14 September 2012

Uganda: Work Cut Out for New 19-Year-Old Usuk MP

Photo: New Vision
Alengot (right) poses with a friend at PMM Girls School

Parliament is not a daycare, MP says in reaction to teenager's victory

History was made Wednesday when NRM's Proscovia Oromait Alengot, aged just 19, became the youngest person ever to be elected to Parliament in Uganda.

Alengot was declared winner of the Usuk county by-election in Katakwi district after beating eight other candidates. She polled 11,590 votes while her closet rival and former MP in the Eighth Parliament, Charles Olweny (an NRM-leaning independent) polled only 5,329 votes. FDC's Charles Okure (2,725), UPC's, Cecilia Anyakoit (554) and DP's Nicholas Oteger (220) followed in that order.

Now in her Senior Six vacation, Alengot occupies the seat previously held by her father, Michael Oromait, who passed away in July. The first born in Oromait's family, Alengot banked on her father's achievements to sail to victory. Also instrumental in her victory was Education minister, Jessica Alupo, who not only introduced Alengot to politics but also made sure that she won.

"She [was] either with Alupo or Susan Amero [the Amuria Woman MP] whenever she would appear in public," one Usuk resident noted.

Predictably, Alengot's tender age has led to many questioning whether she is ready for the national stage in Parliament.

"What can a 19-year-old senior six leaver discuss in Parliament? I think she even needs regents," one person said in a comment on the social networking site, Facebook.

He isn't the only one who thinks Alengot will be a listening post in Parliament. Soroti Woman MP, Angeline Osege, thinks the youngster will likely remain in the political shell of her deceased father and political mentors.

"This is somebody who has never bought for herself salt or a dress. What do you expect her to do in Parliament?" she wondered.

Given her age and level of education, Osege also reckons Alengot will take a lot of time to understand parliamentary rules of procedure before she makes any contribution in the House.

"Even mature people like us still find it difficult to analyze policies and legislate for the country," Osege confessed, adding, "It is unreliable but it has happened. But you see, Parliament is not a daycare centre. She needs someone to babysit her in Parliament before she can do anything on her own".

However, the minister of state for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru, said whether Alengot would be able to contribute anything substantial in Parliament is immaterial at this point.

"I congratulate her. Whether we agree or disagree, the people of Usuk have spoken and their choice needs to be respected," Ecweru, who sounded disappointed, told The Observer yesterday.

Ecweru, together with Soroti municipality MP Mike Mukula, were in the rival camp that backed Olweny. In fact, even when President Museveni was in Usuk, campaigning for Alengot, the duo, and other NRM legislators in the region, snubbed the event. Ecweru explains that he is sad that the election that has brought Alengot to Parliament was characterised by violence and voter intimidation.

"I'm just saddened by the level of violence and militarisation of the Usuk election. We have always had peaceful elections in Teso, but militarisation and violence seen in Usuk was very unfortunate," Ecweru said, adding: "Whoever was responsible for this violence in Usuk will regret one day".

Though he didn't point at anyone, Ecweru and his camp incessantly accused Alupo of dragging the military into the election. Indeed, voting was marred by violence. For instance, vehicles belonging to UPC candidate, Cecilia Anyakoit, Kumi MP, Patrick Amuriat Oboi, and Hassan Kaps Fungroo were vandalised in a pre-dawn attack.

But Susan Amero, the Amuria Woman MP, says: "The election was very free, fair and peaceful. FDC tried to bribe voters in the morning, but failed."

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