While he’s gone in a brutal way, the Arua Municipality MP, Hon. Col. Ibrahim Abiriga became more popular at the era of Constitution Amendment last year.
He was one of the key players in ensuring Parliament touched Article 102(b) of Constitution to remove Presidential age limit.
His quest, somewhat, is 60% successful with Constitutional Court yet to pass a ruling in support or against the amendment.
If the ruling favors NRM party, Abiriga is not there now to enjoy other benefits out of it.
Again, the brutal assassination of an MP who became much popular during contentious age limit debate in Parliament and defying his voter’s concerns that there was no need to amend the Constitution, to bigger extent, is bad news for many elites in Uganda who are now not immune to such killing.
Before he became an MP, representing Arua Municipality in the 10th Parliament, Col. Ibrahim Abiriga was a lodge manager, soldier and later appointed an RDC before he resigned his position to take up on politics.
He was born in 1956 in West Nile, Arua district.
In 1971, Abiriga joined the then Uganda Army and reports say he served as the Manager of Pakuba Lodge in now Murchison Falls National Park.
In 1979 after the toppling of President Idi Amin Dada, Abiriga fled to Zaire and later Sudan where he and others formed a rebel group to fight new government. They had a mission under now First Deputy Premier, Gen. Moses Ali to reach Kampala and cause havoc.
In 1986, the 1,200 strong UNRF soldiers joined current President Museveni under his National Resistance Army and were formed into the NRA’s 73rd Battalion. Subsequently, Moses Ali was accused of treason and incarcerated for years in Lubiri underground cells.
Moses Ali and other prominent people had complained about then Capt. James Kaziini who was commanding the Arua based 14th brigade.
Ibrahim Abiriga who had also joined the NRA in 1986 rose to become the 2nd Division Administration Officer (DAO). He served in that position from 1988 to 1990 when his active military career casually ended.
After that military ‘retirement’, Abiriga stood for the Madi-okollo Parliamentary seat but lost to the opposition candidate.
Later, President Museveni appointed him to the position of Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Arua District.
As RDC, he went to Adrava Health Centre at Rhino Camp and personally tore the campaign posters of an opposition candidate before harassing and accusing the health workers of ‘promoting the opposition’.
By doing that, Abiriga got more trusts from Museveni who made him his party political mobilizer in Arua.
His political generosity was seen when he bought a cow and gave free meat to locals during 2011 Presidential campaign, telling beneficiaries to boycott Kizza Besigye’s rallies in the district.
In May 2011, Abiriga accused the United States of America and United Kingdom governments of sponsoring the then popular Walk to Work protests prompting the then UK High Commissioner, Martin Shaerman to protest.
Seven months after, in December 2011, during the World Aids Day celebrations at Arua Police grounds, Abiriga called upon security agencies to use live ammunitions in quelling the Walk to Work protesters.
He argued that the protests were being backed by donors and were meant to systematically overthrow Museveni’s government.
During nationwide teachers strike, Abiriga threatened to recruit his own teachers.
In 2014, Abiriga was transferred from Arua to Yumbe district as the RDC. However, in June 2015 he quit the position of RDC to run for Member of Parliament for Arua Municipality on the NRM party ticket.
He defended his decision to quit RDC office that he was failing to serve his people better and needed a bigger position to do so better.
On nomination day, he presented his academic certificates from Uganda Management Institute and Uganda Christian University, Arua Campus. He beat other rivals in the NRM party primaries and was nominated as the flag bearer.
In September 2015, Abiriga was warily nominated by the Electoral Commission not in Arua but in Kampala.
However, a voter from Arua disputed his academic credentials by petitioning the Electoral Commission.
It was alleged that Abiriga had only stopped in Primary Three. The above-mentioned education institutions denied ever enrolling a person in those names.
In February 2016, the Electoral Commission (EC) disqualified him from contesting for the Arua Municipality. The EC’s decision reversed the District Returning Officer’s earlier decision that had nominated him.
A week to the Election Day, Museveni ordered the Electoral Commission to reinstate Abiriga on the ballot paper.
Abiriga won the Arua Municipality seat but his opposition rival challenged his victory in court on grounds that the nomination forms that were used by the EC to declare him the winner were not the right ones.
Because of Museveni’s last minute intervention, the EC had ordered for the printing of the unofficial Declaration Forms to include Abriga.
In June 2016, the HC in Arua ruled in favor of Abiriga. An appeal was lodged in the Court of Appeal but it was also dismissed in April 2017. A criminal case of forgery of academic credentials was also lodged at Buganda Road Court but it has since been suppressed.
In August 2016, Hon. Abiriga’s dress code (yellow pakalast) was challenged by colleagues MPs but the Deputy Speaker, Oulanya ruled in favour of Abriga.
Since then Abiriga has adopted his controversial yellow outfits both in parliament and outside.
In March 2017, Hon. Abiriga clashed with Army M.P, Cadre Felix Kulaigye (both members of the Defence and Internal Affairs committee) over the Anti-terrorism Amendment Bill. The bill sought to criminalize the financing of terrorism and terrorist activities.
Abiriga sought for clarification from Bank of Uganda officials over the deference between terrorism and rebel activities thus a terrorist and a rebel.
Quoting the Act, Bank of Uganda’s Mulindwa described a terrorist as a person who does an act with intention of intimidating parliament. Cadre Felix Kulaigye was quick to interject by extending the definition to also intimidating the public or section of the public for political, religious, social or economic aim.
Another member questioned why the rebel group, LRA had been classified as a terrorism group. Cadre Kulaigye emphasized that he was more suited to help the committee owing to his military background. Hon. Abiriga called Kulaigye to order before accusing him of misleading the committee thus;” I don’t want to know, because what Kulaigye knows, I know. I know what a terrorist is and what a rebel is. His knowledge is political but mine is proof.”
In 1990, at the rank of a Capt., Abiriga was the Division Administration Officer for the NRA’s 2nd Division based in Fort Portal. There, he was arrested by then Capt. Charles Angina over treason.
Together with his co-plotters like Col. Matovu who was the Chief of Personnel and Administration (CPA) at the army headquarters, Capt. Ali Chama and a few others were not formally charged but simply held by Military Intelligence in Kampala.
Since that time Abiriga never returned to active military service until over a decade later when he was formally discharged from the army.
However, he did some special political and security assignments for Museveni in West Nile region in return for patronage.