The area is part of Lango, which experienced decades of war during the insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army
As the voting date draws nearer, the political temperature in Otuke County is rising. Five candidates are tussling it out to grab the seat whose incumbent has moved to another electoral area.
Julius Achon Bua moved to the newly-created constituency (Otuke East), to tussle it out with, among others, former lands minister, Daniel Omara Atubo.
Atubo, a veteran politician, is an independent. Also in the race is former Otuke MP Dr Jacinto Ogwal.
Two journalists, a lawyer and two businessmen are among those seeking the Otuke County seat.
Contest for Otuke County
Moses Augustine Otim of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and former employee of Unity FM, Richard Omara Awio of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) are among the candidates. Omara was working with Voice of Lango and is also secretary for the NRM party in Lira district.
Others are independent candidates Paul Omara and Daniel Obong. Geoffrey Dick Okwanga of FDC is also in the race. They said fighting poverty, improving agriculture, education, illiteracy and shortage of drugs in the health facilities are their priority.
The area is part of Lango, which experienced decades of war during the insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels as well as cattle rustling by the Karimojong.
As a result, there are high levels of poverty, high failure rates in school and dilapidated structures.
The constituency has four sub-counties — Okwang, Adwari, Alango and Barjobi.
The area has challenges of drug stock-outs in the health facility, few health workers, the poor state of the roads, lack of an ambulance and poor performance by the candidates in the national examinations.
Other issues include poor remuneration for health workers, lack of access to markets for the agriculture produce, use of rudimentary tools, high school dropout and a high rate of teenage pregnancy.
Jimmy Akasa, a resident of Okwang sub-county, said one of the problems is poor road network and a high failure rate. “We expect our roads to be good because we host President Yoweri Museveni and his farm, therefore, those coming to lead should put focus in those areas,” he said.
Jasper Olea of Barocok said constant monitoring of health workers, stocking the health facilities with drugs, improving the state of health facilities, schools and roads should be a priority. Otim said there is also high unemployment rate among the youth and limited vocational skills.
“There are no institutions to enable our youth get the necessary skills for employment,” he said.
“We have the worst infrastructure in the region. Therefore, we shall collaborate with the Government to put this in the budget,” he added.
Omara Awio said his plan for the people of Otuke will focus on improving health services, education, infrastructure, fighting poverty and improving people’s livelihood.
“We should put in place policies that facilitate developing our community,” he added.
“My community is rated the second poorest in the country. As a leader, bringing developmental projects, advocating increase in budgetary allocation for the agriculture sector and initiating income-generating projects will be part of my agenda,” Otim said
NRM vs Independent
During the NRM primaries, Omara Awio garnered 5,834, Ogwal John Bosco polled 4,838 while Milton Ocen trailed with 85 votes.
Otim tussled it out with Jasper Abong in the UPC primaries — he polled 334 votes against Abong’s 101 votes.
The competition, according to Akasa, is between Omara Awio and Paul Omara.
“The biggest voting population here is NRM,” he said, adding that Omara Paul is also popular, having contested in the 2016 elections, though he lost.
In the 2016 general election, Achon (NRM) defeated Adam Makmot Kibwanga, Richard Enen of UPC, Dr Ogwal, Oleng Collins Jenesio, Omara Atubo and Paul Omara.
This was before the constituency was split into two. Ojok Aruca, the LC3 flag-bearer for Barjobi subcounty, said they expect all NRM flag-bearers, including President Yoweri Museveni, to perform well in the area. To achieve this plan, according to George Odongo, an MP of the East African Legislative Assembly, who was co-ordinating the programme, they have commissioned a 1,500-member vote-hunting team for President Museveni and NRM flag-bearers in the Lango sub-region.
MP Odongo said the team was commissioned to reach out to the party leaders at all levels.
“Generally, ours is going to be a door-to-door campaign because we are following the health ministry guidelines on controlling the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding public rallies,” he said.
FDC advocate comprehensive planning
Okwanga said his main focus is to start with comprehensive planning of health centres, the feeder roads, schools and the major trading centres.
He said the lower local government and the district failed to draw a comprehensive plan for Otuke county, which has made it difficult to develop the area.
“Like in my sub-county (Alango), we do not have a health centre III. We have a health centre II, which has been there for over 30 years,” he said. He said through his NGO, the Forum for Justice and Development, he will lobby and initiate incoming-generating activities.