Oyam North is RED: how UPC dismantled NRM and MK Movement

Last Updated on: 8th July 2023, 01:27 pm

Oyam, July 7, 2023: Oyam North voters have spoken brilliantly on July 6 in a by-election. The electoral commission (EC) declared the seat vacant after the assassination of Col Rtd Okello Engola Macodwogo on May 2 in Kampala.

Engola was also the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

Those in the race to replace the late Macodwogo included his son Samuel Okello Engola Jr of NRM, Freddy Newton Okello of FDC, Okello Daniel of NUP and Dr Eunice Apio Otuko of UPC.

After what appeared to be a controversial polling day, marred with so many accusations, voting went well, according to electoral commission officials.

And at 11:34 pm, Onoba Richard, the Returning Officer for Oyam electoral district declared Dr Apio MP Elect with 15,781 votes.

Okello came second with 15,161 votes while NUP and FDC candidates got 403 and 714 votes, respectively. According to Onoba, 31,996 valid votes were cast for both candidates and there were 37 spoilt ballot papers.

Although UPC won, NRM had high hope of retaining Oyam North. The ruling party candidate as well received massive support and mobilization from the MK Movement team.

Assuredly, it was all clear that Okello would replace his father – especially when President Museveni, on July 4 in Iceme and Otwal sub-counties campaigned for his candidate.

That aside, over 900 UPC supporters who crossed to NRM were encouraging and a signal that all was secured for the deceased’s son – Jr.

The statements by UPC top defectors: Krispus Ayena Odongo, George Ojwang Opota and Opio Rashid against UPC party were thought to have convinced over 900 converts to vote for NRM’s Engola.

Accusations

Before the polling day, there were already claims that both parties – UPC and NRM were planning to rig the by-election. Some social media platforms were overflowing with messages and claims that UPC had planned to rig and announce results, and the same claims were bestowed on NRM.

Both parties’ supporters vehemently denied it with each side growing in confidence to get the victory.

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The accusations intensified in the morning of July 6 when UPC party President Jimmy Akena and NRM chairman of the electoral commission Dr Tanga Odoi exchanged unpleasant words.

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First, Akena got angry when his party leaders, supporters and official agents for candidate Apio (MP Elect) were arrested and taken to Police custody over voter bribery claims they say were alleged by NRM and MK Movement teams.

The second episode came hours later when Akena and Tanga were filmed in a fracas. The former shouted, “You are a thief” and Tanga responded, “You are stupid.” The two went on to exchange bitter words over electoral malpractices in some polling stations.

Engola Jr as MK Movement ‘leaning candidate’

The NRM candidate was overwhelmingly backed by MK Movement and Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi played whatever roles he could to see Atinkic as a winner.

On July 5, Balaam commanded those he called: “The MK Army Movement’s foot soldiers.” He said the “soldiers have been in Oyam for weeks soliciting votes for Hon Engola Junior Okello, and we are confident that our man will win tomorrow’s (July 6) by-election.”

“Good to see Gen Muhoozi Kainerugba MK Army Movement’s flag high,” Ateenyi added.

Oyam North
MK Movement “soldiers” under the command of Balaam Ateenyi. Courtesy photo.

On July 3, Balaam said, “Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s supporters’ force has invaded Oyam North for our brother Engola Junior’s vote hunt and protection.”

Comments, and was it democracy in Oyam North?

In his post-by-election comment, former Minister and MP of Otuke, Daniel Omara Atubo said what happened in Oyam North “proves that democracy can actually work in Uganda if allowed”.

The veteran politician also said, “The greatest mistake Museveni will make is to impose his son Muhoozi to succeed him which will undo all the good he has done and create a cycle of tragedy”.

Newton Odongo, a member of the FDC party and former candidate for Kole North MP seat in 2016 said the “significance of this (UPC) victory goes beyond mere electoral gains”.

“It firmly establishes Honorable Akena as a kingmaker in Lango, a political figure whose influence cannot be ignored.

“Armed with a remarkable mobilization prowess, he now possesses a powerful bargaining tool that can be utilised to foster greater cooperation between UPC and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

“The NRM, having witnessed the resounding capabilities of UPC’s mobilization machinery, cannot afford to underestimate the impact of this victory. It serves as a stark reminder that UPC’s organizational strength, if not effectively managed has the potential to pose significant challenges to the ruling party,” Odongo commented.

Throughout his campaign trails, Akena kept sending warnings to people he thought were planning to rig votes for the UPC candidate. He also urged UPC supporters to vote for the party candidate as they prepare for the 2026 general elections.

Commenting after UPC senior members crossed to NRM on July 4, Akena, also the Lira City East Division MP,  said, “I’ve not lost my identity.”

Many political pundits, among them former Oyam South MP, Ishaa Otto Amiza (UPC) said Krispus Ayena, Ojwang Opota and Opio Rashid’s defection to NRM party was opportunistic in nature and was not expected to offer votes for NRM in Oyam North.

“It (defection) allows UPC members to realign themselves and evaluate their past to correct the mistakes of entrusting their party to the wrong hands.

“Some of the people who defected like Ayena and Ojwang knew that they couldn’t be entrusted with UPC leadership,” Otto said.

Oyam district in general in UPC’s stronghold with past leaders like Ben Wacha, Eng Okullo Epak (RIP) and Otto being the forces being its dominance.

At the Parliamentary level, from Oyam South to the District Woman MP and now Oyam North, all the MPs are ladies with massive support from the Congress members and well-wishers.

Even those who crossed to NRM and are in active politics like Benson Dilla Oyuku (Oyam District LC5 chairman) and former NRM candidate Okello Samuel Engola Jr were staunch supporters and members of UPC.

In summary, the weeklong presence of Jimmy Akena in Oyam North, allegations of internal chaos within NRM team and the dominance of UPC across the Constituency, played key roles in NRM loss.

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