It is now over 40 years since the once mighty West Nile sub region produced a head of state for Uganda. Although his ascension to power was by a coup, Fiel Marshal Idi Amin Dada who reigned as president of Uganda for about nine years was considered a patriot who had the country at heart. Although illiterate, he at least improved the country’s economic growth in just his nine year reign. Amin seems to have been the last pillar of the West Nile as the story has since changed with the community on the edge of relenting from actively indulging in Uganda’s political decisions. Museveni who mastered the art of politics knew how to tame this community in fear that if he would bring its pillar to the ‘decision making table’, it would be the end of him.
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An elderly veteran aged about 84 tells us that he was part of the West Nile liberation front that liaised with the NRA during the struggle to end Obote’s rule in 1980-86. Mzee Candia Hassan whom we encounter in Arua decries and curses the reign of Mr. Museveni whom he accuses of abandoning him and several veterans that fought alongside him. “I no longer want anything to do with Museveni. He fooled our generation and today we dwell in poverty,” remarks Mzee Candia whom we encounter in Vurra, Arua. “I have a bullet wound on my right thigh. I have never been helped yet I was among the pioneers of the West Nile front,” he adds.
Although Museveni rewarded some West Nile politicians ministerial slots, community has not benefited from them. State Minister for microfinance, Evelyn Anite who hails from Koboko and Gen. Moses Ali, the Deputy Prime Minister and a historical bush war pillar have not helped their communities.
West Nile brief history
The West Nile comprises of about 11 districts. Despite having such powerful ministers in cabinet, the West Nile is one of the most remote and impoverished regions in Uganda. It is a stretch of over 440 kilometres from the capital, Kampala. One would need about 8 hours of travel time in a public means from the capital, Kampala. The West Nile community has a multiplicity of ethnic groupings like the Lugbara community in Arua and Adjumani, the Madi in Nebbi and Okollo, the Kakwa tribe to mention but a few. Our reporter managed to interact with one of the community members well versed with the demographics of the region and he indeed reiterates that the ethnic diversity is what has to-date failed their unity to resist Museveni’s rule. “Our people have been fighters. They’ve fought struggles against Congolese and Sudanese invaders,” says Asega Hussein. “We also fought Museveni’s bush war that brought him to power,” he adds.
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The region has been an opposition stronghold especially in urban centres like Nebbi and Arua (major towns) where people are informed and cannot be fooled by the NRM lies. The emergence of the People Power movement headed by Kyadondo East legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu has already sent shockwaves to pre existing parties. In Nebbi, the RDC Christopher Omara took it upon himself to pluck off posters of NUP candidates. NUP activities are being regulated by the repressive hand of the regime. Our reporter observed that the entire West Nile sub region has only one Kyagulanyi Ssentamu banner and it’s routinely kept safely in the house of one of the coordinators after the RDC defaced most of the posters the youths had pinned showing support for NUP.
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In Madi Okollo, which is one of the most impoverished centres of the West Nile, NRM MPs survive by bribing youths with about UGX 1,000 to sing praises for them. We witnessed this when we encountered one of the agents of the incumbent Madi Okollo MPs giving out sachet alcohol to the youths so they can follow him to the nomination centre. What is happening in the West Nile manifests how Museveni has blindfolded the rural community for the past 35 years. It is deliberate and in Museveni’s interest for the ruled to be poor for he knows that an elite informed community is hard to tame and govern.