Aruu County Member of Parliament Samuel Odonga Otto and Beatrice Anywar, the Kitgum Municipality Member of Parliament and State Minister for Environment were defeated in the recent parliamentary elections.
Both Otto and Anywar are among some of the longest-serving legislators in Acholi Sub-region who suffered a heavy defeat in the hands of their opponents as they made attempts to seal their parliamentary bids for the fifth and fourth terms respectively.
Otto was defeated by Christopher Komakech, an independent candidate who garnered 9,327 votes against Otto’s 5,953 votes. Meanwhile, Anywar was defeated by Denis Onekalit Amere, a Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party candidate who polled 3,263 votes against 3,052 votes.
Otto and Anywar made their first shot in Parliament in 2001 and 2006 respectively as aggressive critics of President Museveni’s NRM government. Then as loyalists of the country’s strongest opposition political Party FDC, the legislators capitalized on the government’s weakness in addressing poor service delivery in education and the health sector, land rights, and infrastructure in the region.
Anywar’s popularity in the region can be traced to her commitment to fighting environmental degradation and the plights of vulnerable people especially young children afflicted by nodding syndrome.
Peter Opika Opoka, the former Coordinator of the Red Cross Society and a political pundit in Kitgum District says Anywar’s political downfall is a result of both her mistakes and the new political dimension she took. Opoka says Anywar’s political journey started on a high note and highlighted that the legislator was pro vulnerable people, at a time few women took on political roles.
Opoka, however, says Anywar’s loss in the recent Parliamentary election was inevitable and traced it to her decisions to switch to the ruling NRM party. He notes that Anywar’s loyalty and close ties to President Museveni was a concern for many top NRM party members in Kitgum District that created tension.
Opoka says whereas Anywar was a new convert to the Party, she enjoyed an upper hand working with the president more than the loyal carders in the district who felt threatened and eventually turned to fight her.
Opoka also believes the final nail on Anywar’s popularity came after she decided to vote in favour of removal of the controversial age limit bill in 2018 against the voice of her people in Kitgum District.
He says that when she was appointed a Minister, she became too passionate to promote the ideology of the party instead of representing the voice of her electorates, who would later pay with a protest vote in favour of her opponents.
Author Awor, the Executive Director of Center for African Research says intrigue in the NRM party in Kitgum District greatly led to the downfall of Anywar.
He says many NRM party loyalists in the district saw Anywar as a rival who had been establishing her strength outside the normal party structure in the district and need to be stopped to curtail her dominance.
But one of the NRM party loyalists in Kitgum District who didn’t want to be named thinks Anywar’s defeat was not a fight inside the party, but rather the voice of the people who wanted new leadership.
He says the party had also tried to incorporate Anywar into their structure to streamline her campaign but the 57-year-old legislator felt too “big” and above the district party structure which would later cost her their support.
The NRM Party Chairperson for Kitgum District George Ayella, however, rubbished the claims that Anywar was fought by members and didn’t align herself with the party structure.
He instead attributes her loss to the high numbers of opposition party loyalists in the district who are more than NRM voters.
Ayella also notes that Anywar’s rival Henry Kissinger Oryem who was defeated in the NRM party primary but contested as an independent to contest against her greatly affected the votes.
Oryem finished in the fourth position in the polls garnering 1,297 votes. Anywar didn’t pick up our repeated phone calls to comment on this article.
In Aruu County, the defeat of Otto according to Owor was a choice of the people who felt they needed a new leader. He says whereas Otto has performed well in Parliament by consistently debating on the matters surrounding Acholi, people believed he had outlived his usefulness back home in his constituency.
Marcilina Adong, resident of Ogom Sub-county in Pader District reiterates Owor’s statements arguing that the locals haven’t had a clear agenda for Aruu County while he canvassed for votes recently.
Adong notes that Odonga has only been abusing his closest rival Komakech instead of outlining his work plan for the next five years have also had no clear line of work in the past 19 years in Parliament.
She had expected the legislator to hint on the state of the district health facilities, poor roads and education and how he will influence the government to improve their status.
For instance, in Otto’s Aruu constituency, all three Health Facilities of Pader Town Council HCIII, Puranga Health Center III, and Awere Health Center III has been in a dire state. The district has also since its creation been reliant on Pajule Health Center IV minus a district hospital despite growing cases of health complications.
Samson Obol, an elder from Pader Sub-County says Otto had been in parliament for 20 years performing well in representation but had a poor performance in social responsibility with his people. He says the locals have this time spoken their minds to have in place a leader who listens to them but not himself.
Meanwhile, Denis Onen believes Otto’s troublesome behaviours with fellow political and religious leaders in Acholi sub-region caused him the needed trust from his locals. Otto has on record openly attacked his fellow legislators Reagan Okumu, Anthony Akol, and the former second curate of Holy Rosary Parish in Gulu. Gulu Archdiocese in June last year had to intervene and quell down a tension that had gone sour between Rev. Fr One and Otto.
In East Acholi, six other incumbent legislators also lost their bid to retain their parliamentary seats in the concluded elections.
They include Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo who lost the Agago North county parliamentary seat, Agago District Woman Member of Parliament Judith Franca Akello, Agago County, the incumbent Member of Parliament, Edward Makmot Otto.
Others are Pader district Woman Member of Parliament, Lowila Oketayot C.D, Aruu North County MP Lucy Aciro Otim and Lamwo District woman MP Molly Lanyero.