Northern Voters Embraced Minor Presidential Candidates in 2016: How About 2021?

Political analysts and voters say this pattern was informed by voters who want change or those who presented issue based manifestos.
25 Nov 2020 13:40
Prof Baryamureba performed well in 2016 in northern Uganda

Audio 4

Prof. Venansious Baryamuraba hails from Ibanda district in western Uganda. Certainly, when he contested in the 2016 presidential elections, he should have been embraced by many voters in his home district or adjacent districts.

But that was never the case. Four out of five districts where he got the highest number of votes where in northern Uganda. These were Arua, Gulu, Apac, Kibaale (Western Uganda) and Oyam.

It was the same outcome for other minor candidates in the 2016 presidential elections except for Maureen Kyalya, whose four out of top five districts where she scored the highest number of voters were from her home region—Busoga.

Amama Mbabazi's top three districts were from the north

Political analysts and voters say this pattern was informed by voters who want change or those who presented issue based manifestos.   From 1996 up to 2016, Lemeriga Fadhil, the Arua district Democratic Party (DP) chairman says, the people of Arua have been voting for candidates from Buganda or Western Uganda. He says, they don’t vote along tribal lines.  Arua, for instance, was won by Dr. Kawanga Ssemogerere in 1996, Dr. Kizza Besigye in 2001 and 2006 and President Museveni in 2011 and 2016. 


//Cue in: so the people… 

Cue out:…their home districts.”//   

Lemeriga says ordinary voters aspiring for change voted for minor candidates thinking that “they would also perform well in their home areas and be able to reduce Museveni’s votes to a great margin.”   

Hadad Salim, a resident of Arua Municipality says he voted for Gen Biraro because his manifesto presented what Ugandans needed at the time. Pariyo Peter, also from Arua Municipality people want change that will bring them development. (vox pop od Hadad and Pariyo).    

//Cue in: during that time… 

Cue out:…voted 100% NRM.”//     

Joseph Mabirizi, a presidential candidate in 2016 says people in the north can easily be influenced by a candidate’s ideas unlike in other parts of the country where voter have a predetermined attitude towards candidates. It’s only in Arua, for instance, where Mabirizi tallied more than a thousand votes from a district.   

//Cue in: for them, they… 

Cue out:…in those areas//  

John Katumba, a candidate in the 2021 presidential race who has already campaigned in the north is confident he will get votes because he was welcomed and embraced by voters. He triggered mini-excitement when he campaigned in Gulu City on November, 15th attracting tens of supporters and hooting motorcycles. In Gulu, he promised reliable electricity, better education facilities, better roads and protection of peoples’ properties.

Katumba said people were generous by contributing towards his fuel which facilitated movement to districts where he wouldn’t have reached. 


//Cue in: “I am going to… 

Cue out:…can reach there.”//


Former ambassador Harold Acemah also says people in the north judge candidates’ ideas not personality. “You see people in Arua are very discerning. People in Arua don’t judge a book by its cover. They don’t judge you because of where you come from.”


Mbabazi got the highest number of votes in Gulu district. He had the backing of Democratic Party’s President Norbert Mao. Moses Laker, a DP supporter says he voted for Mbabazi. He says any credible challenger to Museveni is always treated as a darling in Gulu. Truly, Museveni has never won Gulu district. It was won by Ssemogerere in 1996, Besigye in 2001, 2006, Mao in 2011 with 42% and Besigye again in 2016.    

//Cue in: my name is… 

Cue out:…was the biggest.”//

Candia Steven, Dominic Ochola and Aldon Walukamba contributed to this story        

Images 2