“Once bitten twice shy’’, unhealthy goes the adage. On the night of February 09th 2017, visit two truck-loads of heavily armed police personnel commanded by the North Kioga regional police chief, John Ematu stormed Palms Garden Hotel in Lira town and rounded up a group of people who were allegedly tallying votes after conducting the election for the Lango Paramount Chief.
Police claimed the assembly was illegal and tantamount to overthrowing the incumbent paramount chief Yosam Odur, who is officially recognized by Government of Uganda.
Regional Police Commander John Emantu ordered his men to immediately arrest the group who included former Lira Resident District Commissioner Joan Pacutho, Colonel. Tonny Otoa, the erstwhile Lango cultural foundation prime minister and scores of other clan leaders who were whisked to Lira Central Police station and put under lock and key.
The group numbering over ten elderly clan heads and traditionalists was charged with holding an illegal assembly where they reportedly elected Dr. Ronald Odongo Okune, the executive Director of Uganda road Fund as the new paramount chief, the Won Nyaci.
North Kioga Police spokesperson David Ongom Mudong later addressed the press declaring that the actions of the clan leaders were illegal since Mzee Yosam Odur’s tenure is not yet elapsed; thereby declaring the purported election of Eng. Odongo Okune as illegal and criminal.
The Police boss said Eng. Okune would be summoned to record a statement with the police to explain his role in the exercise; the fact that tallying forms found at the hotel where the contested elections were conducted, indicated him as a candidate and the subsequent victor.
The other pro- Okune clan leaders were on 13th February arraigned before the Lira chief magistrates court on charges of holding an illegal assembly and remanded to Lira Central Prisons.
Mike Chibita the Director Of Public Prosecutions however, two weeks later ordered dropping of all charges.
The waters seemed to have cooled until contents of another legal document dated March 3rd 2017 leaked to the public.
The letter reportedly written by the Solicitor General and signed off by a one Allen Bucyana refused to recognize the current constitution of the Lango Cultural foundation that grants locus to Mzee Yosam Odur to continue serving as the paramount chief of Lango.
The Solicitor General reportedly wrote the letter as a binding legal opinion and official government of Uganda position on the status of Mzee Yosam Odur’s continued occupation of the throne.
Flanked by more than twenty clan leaders, Willy Omodo Omodo, the Spokesperson of Pro-Eng. Okune faction called a press conference waving the document supposedly from the Solicitor General
Omodo declared that the Solicitor General’s legal opinion automatically sacked Mzee Yosam Odur from office.
Omodo announced that the document also ultimately gave lango people the green light to organize fresh elections for a new paramount chief.
Omodo however quickly added that since results of the previously contested election which was interrupted by police had indicated Eng. Odongo Okune as the victor, there was no need to organize another voting exercise.
The firebrand spokesperson revealed that legal experts had effectively advised them to install Eng. Okune as the new paramount chief on the basis of the previous election and since no one had challenged it in court.
The former ruling party national youth vice chairperson added that the office of the Won Nyaci had also been rendered vacant by the letter from the Solicitor General.
Omodo was later to set the proverbial cat amongst pigeons when he announced that a date had been set for the installation of Eng. Okune as the new paramount chief. He announced June 8th 2017.
Enter Security Agencies
John Ematu, the North Kioga Regional Police Commander came out guns blazing warning that the installation of Eng. Odongo Okune will have to be cleared by President Yoweri Museveni himself if it is to take place.
He threatened to arrest anyone who would turn up for the ceremony describing it as illegal and populist.
A Source told this reporter that the pro-Eng Okune group had already been classified a security risk by the Lira district security committee and their activities banned.
The officer said, police had instructions to block the June 8th installation ceremony and arrest participants including Eng. Okune if found at the scene.
He revealed that Intelligence reports had faulted Eng. Okune for funding dissent against Yosam Odur and refusing to publicly condemn the underhand activities of several clan heads whose condescending utterances against the paramount chief were deemed by sober commentators as very childish and amateurish.
While security agencies seemed to have marked June 8th 2017 on their calendar for a show down with the cultural dissenters, the pro-Eng. Okune group had other things up their sleeves.
On the morning of Saturday 13th May 2017, the public woke up to sound bites of Eng. Odongo Okune on local radio stations being sworn in and taking oath for the office of Lango paramount chief.
Willy Omodo Omodo, later announced that Eng. Okune was sworn in during a secret ceremony held on the night of Friday 12th 2017 at a hotel in Lira town but attended by over 80 clan leaders who are by constitution of the Lango Cultural Foundation constitute quorum to endorse a newly elected paramount chief.
He revealed that they deliberately announced June 8th 2017 as the date to install Eng. Okune so as to divert the attention of security agencies from the event which went on smoothly uninterrupted.
He says as it stands now, Eng. Odongo Okune is the newly elected paramount chief of Lango and says a date to present him officially to his subjects in a ceremony expected to be graced by President Yoweri Museveni will be announced soon.
Pro-Odur Group Reacts
Ochen Jacob the Lango Cultural Foundation Information Minister describes Friday’s election as a sham and says Mzee Yosam Odur remains the only substantial Lango paramount chief.
Ochen describes clan leaders who participated in the exercise as self-seekers and opportunists who were heavily bribed by Eng. Odongo Okune whose financial muscle is renown in the Lango sub region.
A source in the office of the Lira Resident District Commissioner Robert Abak reveals that police is pondering summoning Eng. Okune over Friday’s election that has already sharply divided the Lango public.
Other sources also disclose that for his latest actions, a group of influential Lango has petitioned President Yoweri Museveni seeking the sacking of Eng. Odongo Okune as the Executive Director Uganda Road Fund.