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Politics of EALA speaker elections

By Daniel Omara Atubo

North/north-east Uganda regions were the biggest loser

A lot has been written and said about the election of the EALA Speaker but the other dimension of how the North and North – Eastern Uganda miserably lost in grabbing a key political office of influence in Uganda and East Africa has not been explored. At the outset let me warmly and sincerely congratulate Rt. Hon. Margaret Zziwa for her sweet and sour victory.

The failure to capture the EALA Speakership exposed the underlying lack of vision and deep political division created by our sad and violent history. In the Sunday Monitor of June 10, Fredrick Masiga wrote an interesting article in which he argued that Zziwa is a win for Buganda in the battle for tribal dominance.

With the NRM election victory in the North and North – East for the first time, President Museveni has been grappling with the challenge of consolidation and reward but our leaders are too mediocre and divided to benefit from it.

With a bit of strategy, lobbying and unity, President Museveni and other nationalists within NRM such as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Eriya Kategaya could have been won over to back such a candidate. The positive attitude and foresight of President Museveni was misread and unexploited. We missed yet another great opportunity.

Unfortunately to some people the issue became Omara Atubo and these myopic politicians failed to see the bigger picture that in the current political configuration, the North and North-East have few persons in key political offices to influence events and to assist President Museveni to deliver. Capturing the EALA Speakership would have been a balancing act and positioned such a person to have unfettered access to the President, Ministers and resources for our benefit. Any other fit person could have been identified, marketed and elected.

One newspaper has regularly harped on my alleged unpopularity among some Langi politicians which has damaged my chances of election and political appointments. Even if it were to be true, so what? Are these Langi politicians credible anyway? Which leader has no enemies? If total love were a precondition to occupy public office then nobody would be holding any leadership position in society whether cultural, political or religious. What matters is whether the person is fit and proper and has high moral integrity. Any subjective judgment must be ignored.

The political game to elect the EALA Speaker also exposed the deep-seated tribalism, nepotism, arrogance and greed among some Ugandans who want to grab every big office and resources for themselves. Look at those who were staunchly behind certain particular candidates!

The name of my good old friend Hon. Ben Wacha was floated. But it was a dirty political trick which many from the North and North-East miserably failed to see through. There was absolutely no way the top NRM leadership and majority NRM MPs could have voted for Ben Wacha to such a key and sensitive office however well qualified unless he was a clearly professed NRM member. The dangling of Ben Wacha was intended to dupe but to propel the preferred regional tribal candidate to victory which it momentarily did in Uganda.

Being an ordinary member of EALA was not the big issue of the time. The bigger issue was to capture the real prize which is EALA Speakership. Did the North and North-East have such a candidate? No wonder our EALA members from the North and North-East were reduced to being flower girls and boys at the confused wedding in Arusha.

In politics what matters is influence. There are always many competing interests for limited resources. What is important is to have people in position of decision-marking who can think nationally and ensure equitable distribution of the resources as well as extend affirmative action. Having a person from the area at the table is of advantage.

EALA is an important regional supra-national parliament to which Uganda should send its very best representatives. Such a person should be mature, diplomatic, wise, upright, nationalistic, Pan Africanist, well-educated and a good communicator. The way Uganda handled election of its representatives and the Speaker is to say the least clumsy. It is apparent that President Museveni and NRM leadership failed to give enough time and proper guidance to a matter of such great importance. By the time President Museveni woke up, the tribalists and other sectarian forces within NRM had hijacked the election process. What President Museveni belatedly did in Arusha and said during the State of the Nation address speaks volumes but it was mere firefighting and damage control measures.

The time has come for East Africans to directly elect their EALA representatives in a universal adult suffrage or electoral colleges for youths and persons with disability. The number of MPs from each partner state could be increased to fifteen.

With peace and stability back in the North and North-East after many years of insurgency, cattle-rustling and political hostility towards NRM, it is only proper that President Museveni should now work hard for political support which he is beginning to get. If our political leaders in the North and North-East are clever enough, they should unite and reap from the President’s apparent goodwill. Our sad and violent history will take us nowhere. Let us unite and deal with the great issues of the time so that we can also catch up with the rest of Uganda.

Daniel Omara Atubo is a former Member of Parliament and minister.

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