Kitgum, Uganda | URN | The State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar faces a stiff challenge to retain the Kitgum municipality parliamentary seat.
Four candidates will contest against Anywar for the seat. They are Henry Kissinger Oryem, who was narrowly defeated by Anywar in the NRM primary elections now contesting on an independent ticket, Albert Gladstone Agech of the Democratic Party [DP] and Denis Onekalit Amere of Forum for Democratic Change [FDC]. The other candidate is Jimmy Komakech Olanya Olenge of the Uganda People’s Congress [UPC] party.
Anywar has had the longest political career for close to 16 years. She first made her way to parliament in 2006 after winning the Kitgum district woman parliamentary seat on the FDC party ticket. She garnered 38,607 votes against her closest rival Sarah Lanyero Ochieng’s 18,542 votes.
She soon rose to the country’s political limelight as a critic of the NRM ruling government winning the hearts of many back home and across the country. Anywar became part of environmental activists in the country who spearheaded a campaign against the giveaway of Mabira forest for sugarcane growing to earn the title ‘Mama Mabira’.
In the 2016 elections, she contested as an independent having lost in the FDC primary elections.
However, next year’s elections have put Anywar to a test of her past political conducts. Until 2016, Anywar was a loyal FDC party member but switched commitment to the NRM after being elected on an independent ticket, a move that saw her getting appointed on December 14th last year as a Minister of State for Environment.
Ronald Okumu, a resident of West Land B Parish in Central Division, Kitgum Municipality says Anywar started as a darling but soon deviated to serve the interests of the same government she criticized.
Okumu alleges that Anywar soiled her hands by lying in Parliament that the people in Kitgum had voted in favour of removing the age limit that allows the president to contest beyond the 75 age limit cap.
“When Anywar came to us for consultations in Kitgum, we clearly told her we were not in favour of the age limit bill being removed from the constitution, we expected her to represent what we told her but surprisingly she voted for its removal in Parliament,” Okumu says.
Okumu says if Anywar intends to win their votes, she will have to clarify on why she misrepresented their voices in Parliament.
Billy Ochieng, a businessman and resident of Pager Division highlights concerns surrounding donations of a tractor and a Fuso truck by President Museveni to women groups and vendors in Kitgum Municipality through Anywar.
In May 2017, President Museveni while gracing a thanksgiving prayer for Anywar in Kitgum Municipality donated a brand new tractor for women groups in Kitgum Municipality.
Ochieng says the two donations especially the tractor has never been seen after it was handed to help women in the municipality. One of the female vendors who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisals says a small group of women loyal to Anywar were recently rewarded with proceeds of the tractor and the truck while the majority failed to receive it.
Anywar has however refuted allegations that she is owning up a tractor and truck meant for women and utilizing the proceeds without giving back to the intended beneficiaries.
She notes that the tractor couldn’t be used within Kitgum Municipality because there was no land for agriculture adding that the tractor was meant to be hired out but not for agricultural activities.
“Municipality doesn’t have land, it’s a business center. The plan was to hire the tractor out and get money. Indeed, we hired it out and gave out the proceeds to 56 women groups recently,” she said.
Anywar also noted that she is not bothered with her record of voting for the removal of the age limit cap from the constitution.
“I’m not worried, it doesn’t bother me at all, those talking about it are opposition members who didn’t come along with me. They understood the age limit to mean that President Museveni is to be in the chair which wasn’t correct. The age limit bill removal has enabled the youth to participate in the elections for the highest office,” She says.
Jimmy George Ayella, the Kitgum District NRM party chairperson acknowledges that their candidate’s popularity is low within Kitgum Municipality.
He notes that tension among some party members shortly after the NRM primary election has continued to affect their candidate.
Ayella says with Oryem bouncing back as an independent candidate, the votes have already been divided and cast doubts of their candidate making a landslide victory in next year’s elections.
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Anywar however says she is not shaken about the other candidates arguing that her age and ministerial position are an advantage.
“My age and the fact that I am a minister is an advantage over my opponents. People here understand very well what an MP can do and what a minister can do, they cannot miss out to understand that I have an upper hand to deliver for the municipality than my colleagues.”
Recently while campaigning in Kitgum Municipality, National Unity Platform [NUP] presidential candidate Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi criticized Anywar for allegedly turning her back against people who elected her to represent them in Parliament.
Kyagulanyi highlighted her defection to the NRM and voting for the removal of the age limit cap from the constitution and called on the people of Kitgum to vote her out. He endorsed Jimmy Olanya Komakech Olenge as a suitable candidate in the race for Kitgum Municipality.