Tuesday December 22nd, was the day for Uganda’s Presidential Candidate Dr Kizza Besigye to have a campaign rally in Gulu district. To build up to the this, the FDC national campaign team arranged to hold mini rallies in Bobi, Lakwana (Opit), Odek (Acet), Lalogi sub counties and Gulu municipality at the Carribean/ Kauda grounds.
After his successful rallies in Opit and Acet trading centers, Dr Besigye was due to travel to Lalogi. I, Hon Betty Aol Ocan being the area Woman MP and host of my Party President was in the advance team responsible for preparation of his rallies. As such I was always ahead and in Lalogi I arrived before the Besigye Team only to find that the Deputy Speaker Hon Oulanya Jacob was having a rally at our booked venue. He had mobilized his supporters and was physically present talking to a crowd. His parked convoy had one lead Police Vehicle and about 12 armed escorts and a number of “crime preventers” who seem stationed for a purpose at the venue Aketket Primary school ground.
When I arrived, as you may have seen on the NTV news footage on that day, I reached out to engage Hon Oulanya and his team on what was going on in our booked campaign venue. We chatted amicably as we always do in the corridors of parliament and he argued that his rally was prearranged before Besigye. He stated that there was no need for Besigye to interfere and in that case we should leave. I reminded him of our arrangement with the community leaders who agreed with me and we chatted on….
For a reason I am yet to know, many of his supporters started waving sticks and hoes, axes, stones at my team as time passed by. The situation quickly became tense and in the confusion his “security” manhandled me in a failed attempt to get me away. I am sad to note that my hair was pulled and I was physically assaulted which led the gallant youth on my campaign team to protect me from the rowdy melee. All this while, the fracas was being filmed by NTV and NBS news crew who were also present at the venue.
Now, as the disturbance escalated, the attention of the rowdy NRM supporters was drawn to the TV crew and their news van which had been well documenting the situation all this while. Their anger was perhaps due to fear of exposure of their conduct. They attacked the crew and journalists were pelted with stones and great damage was caused to their equipment. Villagers started gathering from all over in large numbers despite the security deployment and over powered Hon Oulanya and his supporters. The deputy speaker quietly escaped from the site and his guards fizzled out one by one. This brawl lasted about 35 minutes!
Dr Besigye then later joined us at the venue and we had a clam campaign as scheduled later having a big rally in Gulu town that evening. We have reported the matter at Lalogi Police Station and a case of threatening violence, causing injury and damage has been opened against Hon Oulanya and his campaign team involved. Assault case SD REF:08/22/12/2015.
I later heard the Aswa Region police Spokesperson Jimmy Patrick Okema comment on Mega FM that “the action of the Deputy Speaker at Lalogi was provoked by Hon Betty Aol.” Of course they are trying to cover up the misuse of power and state security by Hon Jacob Olanya and we dismiss such a baseless statement due to lack of substance. We do have the footage of the entire fracas and our people are on the ground in the villages.
Also, you may be aware that the Electoral Commission had suspended ALL parliamentary campaigns and Hon Jacob Oulanya campaigning on that day was in violation of this Electoral Commission directive. His team was shamelessly and unlawfully breaching that directive. Only presidential campaigns were scheduled to go ahead at the time.
Friends, this campaign should not be a matter of Do or Die. People should not take the law into their hands and should respect the election schedule. The youth being used to break the law in the name of “crime preventers and security” will account individually and collectively. If may be they thought fear and intimidation would cow us in to giving up our rights, they are miscalculating big time. We have been in those trenches for a while now. Our team will continue to obey the law and we request other political players and the police to do the same. And intimidation will not get you votes we promise!
Our sincere apologies to the people of Lalogi who were affected by this unfortunate event and unnecessary attention. I have known people in Lalogi as some of the most calm people I have met in my decades of community work in Gulu district. Our biggest regrets to the NTV and NBS crew whose independent work was unduly interfered with and suffered physical attack and property damage. That is not how we do things in Gulu; We will all get justice.
We want to wish every body a happy festive season, let us celebrate in peace, let us refrain from violence in this campaign. Let us spare resources for the next year. Education of our young people should be our focus in the New year. Let us also remember to vote and maintain leaders who will keep our interests on the contentious issue of land and education, livelihood empowerment, social services and culture among others. I love you all very much.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New year. May God Bless you richly next year.
–Betty Aol Ocan, Gulu Woman MP 2016.