Serere County By-Election: Candidates Struggle to Preach Peace, Unity

The candidates in the Serere County parliamentary by-election are struggling to maintain harmony among the voters following the sharp division among members of the ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party. The confusion started when some NRM party leaders fronted Emmanuel Omoding, son of the late former area legislator, Patrick Okabe as a suitable replacement for his father.

Benson Ekuwe Ocen, the Executive Director of Public Affairs Centre Uganda, says that the NRM split might give an upper hand to the opposition, whom he notes are struggling to recover their lost victory in Serere. Before 2016, Serere County was represented by the opposition FDC party, which was dominant in the district then.

All the legislators including the District Woman representative, Alice Alaso, the Serere County MP, Stephen Ochola, and their Kasilo counterpart, Elijah Okupa were from FDC. However, NRM managed to win Serere County and the District Woman parliamentary seats. In the 2021 general elections, Okabe managed to return to Parliament only on an independent ticket when the ruling party got divided after NRM primaries in 2020.

Ekuwe notes that NRM’s grip in Serere County might be affected by the division in the party, which he is now split into three camps allied to the NRM party flag bearer, Phillip Oucor, and two other independent-leaning candidates, Emmanuel Omoding, and Martin Onguruco. The NRM-leaning candidates identify with the party signs and symbols and put on yellow t-shirts during campaigns.

Martin Onguruco, an NRM Independent leaning candidate, says that he chose to remain independent to be able to galvanize support from both NRM members and the opposition. He’s preaching unity among the voters in Serere.

Emmanuel Eratu, the FDC candidate says that preaching unity is the only solution to bringing peace and development to the constituency during and after elections.

Rosemary Sseninde, the NRM National Mobilizer, says that they are trying to clean the mess caused by emotions during the burial of the deceased MP in December last year. She says the burial declarations by some party members were out of emotions that shouldn’t affect the operations of the party constitution. 

Patrick Oboi Amuriat, the FDC Party President who is campaigning for his candidate, says that the NRM split might help the opposition in winning the by-election.

During the burial of Okabe who died in a road accident in December 2022, Thomas Tayebwa, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Capt. Mike Mukula, the NRM Vice Chairperson for Eastern Uganda, the Government Chief Whip, Denis Hamson Obua, and ministers; Peter Ogwang, Hellen Asamo, and Clement Ongalo Obote presented and supported Emmanuel Omoding as a replacement for his father in Parliament.

The decision was backed by several MPs and party leaders at the burial. But the situation has since changed as other NRM leaders stuck to their party constitution, which says a flag bearer holds office for five years.

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