Bukwo –The IPC flag bearer, Dr Kizza Besigye, said last week that the NRM government encouraged cattle rustling by allowing the Karimojong a free rein to invade neighbouring communities.
Campaigning in Sebei last week, Besigye said if government had offered protection to the weak communities and looked into the grievances of the Karimojong, the security situation in north-eastern Uganda would have been better.
“Government did nothing when you were being attacked. They have just woken up today, but even then they have failed to disarm the Karimojong,“ Besigye said.
He was responding to queries raised by some people during a rally at Kween district headquarters, eager to know what his government will do to ensure that Karimojong raids and cattle rustling end.
First, Besigye said, government should empower vulnerable communities by providing them with sufficient security.
Secondly, there should be a buffer zone between Karamoja and Kenya, to stem attacks from the Pokot and other Kenyan groups. Lastly, Besigye said, the government should ensure that Karamoja has enough water because that’s one reason forcing them to invade other communities.
If all these are fulfilled, Besigye argued, disarmament of the Karimojong would be easier. However, the government has proclaimed the disarmament exercise a success, saying a number of Karimojong have turned in their guns.
In Kaserem sub-county, Kapchorwa district, Besigye toured a health centre and a police post. At the health centre III which has no doctor, Besigye was taken aback by the deplorable conditions.
“This cannot be described as a health centre. It is something else, maybe a death chamber,” Besigye said.
A nurse reported that there were no drugs; so, their operations were limited. The facility lacks electricity yet the sub-county got onto the power grid five years ago. The single ambulance which the health centre had, a Suzuki, broke down seven years ago and there has been no replacement.
Kaserem health centre was opened by Dr Crispus Kiyonga, then minister of Health, in 1993. The FDC leader urged the people to elect him next year, if they want to see change in their lives. He promised to uplift education, increase salaries of teachers and other public workers, and to support farmers.
Genital MutilationAbout female genital mutilation, which has become a dicey issue in the sub-region, Besigye said it had been mishandled by the government which preferred to use force to enforce the anti-FGM law enacted last year, instead of dialogue.
He said that communities in Sebei sub-region needed to be listened to and their views considered. The practice continues to be practised in the sub-region despite being outlawed.
Besigye’s campaigns in the sub-region, ending on Friday last week, were hampered by the mountainous nature of the terrain and the poor state of roads.
For instance, the journey between Kapchorwa and Bukwo (a distance of about 60km) that would ordinarily take just an hour, took more than three hours. Besigye told the people not to expect better roads and other services if they vote for President Museveni.
“Are you part of Uganda? There is nothing that shows that government has done anything for you,” Besigye said during a campaign stop-over at Giriki River, Kween district.
Some of the people in the district of Bukwo, which borders Kenya, said they rely on Uganda’s neighbour for many services, including health and trade because it was easier to travel to Kenya.
Compared to when he campaigned here in 2006, there is a big change in the sub-region. In 2006, not many people paid attention to him. This time, his rallies attracted sizeable crowds and in some districts like Bukwo, his convoy was blocked at various trading centres as people demanded that he speaks to them.
Also this time round, the FDC is fielding parliamentary candidates in all constituencies here, an indication that the party has developed grassroots structures to rally its supporters.
Karamoja nextOn Saturday, Besigye headed to Karamoja where he will spend one week. He was scheduled to start with Amudat before moving on to Nakapiripirit, Moroto, Napak, Kotido and Kaabong. Besigye did not campaign in this sub-region in 2006 partly because of the insecurity there.
Due to this and other factors, the sub-region remains a domain of the NRM and the IPC will have to work hard to gain a political footprint here. The pertinent issues which Besigye will have to address here are the disarmament exercise, poverty and the lack of water.
Earlier, while campaigning in Pallisa, Besigye assured the nation that there is no need for violence after the 2011 elections.“Going to the bush will not be necessary. We shall defeat them (NRM) comprehensively. That (taking up arms) will, therefore, not be necessary,” he said when prodded to say whether he will rally his supporters to take up arms in case the vote is stolen.
Besigye, who was on December 11 addressing several rallies in Pallisa district as he wound up his campaign tour of Bukedi region, said his campaign team had engaged a higher gear and gained more momentum. Campaign messages, he said, are now running in both the electronic and print media.
The next step, he said, will be to equip IPC and FDC cadres with ample skills to protect the loose coalition’s vote come February 2011.
Besigye reiterated his and the loose coalition’s commitment to announcing their own results, saying they will not wait for the Electoral Commission to doctor the results.
He said ballots are cast at the ballot box, counted at the polling station and declared at the same polling station, which makes sense for anyone who has the declared results to make his own tally and make the computation public.