Kampala, Uganda | URN | The appointment of Democratic Party (DP) President General Norbert Mao to serve as a minister in the government has stirred a wave of mixed reactions among leaders in the Acholi sub-region.
Mao was appointed on Thursday 21, July 2022 by President Museveni as the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs. His appointment came just a day after he signed a working cooperation agreement on behalf of DP with the NRM.
Until his appointment, Mao had been a fierce critic of President Museveni’s three-decade rule and unsuccessfully contested twice against him in the 2011 and 2021 Presidential elections.
To a section of opposition politicians in his homeland in the Acholi sub-region where he is revered for his boldness, and oratory skills, Mao’s public dealings with the NRM government have come as a surprise.
Philip Polly Okin Ojara, the Chua West Member of Parliament in Kitgum district and staunch Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party member says that he was shocked Mao could trade his integrity.
Okin says as leaders in Acholi sub-region, they expect Mao to honestly explain to them why he chose to be in bed with the government he has been so critical of in the past years.
Okin notes that Mao betrayed their trust by making a decision to work with the government before consulting leaders in the region.
Okin wondered why Mao has joined the government despite key people who were around Museveni opting out citing examples of Dr. Rtd Col Kizza Besigye, and Gen. Mugisha Muntu among others. He suspects Mao had been in negotiation with the government for a while but kept mute on the deal.
Former Leader of Opposition in the Eighth Parliament Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo says Mao’s appointment wasn’t a surprise to him. He however questioned how Mao, who hasn’t been in the government will be able to work on the transition agenda.
“You have never been in government, how can you talk about transition when you haven’t been in government, how can you talk about the transition?. You can never talk about transition when you haven’t been part of it, if it was Otafire talking about transition, I would listen, but not Mao,” Prof Latigo told this publication in an interview on Friday 22, July 2022.
He says Mao has always been a lone individual whose interest is only known by him alone.
According to Latigo, if Mao is a man of conscience who has betrayed a course, he may look back and acknowledge that he made a mess.
Mao has earned respect among leaders and locals in the Acholi sub-region owing to his oratory skills, and participation in brokering for peace between the government and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels (LRA) during insurgencies in the region, and criticism of the NRM leadership. He was twice a Member of Parliament for Gulu Municipality from 1996 to 2006, before becoming Gulu district chairperson.
But Prof Ogenga says while Mao was the Acholi Parliamentary Group leader, he was removed from the position and replaced with Zachary Olum for allegedly issuing statements consistently on the war without consulting them.
Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South Member of Parliament in Amuru district says Mao has betrayed the trust of not only the opposition parties but the Acholi people by deciding to accept the regime’s job offer.
He equally reiterated that as leaders in the region, they are surprised by Mao’s move and cast doubt on his political influence in the future. Whereas many feel Mao’s decisions weren’t right, a section of leaders in the region have welcomed it.
Anthony Akol, the Kilak North Member of Parliament and also the Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) Chairperson says his appointment will help the region.
“Mao has done everything necessary to reach the State House and it would have been impossible if that was another way for him to reach the State House, for me I pray to God to give him the glory to reach there,” says Akol.
Uma Kerubino, the DP Chairperson for Gulu district says there is nothing wrong with Mao being in the government if the cooperation is the right course for the people.
“Politics is never static, if you think about the welfare of the people, the country, you feel that the arrangement will be of help, there is nothing wrong about it,” He says.