SOROTI – Soroti City East constituency stands out not only in the Cosmopolitan Eastern division but also in the entire Soroti City at large.
In April 2020 Parliament approved the creation of 15 cities with Soroti, Hoima and Lira scheduled to be operational in July 2021 but in May 2020, Parliament brought forward their commencement date to July 2020.
Soroti City was inaugurated on 11 Aug 2020 and it was then that the Soroti City East constituency was created and the constituency participated in the 2021 elections electing FDC’s Mr Moses Attan as their MP.
But the seat fell vacant in May after the high court annulled the victory of FDC’s Attan urging that the election of Attan was conducted in non-existent wards of Aloet and Opiyai in Soroti City ordering for Soroti East Constituency by-elections.
There has been fanfare in town from both sides, and sound vans have been making endless runs evoking wild chants and sloganeering and there has also been a lot of dancing as the Iteso now adapt to ‘Kadodi’ the Kigisu traditional dance now turned into a campaign crowd puller.
The main Parliamentary candidates, Mr Moses Attan [FDC], Mr Pascal Amuriat [UPC] and Mr Herbert Edmund Ariko, all pitch camped in the vote-rich Soroti City region from last week to seek support ahead of Thursday 28 July’s polls.
And by yesterday the leading candidates for the Soroti East seat staged their final campaign rallies, just two days before a vote that appears increasingly likely to result in a tight runoff between FDC’s Moses Attan and NRM’s Edmund Ariko.
Mr Attan [FDC] the leading candidate has put interactions with voters at the core of his campaign, even appearing as a hologram projection at parallel rallies in Soroti East constituency.
Since losing in the high court ruling, Mr Attan has spent the last week seeking to moderate his image, he continued to advocate radical proposals on various issues in his constituency— on 26 July he vowed to change the way things are working in the city.
“We must learn that corruption is an evil, it is a disease but I want to promise, this is going to end with your vote, please give me your vote, I am not greedy, I am not corrupt, and I want to promise, I will clean this City,” said Mr Attan.
This change in rhetoric has meant that some of Mr Attan’s talking points that proved effective against NRM’s Ariko in 2021 — including his strong support for the FDC. — are working well this time again.
Addressing voters on 26 July in Soroti at the end of his campaigns, Mr Attan called for the Soroti to rise up to the challenge humanity faces in climate change,
“We must rise up against climate change, we must rise up to be counted on environmental restoration, we must help our people come out of poverty, we must better our won place we are staying in, Soroti is for us all and we must make it good for ourselves,”
According to some polls, more than two thirds of the voters would support Mr Attan, the FDC candidate in the Thursday 28 Polls, this inclination reflects the edge Mr Attan has over Mr Ariko’ NRM.
At rallies on Tuesday, the two candidates made their final attempts to win over voters. For Mr Ariko, it may also be the last chance to hold together the NRM supporters in Soroti-Soroti East Constituency, which seems to be fading out.
The PML Daily has established that several individuals started drumming up support for Mr Attan when the learnt that he had lost his position as the MP or Soroti East and this explains why he has big support in the constituency today.
The campaigns last week and ended Tuesday this week will be brief-they have been brief as they have not lasted for even more than six days.
And if the crowds at the last rallies are anything to go by, then FDC’s Attan is already in parliament because they had a mammoth last campaign rally in Soroti that surprised many and left them in shock.
Both NRM and FDC parties have had their presidents campaign for their candidates in Soriti East; President Museveni while campaigning for Mr Ariko, the party flag bearer said
“Politics is not about leaders but it is about the party that can ably solve the problems of the people. You need a good tube ‘epii’ in Ateso’ to be able to suck properly Ajon (local millet brew) from the pot and that epii is Ariko,” Museveni said urging people to vote for Mr Ariko.
The opposition strongman Dr.Kizza Besigye paralysed business in Soroti as he campaigned for the party flag bearer, Mr Moses Attan.
“Museveni and his people are panicking, the people of Teso have suffered for all these decades, the whole country has been destroyed by the forty years of NRM, you can’t say people are suffering because of Covid and the war in Russia, the hunger in Uganda all this came up because of the misrule in Uganda, we don’t have any reserve of oil and food in Uganda,” Mr Besigye said.
He described the new government program of the parish model as a hoax to play with the brains of the people saying all the money government has sent to the parish will never kick out poverty as a lot is taken and little is brought back.
“Vote for Attan come Thursday, we know they are going to cheat even if we are many but mobilize everybody to go to the station early to vote, receive their money as those are your taxes, we must be vigilant because of the cheating, we must guard the tally center and the votes until they announce Mr Attan as the winner,” said Dr Besigye.
Chances and odds
Soroti is crucial to FDC because even when its presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat Oboi, came third in the 2021 presidential election, Soroti is one of the districts he won.
And the City has maintained its status as an Opposition stronghold in the East after it voted the blue ‘boy’ Mr Joshua Edogu as the first Soroti City mayor, Joan Alobo Acom as the city’s first parliamentary representative and the Mr Attan as the first Soroti East constituency MP.
