Sunday, February 13, 2011


Written by Michael Mubangizi
Sunday, 06 February 2011 21:09
With presidential election campaigns almost entering their last week, DP presidential candidate, Norbert Mao, is sparing no effort in persuading Ugandans to choose him ahead of his rivals.

Mao, the outgoing Gulu LC-V chairman, is currently campaigning in his home region of northern Uganda. He winds up his tour of the West Nile districts of Arua, Nebbi, Zombo, Maracha, Koboko, Yumbe, Moyo and Adjumani tomorrow, before embarking on Gulu, Amuru, Lamwo, Kitgum and Pader districts.

The main targets of his message have been President Yoweri Museveni, Dr Kizza Besigye and Olara Otunnu.

Mao says that Besigye, who is president of the Forum for Democratic Change and flagbearer of the Inter-Party Cooperation, cannot win the presidency because he has no support in his home region – western Uganda.

“I come with a bloc vote from the north, an area that has never voted for Museveni. Join me so that we defeat him,” Mao repeatedly told his supporters in Jinja recently.

“Charity begins at home. A person without support at home cannot defeat Museveni.”

Besides losing in his home area, Mao says, Besigye has lost in the two previous presidential elections (2001 and 2006) and thus exhausted his chances of becoming president.

“He has missed two penalties. Which coach can give you a third penalty kick?” Mao asked at a rally in Arua town last week. He repeats this analogy at most of his rallies.

Mao also throws barbs at Otunnu, the Uganda People’s Congress flag bearer. Although he rarely mentions Otunnu by name, Mao often says that unlike him who stuck with his people in their time of suffering during the conflict and helped highlight their plight, “his brother” was away, making phone calls asking about the war and the situation in northern Uganda.

“Now he has come back and is asking for votes. You don’t bring someone an umbrella when it has stopped raining,” Mao frequently says, ridiculing Otunnu, who spent several years overseas working with the United Nations as the war raged on in his Acholi homeland.

With the end of the war in the north, pundits predict an improvement in President Museveni’s political fortunes in the region. But Mao has been telling voters that Museveni, flag bearer of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), cannot claim any credit for ending the war in northern Uganda.

“You can’t put someone in a ditch for 20 years, then remove him and ask for votes from that person! The first thing that person will ask you before giving you a vote is why you put him in the ditch in the first place,” Mao said at rallies in Jinja.

Most of his campaigns in West Nile hinged on his record as a leader (MP and Gulu district chairman), which he says he has used to highlight the suffering in the region.

Mao also speaks of significant support from other parts of Uganda, particularly Buganda, where he says DP has strong support, and western Uganda from where his mother hails. He also brags about having a good following in eastern Uganda where he attended school.

However, contrary to Mao’s claims, history shows that people do not necessarily vote for candidates because they hail from their regions. For instance, his predecessor, Ssebaana Kizito, lost to President Museveni in Buganda.

Analysts also say that neither of the other presidential candidates, all Baganda, is strong enough to win in Buganda in the upcoming elections, and that the winner will be from another region. They are Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Sam Lubega, Beti Kamya and Dr Abed Bwanika.

Predicting a rerun
Mao predicts that none of the presidential candidates will have an outright victory. Therefore, he says, he is confident that he will win in the subsequent re-run.

“This election will go into the second round, so if you in the north vote me, plus Buganda where DP has strong roots, then my [relatives] in the west and friends in the east, I will be the one to defeat Museveni.”

Mineral wealth
Mao also talks about the discovery of oil and other mineral wealth in parts of northern Uganda – citing oil and gold in Amuru, and gold and uranium in Rhino Camp, Arua – and cautions voters that NRM and Museveni cannot be entrusted with this wealth because of corruption.

“Leaving NRM in charge of oil is like leaving a hyena to guard your meat,” he said in Arua, adding that Museveni will become “even more despotic” with oil.

Mao claimed that influential people in government were buying land around the oil wells in a bid to take control of the ‘black gold’.

“They want to grab our land after impoverishing us,” he lamented.

Several people living with HIV and AIDS attended the rally in Arua town under their umbrella body, Arua District Network of People Living with HIV/ AIDS.

They demanded to know Mao’s policies about the pandemic. They also wanted assurances that his government would avail medicine in national hospitals.

Mao signed a memorandum of understanding with the organization, undertaking to raise funding for HIV/ AIDS prevention and treatment, and to increase funding to the health budget to 15%. He also promised to transform all Health Centre IV facilities into hospitals.

Mao’s rallies are normally cheerful because of his blend of wit and humour as he addresses issues affecting Ugandans. He normally reads out his mobile phone number at rallies for people to report to him cases of intimidation and to volunteer as DP agents.

He is, however, hampered by the lack of DP structures in some areas and this often affects preparations for his rallies.

In many cases, people in Mao’s convoy have to disembark and mobilize people to attend his rallies because DP has no one in the respective areas specifically responsible for this.

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