Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Forum for Democratic Change-FDC presidential candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat will be a force to reckon with in the Teso sub-region in this week’s presidential elections as a son of the soil. That is if Amuriat manages to win all the voters who embraced his predecessor, Rtd. Col Dr. Kizza Besigye over the years in Teso and continue chipping away more votes from the incumbent, President, Yoweri Museveni.
For instance, Besigye scored more than 30 percent in all Teso districts in the 2016 election. He won Soroti with 56 percent and scored more than 40 percent in Kumi, Kaberamaido, Serere and Ngora. He also scored more than 30 percent in Bukedea, Amuria and Katakwi districts.
President Museveni’s worst score in Teso in 2016 was in Soroti, where he polled 38 percent. His best score was in Katakwi where he polled 63 percent. Besigye had won all Teso districts in 2006 namely Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Amuria and Kaberamaido. However, in 2011, Museveni won Katakwi with 70 percent, an improvement of his 2006 score of 40 percent. He also won Bukedea that was carved out of Kumi with 67 percent. Museveni also won Kumi with 54 percent after doubling his 27 percent 2006 score.
In 2016, Besigye managed to recapture some of the voters he lost to Museveni. Nevertheless, where he continued to lose ground to the president, it was a minimal loss. For instance, Besigye nearly doubled his score in Katakwi to 31 from 16 percent he scored in 2011. He slightly improved his score in Ngora from 47 percent of 2011 to 49 in 2016. He also improved his score in Bukedea from 29 to 36 percent.
Besigye lost ground to Museveni in Soroti where his percentage reduced from 80 in 2006 to 62 in 2011 and 56 in 2016. His score in Kaberamaido also reduced from 52 in 2011 to 40 in 2016. The Teso voting pattern shows that voters have been flipping from one candidate to another in every election cycle. Ahead of 2021, it is plausible to argue that Museveni could gain more ground in Teso or Amuriat can take way more votes from the incumbent.
Both voters and political analysts in the region think high levels of unemployment, corruption and insecurity are key among the issues that some people believe will influence how people vote. Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the FDC Secretary-General, says that they have put up a formidable force to win 2021 elections with Amuriat proving himself for the presidency.
He says the party has marketed all their candidates and their target is to ensure vote protection. Nandala notes that the FDC party if voted in, will ensure equality in all aspects of service delivery to Ugandans.
Paul Omer, the Interim Soroti City Mayor and head of Amuriat’s campaign in Teso and Karamoja says that their candidate has very higher chances in the region. He explains that Amuriat has proposed better strategies to improve the education and agricultural sectors in the country. He describes Amuriat as an intellectual candidate whose strategy in the political arena has rejuvenated FDC across the country.
Omer is not alone in his observation. Teddy Opus, a resident of Katakwi Town Council in Katakwi district is on her knees for Amuriat’s victory next week. Opus says that she has spent almost everything educating her children whom she notes have returned home jobless. She wonders how her future and the children will look like after selling cattle and some pieces of land to see her two boys out of the university. Opus feels that Amuriat, being homeboy will probably understand her plight and many others in the region.
Elders who lost cattle and property in the first decade of President Museveni’s regime, their hope is in Amuriat who has promised to restock the region. While campaigning in the region, Amuriat said Museveni’s pledges to restock the region were only for political capital.
According to Ben Akeru, a resident of Soroti, Teso has lagged behind because many of the leaders have let the region down when they cross to NRM. Akure says that Amuriat’s candidature is timely to the region that has never had a presidential candidate. He says that it is no longer about Amuriat as a person in the presidential race but the Ugandans to appreciate the leadership he is offering. He believes that the people of Teso have been blessed for the first time to have one of their own on the ballot paper as a presidential candidate.
According to Akure, much as some people in Teso were initially sceptical about the candidature of Amuriat, his charisma and pitch of ideas have given them the confidence to trust him and are likely to vote for him.
In Kumi, Hakim Kyamanya says Amuriat’s participation is going to change the trend of voting in Teso. He believes that FDC manifesto has touched many and he is likely to take the majority vote in the region. He shares his views with Michael Okwede who notes that people have sobered up and will vote issues not money as it was in the past.
Amuriat’s candidature has affected the conduct of politicians, especially from the ruling NRM when appearing on local radio talk shows. On many occasions, listeners have attacked some of the politicians including the NRM Vice Chairperson for Eastern, Capt. Mike Mukula and Minister Peter Ogwang on-air for trying to underrate Amuriat’s candidature.
Julius Esegu, a media practitioner and Board Chairperson for Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda, says that Amuriat offers an opportunity for the people of Teso that he notes seem to be frustrated over issues he declined to mention.
Christine Oder, a civil society activist in Teso, says that NRM cadres are responsible for whatever happens on January 14, 2021. Oder notes that the NRM leaders in Teso have been dishonest to the community and the president, a reason she notes might cost the ruling party votes this month. She also observed that Amuriat just like many other opposition candidates have sympathy from voters after going through what she describes as humiliation from government security agencies. Oder notes that Amuriat’s barefoot campaign has an effect on the voters, which can only be witnessed on the polling date. She, however, notes that Amuriat may not perform better than Besigye because of some dynamics in the politics of the country.
Willy Bisanga, the NRM spokesperson Soroti says many people do not understand how the multiparty system works. He also observes that some people are putting emotions into the election; something he notes might result in mistakes that will last for the next five years.
Makerere University don, Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa observes that much as the people of Teso would want to support Amuriat, the region is still vulnerable to bribes. He says that NRM organizational infrastructure and COVID-19 pandemic have an impact on Amuriat’s candidature.
Jerome Etiu, a resident of Akeriau Sub County in Amuria district says Amuriat’s candidature is good enough for Teso to attract attention from Museveni. Already, information on the ground indicates that government has released Shillings 10 billion for cattle compensation in Teso, the pledge made more than ten years ago.