The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Maruzi County MP Akora Evokes Lango Nostalgia

The annals of Uganda's contemporary history would be incomplete without the narrative of noble men from the Lango sub-region.

From the era of President Milton Obote and his cousins Akena Adoko and Adoko Nekyon, Lango continues to stand out as a conveyor belt of consummate politicians with finesse for oratory. Even with the demise of the iconic UPC leader Obote, the vestige of that legacy passed on to lawmakers like Dr Okullo Epak and Ben Wacha.

Obote, who is buried in the shabby and remote outpost of Akokoro in Maruzi county, can only shake in the grave as his party continues to descend into a tailspin. However, the political seeds he planted in his birthplace have begun to sprout. Maxwell Akora, the Maruzi County MP, elected in 2011 on a UPC ticket, is a politician whose life is profoundly shaped by events within the Obote legacy.

"I come from a political family and my life has always been influenced by politics," says Akora, who is the lead counsel for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

However, it was this indulgence in politics that would put his family in the crosshairs. When Idi Amin overthrew Obote in 1971, some officers despised his brutish character. Amongst the officers were Akora's uncle, Col Emmanuel Ogwal, and Lt Col Oyite Ojok who would later flee to exile.

"When he [Ogwal] took refuge at the home of my other uncle, Dr George Ebine, near Nakasero state lodge, in the end, Idi Amin's troops bombed the house and killed Col Ogwal," laments Akora.

For a period marked with bloodletting, the tyrant continued to hunt down Akora's relatives.

"Later on, they abducted another uncle of mine Dr George Ebine, a renowned gynaecologist at Mulago and he was never seen again," Akora recalls.

Many of his family members fled the country and took refuge in Tanzania.

"I thought we would die under Amin's reign of terror. However in 1979, I was in senior one; senior army officers came to Sir Samuel Baker secondary school in Gulu and took their kids away. So, we decided to flee. We began a trek through the railway line and footpaths up to Apac," says Akora, who was only 13. As Idi Amin was being overthrown, Akora was at home in Apac and most of his relatives, who had been exiled, returned. He would later be fascinated by the post-Idi Amin era.

"In 1980, elections were held; I really enjoyed the campaign. It was a tense moment for sure. I knew UPC could not lose the election but when Museveni said he was going to the bush, I was surprised," he told The Observer.

Politics would return to haunt the family when Obote was overthrown by his generals Bazilio Olara Okello and Tito Okello in 1985.

"They invaded our house, property was looted, and my other uncle was arrested. It left another burden on us. We had to pick up from another traumatizing period. The family lived under fear and terror, and we wanted to leave the country," he says.

After Akora graduated with a bachelor of Commerce from Makerere University in 1987, he fled to exile in the United Kingdom.

"While in the UK, I studied further and qualified as a professional accountant. But I realized I had to come back home and in 1999 I returned to face challenges. I was exposed and competent to earn a living," he says, with a tinge of nostalgia.

In 2011, Akora felt he could not watch anymore from the sidelines, as the country lurched from one crisis to another. He was also encouraged by the return of former UN under-secretary Olara Otunnu, who took over the party leadership and promised to deliver the much-vaunted change within UPC.

In 2011, Akora used the springboard of his family name, heritage and ties to the Obote family, to defeat the NRM candidate, former junior Tourism Minister Jovino Akaki. He says the campaigns were marred by intimidation by misguided elements and state agents.

"On the eve of polling, state agents arrested ten of my polling agents, beat them, but I had deployed adequately and I won with 67 percent," says Akora.

Akora's star continues to shine in Parliament. Not only does the accountant have a knack for figures, he is also an eloquent debater. Commenting about the ongoing PAC probe into the OPM fraud, Akora says: "I am not surprised by the findings of the Auditor General. What I am surprised about is the official response; I thought there would a clear message of zero tolerance to graft. But when the president tries to paper up the cracks, then it's disappointing."

However, Akora says the role of an MP today is conflicted.

"The public expectation from MPs is so high. No public official is more burdened than an MP. When you become MP, life turns upside down. You cannot have a private life, you cannot have private resources; you get disappointed," says Akora.

He says today there is a culture of dependency without thinking about where the state will get money from.

"We don't want to pay taxes, yet we need good roads, [and] better health services. We want people to know that nothing is free. It's a reality of life. Common people have been fed lies that you don't need to do anything because government will come and rescue you," argues Akora.

Yet there is no reason to believe his UPC would do any better, as the party is now in limbo.

" UPC needs to reconcile our differences from the 60s to the 70s and bring back the Rugundas [ICT minister] and rekindle interest amongst the young people and roll out the vision of the founding fathers which is social justice, peace and unity," he says, the idealist in him coming to the fore.

Amongst his role models are leaders who would rather sacrifice but not those after personal aggrandizement and progressive leaders who prefer dialogue than settling scores with violence. By the end of his first term in 2016, Akora wants to have improved the standards of primary education in his constituency, improved water and sanitation and turned the area into a food basket.

Education ACCA - 1995

Bachelors of Commerce, Makerere University (1988)

Work

Financial management advisor, Justice, Law and Order sector (2006-2011)

Director of Finance, National Forestry Authority (2004-2006)

Director Finance and Administration, Uganda Wildlife Authority (1999-2004)

Financial Controller Bexley and Greenwich Health Authority (1996-1999)

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