawa did not name names, his chiefdom is expected to dominate the ballot since its members predominantly occupy Omoro County.
“The (family) meeting was suspended because there were critical issues that could not be discussed to a conclusion,” Mr Mawa revealed, adding that another meeting on the same was scheduled to take place yesterday because “this is not a normal contest.”
Mr Andrew Obong Olal, an NRM-leaning Independent; Douglas Peter Okello, the Omoro District chairperson (NRM); Mr Francis Okello Odoki, a former deputy Gulu Resident City Commissioner, (NRM) have all expressed interest in the seat.
A day before Oulanyah’s burial, a joint council meeting chaired by Omoro District speaker, Mr Richard Bongomin Luganya, squashed a proposal to ring-fence the MP seat for one of Oulanyah’s children.
Ms Anita Among, Oulanyah’s successor as Speaker of Parliament, had earlier tasked the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) to ensure Oulanyah’s eldest son—Andrew Ojok, 32, is elected to the House.
Mr Anthony Akol, the APG chairperson, confirmed that he was “given responsibilities by [Ms Among] to make sure one of the family members becomes the next MP.”
Mr Bongomin reasoned that Article 20 of the Local Government Act ensures that “this honourable council has no power over this proposal (of ring-fencing the seat for Mr Ojok).”
Saturday Monitor has since learnt that Mr Bongomin is reportedly eyeing the parliamentary seat.
We failed to obtain a comment from Mr Ojok about whether he will indeed throw his hat in the political ring.
Mr Ojok—a political novice—has an uphill task to prove his worth to be at the helm of Omoro County for the next four years.
Initially, one of Oulanyah’s nephews—Denis Okori—was considered because of his political experience.
During Oulanyah’s funeral on April 8, Mr Francis Emuna, the deceased’s younger brother, appealed to Ugandans and voters in Omoro District to consider Mr Ojok as a suitable replacement.
Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao is widely expected to support Mr Ojok’s candidature. But the 32-year-old’s political inexperience means that other hopefuls such as FDC’s Terence Odonga, who polled third in the 2021 elections, sense blood in the water.
“I definitely still have the support of my party and I am sure once the time is due, we shall work as a team to win the seat,” Mr Odonga said.
Protest vote or sympathy vote?
The FDC wrested the Omoro County seat out of Oulanyah’s grasp in 2006. This came hot on the heels of Oulanyah (then identifying with the Opposition Uganda Peoples Congress) chairing the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that removed term limits, allowing Mr Museveni to have a successful crack at a third term.
There appears to be a belief that if perceived poisoning claims trigger a protest vote, the FDC could be primed to succeed.
Many observers, however, believe Mr Ojok—an employee of National Information and Technology Authority (NITA-Uganda)—will get a sympathy vote following the demise of his father.
Other candidates who had a crack at the Omoro County seat in 2021 elections, and are expected to contest include Secondo Okot Abok (NUP), Julius Okello Opira (ANT) and Hillary Olweny Banya.
Also expected in the race is Oulanyah’s former political assistant Ben Acellam.
Amos Okot, the Agago North MP, who doubles as APG secretary-general, opines that electorates are yet to know Oulanyah’s children and that the government needs to give them better positions in government than fixing them in politics.
“Service is not only about Parliament because you are there for five years and sometimes when you lose an election, it ends the road,” Mr Okot said.
He added: “I think the government should give his children work that is pensionable so that it secures their future.”
Last week, NUP party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi said the leading Opposition party was “discussing among ourselves to see how to prepare for that seat.” He added that the party—whose vast bulk of seats in the House (55 out of 57) come from the central region—will “know [after the discussion if] we shall get a candidate for that place.”
On April 9, NUP’s president Robert Kyagulanyi met the Acholi Chiefdom administration in Gulu City, with round-table talks reported to have been about repairing an apparent north-south divide.
Our sources tell us that Mr Kyagulanyi—who goes by the alias Bobi Wine—was particularly questioned about why he did not publicly condemn perceived NUP supporters who protested Oulanyah’s medevac to Seattle.
It remains to be seen if those showdown talks have left NUP in a good place ahead of the by-election, which has been scheduled for next month on May 26.
Section 3(1) (a, b, c) stipulates that whenever an MP dies, or where the seat of an MP becomes vacant under Article 83 of the Constitution, or where the seat of a member becomes vacant under Section 4, the Clerk to Parliament shall notify the Commission in writing within 10 days after the vacancy has occurred; and a by-election shall, subject to Section 95, be held within 60 days after the vacancy has occurred.