To cement the party’s prominence in this area, Soroti District also gave FDC a chance to the youthful Anna Adeke Ebaju as elected woman MP.
“Soroti is so important to us because it’s the base of FDC in Teso Sub-region and eastern Uganda as a whole. The people of Soroti have all the years been voting opposition. Today, they know FDC as their party that’s why they vote for it,” said Mr Peter Okiror, a voter in Soroti East constituency.
“Even when I belong to NRM, I want to state it here that this by-election shall won by FDC because we are disorganized in our party as NRM,” added Mr Okiror, a local opinion leader in Soroti.
Even when some local NRM supporters knew that it was Mr Jimmy Ekemu who was coming to stand in the Soroti East by-election, -NRM party decided to drop Mr Ekemu and identified another candidate Mr Ariko for the flag bearer, this was against Article 41(1) of the NRM Constitution against, something that has left many annoyed.
Mr Ekemu hoisted the NRM flag in the 2021 polls and came fourth in the race that attracted six candidates. When the Court of Appeal declared the Soroti East MP seat vacant, Ekemu was among the first former candidates to express interest.
But that NRM went against Article 41(1) of the NRM Constitution that states that the term of office of elected members of all organs of NRM shall be five years, unless terminated earlier, and the incumbent members shall be eligible for re-election.
Ms Sylivia Akello, an FDC supporter in Soroti said in the Soroti East results for last year Mr Attan edged NRM’s Ariko by a difference of 439 votes adding that this difference is likely to go above this because the choice made for Ariko as a flag bearer has annoyed many people.
She revealed that people did not like Mr Ariko, they had another candidate for the constituency but the bigwigs of NRM led by Mr Mike Mukula brought Mr Ariko thereby annoying people.
“And today as I speak, NRM is divided, so much divided to the level that while FDC was in the field looking for votes yesterday, NRM was in a meeting trying to reunite their people to Mr Ariko, just two days to elections,” said Ms Akello.
Facts on ground also indicate that the NRM chairman’s decision to kick Mr Mike Mukula out of the NRM campaign team for Mr Ariko in preference for the Indian of Ugandan origin Mr Sanjya Tanna has also irked the voters a wrong way and that many of them are promising to vote Attan come Thursday 28 July.
Mr Jude Odeke, an ardent NRM supporter for Soroti City also says even among the NRM bigwigs from Teso sub-region which are in Soroti to campaign for Mr Ariko, there is a division as some of them are supporting FDC’s Attan just because of the contribution his father made to Teso sub-region for close to a period of 30 years.
“Mr Patrick Attan former head teacher at Soroti SS not retired was a very influential head teacher of Soroti SS here, he helped many Iteso students who did not have money stay in school, he maintained the standard of the school, it was a school for the poor so a vote here for FDCs Attan is an appreciation for the role his father [Mr Patrick Attan] did in this place,” said Mr Odeke, also an opinion leader.
But those in NRM who are supporting Ariko says he has more than 60% of the votes which the secretary General of FDC Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi says they are planning to rig the elections.
“Yes, we have heard from our people and Mr Ariko, the NRM candidate has more than 60 percent support and in this election campaign we have been combing other areas to ensure that he gets more than 85%”, Captain Mike Mukula, the Eastern Uganda NRM vice president said.
On ground, it looks like all factors are favoring FDC’s Mr Attan but money has been exchanging hands right from the time the NRM bigwigs went into Soroti, this could tilt the ground in favour of NRM’s Ariko.
The Electoral Commission (EC) has promised to deliver a free and fair election for Soroti East City Division Parliamentary seat, which was declared vacant by the Court of Appeal on May 24.
Justice Simon Byabakama, the EC chairperson, made the commitment on 10 June, 2022 while meeting stakeholders in Soroti City.
But the first challenge is whether the Electoral Commission can administer a credible election in which the losers accept the verdict, even if the vote is close.
In Uganda where allegations of “rigging” are the rhetoric of politics, the EC must be fastidious in its approach and so too must election observers, both domestic and international, because in a close election, any assessment of how the polls are conducted can fuel post-election discontent.
The stakes are high, and the incentive to cross the line of propriety and engage in questionable practices is there for both candidates. Both FDC’s Attan and NRM’s Ariko must rein in their activists, lest the final results of the elections could be marked by violence.
Yes, the juggernaut in Soroti campaigning for Mr Ariko have been enhanced, with Speaker of Parliament Anita Among and Vice President Jessica Alupo leading the way, the prime minister Ms Nabanja, businessman Mr Sanjya Tanna etc but whether these are good enough to tilt the vote, will depend on the people come Thursday 28 July.
-Facts about the constituency;
-Constituency—————– Soroti East City Division.
-Number of voters———– 5233 voters.
-Polling stations————- 63 polling stations
-Polling day——————– 28 July, 2022