Paul Cankoma: “The Law restrains only the heads of cultural institutions but not the “lower leaders” serving under them.”
Dokolo—14 October 2020: With just hours left to the commencement of nominations for aspirants for the positions of Members of Parliament, chances of Dokolo South MP, Felix Okot Ogong to appear on the ballot paper hangs on a thin thread.
This is after some concerned voters decided to contest Okot’s eligibility to run as a Member of Parliament, and their petition is already before the Independent Electoral Commission.
Their petition is premised on the fact that Felix Okot Ogong is a traditional / cultural leader as he is the clan head (Awitong) of Atek Okwer Alwala clan and by participating in active politics, they claimed he would have contravened section 12 &13 of the Cultural and Traditional Leaders Act 2011.
The duo, namely Daniel Odongo and another whom we shall not name (requested anonymity) as this is a serious controversial political matter, petitioned the electoral commission on October 1st 2020 using their Lawyer firm: Victoria Advocate and Legal Consultants based in Kampala.
“Our client brings this complaint to the commission pursuant to Articles 80 (2) ( C), 246 (3) & (f), 246 (6) of the constitution of the republic of Uganda 1995 (amended) and section 4 (2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 (as amended) and sections 12 and 13 (1) (2) of the Institutions of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act, 2011 in so far as it prohibits and restricts any traditional or cultural leader in Uganda from the exercise of Administrative, Legislative or Executive powers,” the petition from MS Victoria Advocate to EC reads in part.
The petitioners claim that Atek Okwer Awala clan which Okot Ogong heads as the clan chief registered with Lango Cultural Foundation since February 22nd in 2017 and thus makes him unfit or rather ineligible to contest as an MP and they want the EC to disqualify him from the race.
They further claim in the petition that after a thorough search in the Office of Lango Paramount Chief, it was established that FOO (Felix Okot Ogong) did not abdicate his said position at least 90 days before nomination contrary to Section 13 (2) of the Traditional Leaders Act 2011.
“Our clan contends that a clan head of any clan in Uganda falls well within the meaning of Article 246 (6) of the constitution (supra) and as a result, such a person is barred from joining or participating in partisan politics in Uganda” the petition reads further.
What does the intuition of cultural or traditional leaders Act 2011 say?
- Exercise of administrative, legislative or executive powers:
A traditional or cultural leader shall not have or exercise any administrative, legislative or executive powers of Government or a local government.
- Traditional or cultural leaders not to join or participate in partisan politics:
- A person shall not, while remaining a traditional or cultural leader, join or participate in partisan politics.
- A traditional or cultural leader wishing to take part and seeking elective office shall abdicate his position in the institution not less than ninety days before nomination day in respect of that election.
- For the purposes of this section, a person joins or participates in partisan politics when that person—
- becomes a registered member or card bearing member of the political party or political organization;
- allows a member of a political party or political organization or individual for purposes of political activities to articulate views, aspirations and interests of that political party or political organization or individual;
Much as the electoral commission is yet to pronounce itself on the petition which lies on its desk, Felix Okot Ogong in an interview with Local Fm stations in his native town of Dokolo remains steadfast.
He is quoted as saying he is not at all worried by the petition because it has no bearing on his political aspirations. According to Okot Ogong, the quoted law only curtails heads of Kingdoms and Chiefdoms from participating in partisan politics, which in this case would be Lango Paramount Chief (The Won Nyaci) but not clan heads.
What legal minds are saying
When interviewed by TND News’ Frank Oyugi on the legal interpretation around the Act, Paul Cankoma, a Law Don at Makerere University College of Continuing Education, Lira branch poked halls into the petition.
Mr. Cankoma says the Law restrains only heads of cultural institutions, but not the “lower leaders serving under them. “They mean the Won Nyaci, the Emor Emor, Rwot or Kabaka but nor Awitong, jagi (chiefs) Cankoma tells TND News.
Okot Ogong is not alone
This could be the first time that the institution of cultural and traditional leaders’ Act is being invoked to challenge a political contestation and might surely put Hon FOO on the spot, but it should be noted that Okot’s case is not peculiar.
In Lango, most politicians either serving in local governments or the Parliament of Uganda are cultural leaders, and TND News will cite a few.
Erute North County North MP, Charles Angiro Gutmoi Abacacon is the clan head of Onywalipyeda clan. Former Housing and Urban Development State Minister, Sam Engola is the head of Otikokin clan, Dr Dan Okello, who is vying for the President of the Republic of Uganda is the head of Guna clan and the list is endless.
Who is Felix Okot Ogong?
He is the current MP for Dokolo South on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party ticket and recently beat Daniel Okello Okello to keep the NRM flag in the upcoming elections.
Should he win his seat in the next general elections, Okot would be bouncing back to the August House for the 5th time, and he is among the longest serving Members of Parliament in Lango.
As the political barometer increases, Okot is facing a huge challenge from Ambrose Ocen aka Kibuka, a National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate who is said to be enjoying vast support of the young voters who are excitedly joining Bobi Wine’s NUP.
email@example.com Publication’s WhatsApp No. +256 752 169 448.