Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party still faces an uphill task to win hearts of voters in Gulu city according to observations made by area politicians and opinion leaders.
Unlike the districts of Lamwo, Kitgum, Pader and Omoro where the NRM party has enjoyed some support in recent years, Gulu has remained a fortress for the opposition especially the Democratic Party and the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC.
NRM supporters have argued that with the infrastructural development, the elevation of Gulu to a city status, the rapid economic recovery as well as peace and stability in Acholi sub-region, the tide would change in favor of the ruling party. However, area politicians believe that such developments cannot translate into votes.
Martin David Aliker, a poet and political pundit argues that President Museveni and the NRM party are not yet close to winning the majority votes in Gulu because of the poor representation of party strategies.
Aliker added that the presence of Nobert Mao in the presidential race presents yet another challenge for the NRM party because he is deep-rooted and holds influence among communities in Acholi region where he is seen as one of their own and deserves their vote.
But Walter Akena, a scholar with the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) Uganda says Norbert Mao’s DP grassroots structure in Gulu is in disarray and that may not guarantee him a soft ground to challenge Museveni.
Tony Kitara, a Gulu based lawyer and sympathizer of Democratic Party argues that although the NRM government has irrefutably contributed to the tremendous social economic transformation of Acholi, the voters are still hesitant to trade that for votes.
However, Samuel Agwani, the Gulu NRM youth league chairperson believes that President Museveni is the right candidate that voters in Gulu must consider because of his consolidated achievements citing economic transformation, peace, security and stability.
But Francis Odoki, an NRM supporter in Gulu disagrees with the narratives. He is confident that while the 2021 polls appear complex, President Museveni is poised to win with a landslide especially after delivering on his key promises to the Acholi people.
President Museveni has not won votes in Gulu district, the largest area of the Acholi sub-region since 1996. That year, Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere of the Democratic Party garnered 90 percent of the votes against Museveni’s 8.5 percent. He also lost with 12 percent votes in 2001 to Col. (Rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye who scored 82 percent.
President Museveni further lost with 13.2 percent in 2006 to Besigye who notched 82.3 percent of the total votes cast, a trend which continued in 2011 with 26 percent against Mao who reaped 44 percent of the votes and in 2016 when Besigye polled 50.6 percent of the vote compared to Museveni’s 32.7 percent.
With Mao back on the ballot, the entry of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu of the National Unity Platform – NUP party who is galvanizing the support of the youths and the resurrection of FDC support in Gulu, the task is enormous for the NRM.