NRM sweeps Omoro County votes as opposition scratches for evidence of foul play, African leaders discuss terrorism, coups, insecurity and armed conflicts at AU summit, Uganda pledges $1m to AU humanitarian agency African countries sign Nairobi declaration giving coffee a new lease of life

The ruling NRM party’s Andrew Ojok Oulanyah, on Thursday trounced five competitors to replace his father Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah as the Member of Parliament for Omoro County.  Ojok garnered 14,224 votes against National Unity Platform’s (NUP) Simon Toolit, who came second with 1,633 votes. Independent candidate Terrence Odonga scored 532 votes, while the Forum for Democratic Change candidate, Justine Odong, garnered 529 votes, and Jimmy Walter Onen (Independent) got 88 votes. Oscar Kiiza, the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party candidate, came last with a total of 63 votes while there were 385 invalid votes. 

Of the total 38,638 registered voters, only 17,069 turned out. The Opposition have since the declaration of the results, taken to social media protesting arrests and alleging voter bribery, prompting leaders of the NRM to call for proof of these allegations. In his victory speech at Omoro District headquarters, Ojok said he is set to unite the people of Omoro and work together with his opponents in the race to develop the district. Ojok said his victory can only make sense once he works together with the constituents who voted for him.  Oulanyah was the Omoro County MP from 2001 to 2005 and then from 2011 until his death. 

Meanwhile opposition stalwart Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye this week made an attempt to return to the political stage when he mounted a protest calling on Ugandans to join him in his call for government to act on rising commodity prices. Besigye on Thursday hoodwinked security officers deployed outside his home near the capital Kampala and made it to the central business district where he addressed onlookers before police swung into action, arresting him. The former presidential candidate was charged with inciting violence and spent the weekend behind the coolers. The former leader of the dwindling Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party had not been involved in acts of civil disobedience for some time now. The last time he attempted similar actions, the business community in Kampala cried out saying he had caused them mega losses in revenue because his actions are disruptive. Police and the opposition leader have always disagreed on his choice of holding rallies in the rather busy city center. 

Several heads of state and governments echoed sentiments to assess and address the threats of what is now seen as re-occurring phenomena, on the continent.  Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, represented by his Vice President Jessica Alupo addressed the summit on three issues; terrorism, unconstitutional changes of governments in Africa and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

On terrorism, Museveni stated that Uganda had managed to defeat the vice over the years including, terrorism sponsored by some international and regional actors. This he said was achieved by building a strong and professional army which is equipped with the correct ideology of; non-sectarianism, nationalism, pan-africanism, social economic transformation and democracy. As a result he added “we have legitimately managed to support some of our brothers in Africa in the fight against terrorism”. Museveni further added that African countries should build strong and professional armies with correct ideology to fight and defeat terrorism.

President Museveni issued a strongly condemned unconstitutional changes of legitimate and democratic  Governments, asking rhetorically, whose interests the coup makers were serving. “Are the coup plotters better than those they are overthrowing? Coup d’états are not the solution, they simply postpone problems. These Coups make Africa lag behind. Evidence suggests that elected Governments, despite some weaknesses, are more accountable to the people”. The President gave a historical context of Uganda, which from 1962 to 1986, had a lot of political turbulence and coups. “These military overthrows caused Uganda to lag behind”, he asserted. 

Museveni explained why Uganda chose to abstain from voting when the issue of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was raised at the United Nations, drawing from the experience of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the US Government sought to overthrow President Fidel Castro causing Soviet Union to deploy missiles in Cuba to save the Government of Cuba. Uganda, therefore is asking the Western powers two questions before we take a position. “As US is now saying that Ukraine is a sovereign state, in the same way “wasn’t Cuba a sovereign state?”.

Secondly, out of 44 million people in Ukraine, approximately 14 million are of   Russian origin requesting Ukraine to be allowed to be bilingual just like Canada. “Why not allow Ukraine to be bilingual like Canada?” 

Meanwhile at the AU Summit in Malabo, Uganda announced a pledge of one million USD to the newly initiated African Union Humanitarian Agency that seeks to find collective methods to address humanitarian crises in Africa.   The pledge was announced by Vice President Alupo. “Africa continues to face some of the most complex humanitarian emergencies, which are, in some cases, the result of natural and human induced disasters, but in very many others, are driven by conflicts leading to mass displacements of persons both within and across national borders” Alupo stated, adding that “there is need for responsibility and burden sharing”, because “No Government can handle the present massive humanitarian situation alone”.

The Vice President gave a comprehensive background of the refugee status in Uganda, highlighting the role that the country has played in hosting, resettling and supporting the refugees. “Uganda is currently hosting 1,582,076 refugees, the highest number in Africa and operates one of the most progressive and open-door policies on refugees anchored in the 2006 Refugees Act and the 2010 Refugees Regulations. The policy guarantees freedom of movement and the right to employment, education and health, as well as the right to conduct a business. It grants them the same rights that citizens enjoy”, she stated.  

Alupo also rallied for more international support towards refugees, and host communities, including through the provision of adequate, flexible, predictable and consistent humanitarian financing to enable host countries and communities, respond to the immediate humanitarian, and longer-term development needs. “94% of these refugees live in settlements alongside host communities”, she said.

Earlier, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea recalled his experience with the refugee community when he visited both Ethiopia and Uganda, saying the solution to avert the refugee crisis on the continent is for Africa to unite and stop the discrimination against fellow Africans. “These, if unchecked, force displacement”, adding that “the solution is in our hands”, announcing later, a similar pledge of the same amount.

On his part, the AU chairperson who is also President of Senegal Macky Sall urged leaders to address root causes of humanitarian crises in Africa, saying “prevention” is better and “easier than cure”

Several dignitaries, including heads of state, ministers, and other senior officials, from nations across Africa attended, with several other countries making pledges on behalf of their countries.

Agriculture ministers from 25 African coffee growing countries Thursday signed a declaration in Nairobi to have coffee included in the list of strategic commodities under the Africa Union. Dubbed the ‘Nairobi Declaration’, the agreement seeks to ensure that coffee is given more attention in the continent in terms of being financed adequately.

Speaking to the media after the official opening of the First African Coffee Summit at a Nairobi hotel, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the signing of the declaration is a big milestone in the history of the coffee sector in the African continent.

Munya highlighted that the anchoring of coffee onto the African Union shall go a long way toward unlocking resources for the revitalization of the coffee industry in Africa.

He said there was a need to create an environment where coffee farmers could thrive, assuring of the Governments’ commitment to ensuring that coffee farmers in the country benefited from their hard-earned produce by curbing go-betweens who exploit the farmers.

In recognition of the coffee sub-sector, the CS said the Government has prioritized coffee as one of the key subsectors in its economic development blueprint as it, directly and indirectly, contributed to food security and manufacturing through the establishment of agro-processing industries.

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