Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | When Democratic Party-DP’s Norbert Mao contested for presidency in 2011, he won Nwoya with 54 percent. He also won Amuru and Gulu districts scoring 44 and 42 percent respectively. Mao also polled 35 percent in Kitgum district.
Mao is the only candidate who has ever snatched a district from President Museveni and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) four-time presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye.
The North had another candidate in the 2011 election, Ambassador Olara Otunnu who carried Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) flag. Otunnu’s best scores were, Amudat where he polled 29 percent, Lamwo where he polled 20 percent and Nebbi where he scored 17 percent.
The presence of these two candidates greatly affected Dr. Besigye’s performance in Acholi sub region. Besigye had won all Acholi districts impressively polling more 70 percent in all of them in 2006. Yet in 2011, he did not score more than 22 percent in any Acholi sub region district. But Museveni improved his scores in the region. He won Agago which had been carved out of Kigtum with 59 percent and Lamwo also carved out of Kitgum with 50 percent. He also scored above 40 percent in Pader and more than 30 percent in Kitgum and Amuru carved out of Gulu.
In 2016, Mao did not contest. Besigye won Gulu and Amuru. He scored 45 percent in Pader and above 30 percent in Lamwo, Agago and Kitgum. Besigye isn’t in the race but Mao is back.
Mao told Uganda Radio Network that people of Acholi can only send a strong message that they are unhappy by voting for him. Voting him, Mao argues will be Acholi’s contribution to the struggle of liberating Uganda. But he hastened to say that he will not complain if Acholi people don’t vote him.
Mao also argues that he will have a leverage over Museveni in Acholi if people are interested in voting for issues rather than money. Mao also says people of Acholi should not forget that they need a strong candidate advocating for issues affecting them.
Mao’s return to the race and Museveni’s scores in Acholi in 2016 show that opposition has a chance to perform better in this sub region. Museveni scored above 50 percent only in Agago district. He scored above 40 in Lamwo, Nwoya and Kitgum.
Several political analysts in Acholi say there are people whose voting patterns are still influenced by past war memories. Museveni’s defeat in 2001 and 2006 elections according to Author Owor, the Executive Director of Center for African Research in Gulu were indicators of a desperate move by locals having been distressed by the war between Uganda People’s Defence Forces and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. Owor says the votes were in protest of the situation the locals were undergoing at the time.
He notes that even when the violence subsided, locals still kept holding President Museveni accountable for the political violence, a trend that continued in 2006 till 2016 presidential elections favoring Besigye.
Owor however says much as the opposition political candidates thrived on ideas of the LRA war and land injustices in the region, Museveni’s persistent messages on infrastructural development and consequent implementation slowly started earning him an upper hand.
James Ocen, NRM party chairperson for Gulu district also highlights that a combination of factors including the LRA insurgencies, land matters, and unfulfilled promises by President Museveni in the past gave a hostile ground for the NRM party. He says the opposition political candidates especially four-time presidential candidate Dr. Besigye capitalized on peddling “lies” about the war and land matters in Acholi which by then was still contentious, earning him victory.
Ocen believes unlike the past presidential elections in which President Museveni failed to receive support in the region, the 2021 presidential poll projects their candidate will win massively. He says the strong NRM structure rolled out in the villages and fulfillment of pledges and developmental programs have galvanized support for Museveni.
Does the opposition have a chance in 2021 general polls? Although National Unity Platform-NUP presidential candidate Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi has emerged as a hot challenger against Museveni’s over three decades’ rule, Owor believes that the good grounds enjoyed by Dr. Besigye in the past general polls may never repeat itself in 2021.
This he attributes to Dr. Besigye’s well composed structures that comprised of influential figures from Acholi sub-region who appealed to the masses unlike Kyagulanyi’s NUP whose structure is not well-composed.