Politics

How the NRM crafted Ojok’s victory in the Omoro by-election

Mr Andrew Ojok of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party was declared the winner of the Omoro County parliamentary seat by-election on Thursday evening.

Mr Andrew Ojok of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party was declared the winner of the Omoro County parliamentary seat by-election on Thursday evening.

Mr Ojok’s victory was announced at approximately 10:10 p.m. by the Omoro District Returning Officer, Mr Moses Kagona, in the presence of Electoral Commission (EC) chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.

Mr Ojok defeated five other candidates for the seat left vacant by the death of his father, former Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah. Mr Simon Toolit Akecha of the National Unity Platform (NUP) received 1,633 votes, while the NRM flag bearer received 14,224 votes (83.3 percent).

Mr Terence Odonga (Independent) finished third with 532 votes out of a total of 17,069 valid votes cast. Mr Justine Odong, who was handed the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) flag at the eleventh hour, finished fourth with 529 votes.

Mr Walter Jimmy Onen (Independent) received 88 votes, while Mr Oscar Kizza of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) received 63 votes.

In his victory speech, Mr. Ojok struck a conciliatory tone.

“I am going to work with the people the way my father did before his death,” he added. If we are to develop Omoro County, we must work together, not just me.”

Omoro was taking over for Oulanyah, who served as its lawmaker from 2001 to 2005 and again from 2011 until his death.

Creating the victory

Mr Richard Todwong, NRM’s secretary-general, revealed that they took advantage of the confusion in the Opposition’s ranks while receiving hundreds of ‘converts’ from the NUP camp on Wednesday.

“Our message was clear; we asked voters not to join misleading Opposition groups that would not get them out of poverty because they would miss out on government programs if they remained in Opposition,” Mr Todwong said.

Mr Todwong, NRM’s director of mobilization Rosemary Seninde, and NRM’s director of communication Emmanuel Dombo all pitched camp in Opit Town Council once nominations were completed and the groundwork for campaigns was laid.

The trio was in charge of mobilizing youth groups, women leagues, boda boda riders, business leaders, and religious leaders to spread their message and support Mr Ojok.

Mr Todwong met with LC1 and LC2 chairpersons from all sub-counties in Omoro County on May 18 at Acet Central Ward, in Acet Town Council, to rally support for Mr Ojok. The NRM secretary-general also met with catechists and laity leaders from Opit Catholic Parish on May 20 at the parish headquarters in Opit Town Council, seeking their support.

Meanwhile, Ms Seninde, Mr Dombo, and NRM’s director of finance Naham Medina met with youth, boda boda, and women groups from across the county at Opit Secondary School.

“We strengthened our structures beyond those of the party in order to gain support from almost every corner of Omoro County,” Mr Dombo explained.

Bribery and intimidation

Opposition candidates, on the other hand, remain outraged over allegations of voter bribery, intimidation, and harassment during the election. Due to intimidation, the opposition claimed they were unable to cover all 292 villages in Omoro County.

Police arrested Chwa West MP Patrick Polly Okin Ojara and four others on Thursday on suspicion of attempting to disrupt the election process. Mr Okin, who was arrested around 3:00 a.m., was being held at Gulu Central Police Station, while the others were being held at Omoro Central Police Station.

The FDC party’s president, Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi, claimed that security operatives raided their office and destroyed several items while arresting their agents. Mr Amuriat stated that the pattern of harassment was more pronounced in the four days leading up to the election.

Mr David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa River Region police spokesperson, stated that the police work was intended to prevent saboteurs from disrupting the voting process. He went on to say that they set up numerous checkpoints to deter “political intruders” from other districts with sinister intentions.

Aside from the intimidation, there have also been allegations of bribery.

The NUP party secretary-general, Lewis Rubongoya, and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, both claimed that the NRM party began distributing money to people on Monday in order to canvass votes.

They also stated that when President Museveni visited Omoro, voters were given cash incentives ranging from Sh1,000 to Sh20,000.

Mr Ojok’s camp, according to NUP flag bearer Toolit, “ferried voters from other areas outside Omoro County to vote at polling stations in Acet Town Council, Lokot, and Binya.”

Saturday Monitor investigated the voting process in Acet Town Council to validate Mr Toolit’s claim and discovered several irregularities.

Voter transportation

On Thursday afternoon, four people were critically injured after falling off a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) pick-up truck. According to reports, the pick-up truck was transporting people from Odek Sub-county to polling stations in Acet Town Council.

We also met and interacted with accident victims who were receiving first aid at an Acet Town Council health facility. According to medical reports, Patrick Okello, 34, Edward Obang, 22, and Denis Ekol, 20, all suffered deep cuts to their arms.

They also had ligament tears. Bosco Ojok, 36, suffered a fractured ankle and back injuries.

The pick-up truck was later seen in Acet Town Council with about six Field Force Unit police officers driving towards Lalogi Town.

Mr Okello told the Saturday Monitor that he was taken by ferry from Ogwari Village, about eight kilometers from Acet Town Council. His three colleagues were transported from Odek Trading Centre.

“They even drove us past the polling place near Acet Primary School, where we were supposed to vote.” “We then heard a man from inside telling the driver to take a side road to avoid the trailing police van,” he said.

“That’s when four of us fell to the ground and the trailing police van almost stepped on one of us,” he continued.

Police later confirmed the incident and stated that the victims were being treated.

A grey double-cabin pick-up truck with a covered registration number was seen ferrying people from Odek and Lalogi sub-counties at Binya Trading Centre.

Mr Toolit had previously petitioned the EC to intervene in response to reports of voter bribery and intimidation in his camp. The NRM maintained its innocence, with Ms Seninde claiming that “giving your people a drink” is not a crime.

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