Otuke: Where ex-minister Atubo once reigned

Otuke- When former Member of Parliament for Otuke County, Daniel Omara Atubo, had a misunderstanding with senior colleagues in the Uganda Peoples Congress, he opted to run as an independent candidate in the race for the Otuke County seat. He won re-election and joined the 9th Parliament to continue years of a formidable presence in the country’s Legislature.

That year, the UPC locked out Mr Atubo, and several former and current MPs from Lango, including Cecilia Atim Ogwal, Ben Wacha, Ojok B’Leo, Charles Angiro Gutumoi and Yefusa Okullo Epak. It’s notable that the sub-region forms the power base of UPC.

It is in Lango where UPC’s founding father and two-time Ugandan president, Apollo Milton Obote, was born. With that major fall out, some thought that the party’s fortunes would be affected.

Disillusioned by the troubles at Uganda House, Mr Atubo, for a second time, accepted to join President Museveni’s government as minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development. He had been a junior minister in the early years of Museveni’s nearly 30-year hold onto power.

Five years later, Mr Atubo in 2011 crossed to the NRM officially and sought re-election on his new party ticket.

The change of events
But by a quirk of fate, he lost to the UPC candidate, Fr Deusdedit Jacinto Ogwal, a former lecturer at Gulu University also a parish priest from 1985 to 1986. Fr Ogwal got 12,897 votes against Atubo’s 8,217 votes. Atubo subsequently lost his position in cabinet.

In the NRM primaries, Mr Atubo had beaten his closest rival, Mr Jacob Ocen. Today, he prefers to spend time upcountry in Lira even though he is known to maintain a Kampala law office.

Midway into his term, Fr Ogwal, 55, obviously enjoys the confidence of his party. The UPC spokesman for Lango, also party chair in Lira, Mr Dan Okello, told Saturday Monitor that the party still has its flag bearer in Otuke County in the person of Fr Ogwal.

“At the moment, we do not have any member who has shown interest in contesting with the incumbent but in case one shows interest, they will go for primary elections,” Mr Okello said.

He, however, declined to comment on allegations that some party members have questioned the manner in which Fr Ogwal has represented the county.

Fr Ogwal, holds a PhD in church history from Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome and a Bachelors of Theology from Urbanian University, Rome.

The man he beat in 2011, is an accomplished aocate with a reputation of having respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Mr Atubo, however, says he is still carrying out consultations on whether to make a come-back in the 2016 general elections.

“I have not made up my mind at the moment I will let my people know my stand in January next year when I am done with consultations,” he told Saturday Monitor.

The former minister, who upset several Opposition colleagues when he jumped into bed with Mr Museveni’s regime, a government he had repeatedly criticised for being a notoriously oppressive dictatorship, still takes pride in what he says he achieved in Otuke, enthusing that his development projects are still visible.

“During my tenure as a senior minister, two vital things happened: peace negotiation between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the government and the recruitment of more Amuka militia to help the Uganda People’s Defence Forces flush out the rebels.

“When I was a minister, a regional land office was built in Lira. I pushed for the kick-off of Lira University College, more money was injected in PRDP and Nusaf, initiating the project for the construction of Akii-Bua stadium, completion of the tarmacking of Lira-Soroti road projects,” Mr Atubo said.

Some of these projects are situated outside the boundaries of Otuke and, as such, it is not clear if they will have a bearing on what happens in the constituency in 2016.

What 2016 has to offer
What is clear is that we can expect competition. The ruling party’s chairman in Otuke, Sam Fred Oweka Eyen, said all those who have shown interest in the Otuke parliamentary race will have to be subjected to the primaries.

“Five people have shown interest so far, it will be absurd for the contestants to trade insults during the primary campaigns. We need peace during the campaigns in order to promote NRM party ideology,” he said in an oblique to the 2010 NRM primaries, which were marred by irregularities.

It alleged that because of the fall out from the acrimonious 2010 primaries, some of the NRM members did not support their flag bearer, Mr Atubo in the 2011 elections on allegations that he did not push for their needs when he was in Parliament.

Mr Atubo, 67, has been involved in Uganda’s politics from 1979 to 2011, he participated in the 1979 Moshi Conference convened to agree on a new leadership for the country following the anticipated fall of dictator Idi Amin.

He was also very active in the 1994 Constituent Assembly which debated the current national Constitution. Under President Museveni, Mr Atubo served for about 10 years as minister of state for Foreign Affairs and Defence.

Mr Atubo has written a book titled, Calming the Storm. He says the book’s objective is to account to the people of Uganda what has gone on in their country since independence, and how best they can learn from it, so that more mistakes are not made.
If Atubo decides to give it one more go, he can expect to meet Mr Adam Makmot Kibwanga (NRM), 35, also a practicing lawyer.

Though relatively young, this opponent appears to have laid a foundation for his political career. For instance, he is known to have initiated the Makmot Kibwanga Scholarship Award, which supports best students joining secondary education in Otuke.

He has also formed Enterprise Otuke Sacco Limited that comprises more than 400 young entrepreneurs who have been trained and certified by Enterprise Uganda. Other initiatives associated with Kibwanga include the Forum for Rural Women Aancement and Development.

“We hope that with such initiatives [scholarship and Sacco] our people will be helped in the fight against poverty,” he said in an interview.

More notably, through his law firm, Makmot Kibwanga and Company Aocates, Lango war debt claimants won Shs2.9 trillion in compensation for livestock lost during the civil wars in the region. Undoubtedly, that has brought him some recognition in Lango.

But there is one hurdle he may still have to jump before joining the race. Some critics claim that Mr Kibwanga is a Tanzanian who cannot identify which clan he belongs to in Lango. However, he insists he was born at Aliwang Catholic Mission in Adwari Sub-county, Otuke, in 1978 to Phoebe Ajwang and Rajab Ogwang.

Another possible aspirant for the Otuke seat is former international athlete Julius Achon, also an NRM, member. During his running days, he broke the 800 metres American Collegiate record with a time of 1:44.55 in 1996 while a student at George Mason University.

He competed in both the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. He will need his running shoes in what could be a marathon in Otuke.


SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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