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Do the people of Tororo understand their political entitlement?

State Minister Oboth Oboth (in Kanzu) at a function with current and former MPS from Tororo at Kwar Adhola anniversary celebrations at Achilet in August 2019

COMMENT | Jackson Oboth |  When we talk about development or lack of it in Tororo as a district, one of the key facets that can not be ignored, is leadership.

The questions on my mind are; Do we as the people of Tororo have a fair share of the national cake?  Do we as a unit understand what to expect from our government? Do we understand what to expect from the people we elect to represent us at the table where the cake is being shared? Do we have capacity to make demands based on logical understanding of our rights as a unit of people with common goals?

The overiding question is do we as a people really know our rights as an electorate, why we participate in political formations and what’s in it for us as a people? Or are we just but a group of political blind and aloof people groping in the dark?

The people of Tororo have been known for their frugality when it comes to choosing leaders to represent them. At national level we were known for upholding one-term legacy for most of the people we send to Parliament —  a phenomenon that was at the time attributed to a said ‘political enlightenment by the people’.

Is that trend changing, or does it have to change? For now, let’s look at the situation on the ground.

While combing Padhola recently on a research for our soon to be launched Rock City Radio, we found a one 54 year old John Odumo, standing by the road side, holding his waist.  This was deep  in the village of Pubwoki, a village bordering Iyolwa and Mulanda subcounties.

He looked all dressed up but like a penguin, he apparently had no where to go. We pull over about 2pm to have a chat with him.

At 54, Odumo looked like a 70 year old man, all grey with a slight curve in his frame. He stood there staring at the space as if he was waiting for someone. A closer look at Odumo face indicated there likely is pain in his heart. That pain was being reflected on his sun burnt face.

We inquired about him. Odumo opens up. Back home, his pregnant wife  is due for delivery of his 6th child. He has no money in his pocket, leave alone a bicycle to wheel her to the hospital. Mulanda Health Center 3 is six kilometers away.

Tired of listening to the whine and screams of his wife, Odumo had in a leap of faith, dressed up and taken a walk to the main road hoping to get help from God.

The grim situation of people like Odumo speaks volumes about the needs of our people;  they need money in the pockets, good roads, reliable means of transport, access to health care, market for their products and peace. Not much to ask if you asked me. If  their overworked land was “cooperating”, they would be happy to farm the land, market the produce and get money, but the land no longer yields anything.

After helping Odumo deliver his wife to the health center, we engage him in more conversations about his life and hopes. What does he understand about leadership and representation? What does he expect from his Members of Parliament and other district leadership?

“My friend, our lack of money notwithstanding, I think for us in West Budama Central are lucky to have MP Oboth Oboth,” he says, his face lightening up.

“I will not hesitate to vote for him again. He is trying his best to turn around our problems. Through his efforts water and electricity are coming to the doorsteps of the people for the first time since Independence,” he remarked.

“These are the things we only dreamt about. Today it’s becoming a reality.”

It turns out, MP Oboth Oboth, who is also defence state minister, has already availed an ambulance to the Health Center Odumo had taken his wife to, but poverty meant he cannot even meet the cost of buying fuel for it – which is the minimum expected in a cost sharing service offered for all.

A NEW POLITICAL ERA IN TORORO? West Budama Central MP Oboth Oboth officiating as guest of honor at the commissioning of a new hotel in Kampala recently. The hotel proprietor is Robert Onyango.

According to Odumo, many MPs of Tororo district ride on the good will of the people and once they get to Parliament they only concetrate on enriching themselves. Little wonder that many have at the end faced the wrath of the electorate, with very few making it past one term.

Odumo hailed Oboth Oboth for his efforts at changing the status quo, which could mean the electorate might have a change of mind on how they send and recall MPs.

Could this also be the explanation behind the fact that he is the only MP who has broken the one term record that the Tororo electorate are known for offering their representative to Parliament?

In our conversation with Odumo and many other people in different villages, we realized that many Tororo voters actually don’t know much about what to expect from the political hierarchy in the district, right from Local council to district leadership, plus their national representatives.

All that came out was that the expect their leaders to show their faces regularly, make contribution in funerals, dole out handouts to needy electorates and generally be good and outgoing. That’s all. Many do not expect anything more than that.

Could this be the cause of poverty in Tororo?  The wanton lack of proper political enlightenment and  accountability? Are the leaders taking advantage of this? These are some of the conversations we need to start asking in our quest to Transform Tororo. Thank God we will soon have Rock City Radio, a platform for transformation dialogues. Let the “Rediscover Tororo” conversation continue.

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Jackson Oboth is a Development Communications Specialist, Journalist and a Public Relations Practitioner. 

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