In 10 days' time, thousands of voters of Arua Municipality will go to the polls to elect a new MP to replace Ibrahim Abiriga (RIP) who was murdered in broad daylight at Kawanda in Wakiso District on June 8.
Campaigns for the by-election began in earnest on July 23 and are in full swing with candidates traversing Arua in search of votes. Nominations for candidates took place on July 19 and 20 and 12 candidates were nominated, 11 men and one woman with four candidates sponsored by political parties and eight independent candidates.
The four candidates sponsored by political parties are: Ms Nusura Tiperu of NRM, Mr Bruce Musema of FDC backed by UPC, Mr Kennedy Madira aka JM Kennedy of DP and Mr Jafar Alekua of JEEMA. Mr Madira is a popular musician and the Bobi Wine of Arua.
The independent candidates include, Mr Kassiano Wadri, Mr Robert Ejiku, Mr Alfred Nyakuni, Mr Jackson Atima Lee, Mr Simon Avutia and Mr Francis Elton Nyero.
The frontrunners are Mr Wadri, Mr Musema and Ms Tiperu. Wadri is a senior member of FDC and was MP of Terego constituency for 15 years during which he served as chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Ms Tiperu was a member of EALA for 10 years and stood on NRM ticket in Yumbe and Koboko districts. One wonders where else she will go if she fails in Arua which is likely to happen.
Tiperu's victory at the NRM primaries held on July 18 has been challenged and disputed by fellow NRM candidates who accused NRM's electoral commission of bias in favour of the lady. Many NRM members in Arua have accused NRM secretariat of imposing Tiperu on them. As a result, some have vowed to campaign against her while a fellow candidate at the NRM primaries, Mr Atima, is contesting as an independent. Mr Atima is a prominent businessman and chairman of the Arua Chamber of Commerce. NRM and FDC are bitterly divided in this by-election.
Issues of interest to wananchi
There are six burning questions which the voters of Arua Municipality would like the candidates to address and ultimately follow up in Parliament and with relevant authorities of government. These are: lack of electricity, clean water supply, good healthcare, quality education, construction of Arua international airport and city status for Arua.
As the hub and biggest urban centre in the West Nile sub-region, Arua Municipality is a pacesetter for the region and the MP of Arua is one of the most important members of the West Nile parliamentary caucus. I hope voters of Arua will elect a person of integrity, a person of principle and a servant of the people, not an opportunist or a politician for whom politics is simply an arena to make lots of easy and quick money.
On the issues, lack of affordable and reliable electricity for business and industry, is the number one problem facing Arua and West Nile. Lack of electricity has been a major bottleneck in efforts to attract local and foreign investment to West Nile.
Wenereco, a company which was granted monopoly by government to generate and supply power in West Nile, has failed miserably to deliver. The sooner Wenereco's monopoly is terminated the better, so that a competent company can take over.
With regard to water, there is progress and if all goes according to plan, Arua's perennial problem of reliable and clean water supply should be over by the end of this year.
Arua's so-called regional referral hospital is a pathetic sight which leaves a lot to be desired. Much as I applaud the few doctors, nurses and other health workers who toil day and night at the hospital for peanuts, the new MP must make every effort to ensure that this hospital which serves more than four million people, including refugees from South Sudan and DR Congo, is allocated adequate resources to enable it to function effectively and normally. In addition, Arua needs a regular hospital to attend to patients.
As election day approaches, I urge wananchi of Arua to vote wisely and choose a capable MP who can deliver the goods.