By Allan Olingo
At age 19, most teenagers are struggling with their early years at university or college; but for Proscovia Alengot Oromait will be trying to fit into her father’s political shoes, as she is now Africa’s youngest legislator.
Alengot has just been elected to Uganda’s Parliament in a by-election, replacing her late father, Michael Oromait, as the Member of Parliament for Usuk County in eastern Uganda.
At 19, National Revolutionary Movement (NRM)’s Alengot sets the record as Uganda’s youngest lawmaker ever. In the by-elections last week, the youthful political newcomer garnered 11,059 votes, beating eight other candidates to the vacant seat. Her closest rival, Charles Ojok Oleny got 5,329 votes while Charles Okure had 2,725 votes. Others performed poorly.
When her father passed away, Alengot immediately expressed interest to replace him, sparking off emotions of sympathy.
Two weeks ago, she was elected NRM’s flag bearer after she easily won the party primaries.
Before Alengot’s entry, Uganda’s Parliament had Butaleja MP Cerina Nebanda, as the youngest at 23.
Fortunes have changed for Alengot. As she read for her A-Level exams a few months ago, her mind was set on going to university. But with the death of her father, things have drastically changed and now she is heading to Parliament.
“It is not the age that matters. I knew I was going to win because I had the support of the people. So I was not worried,” she told a Ugandan TV station after being announced the winner.
Ugo, a Ugandan news portal quoted Opio Edekep, Alengot’s campaign manager, saying that the MP-elect is supposed to join Uganda Christian University Mukono this year but will now have to divide her time between the lecture rooms and parliamentary chambers.
Despite her age, Alengot is not a stranger to politics. She was actively involved in her late father’s campaigns and his developmental projects.
“She has been also passionate about the projects her father had promised to initiate in the constituency, including lobbying for education and health infrastructure,” Edekep said.
As a student, Alengot demonstrated strong leadership qualities — she chaired the debate club, was the brain behind the school’s weekly news bulletin, leader of the patriotism club, passionate about the environment and participated in the Chogm debate in 2007 at Serena Hotel in Kampala.
“Yes, in anything you need people to back you up and yes, the party really did help me. My focus is to work on roads, fight cattle-rustling, elevate the education standards in the district,” she said during the interview.
Although some people welcomed her win as a positive indicator to youth politics, others doubt if she can deliver.
“Her youth has nothing to do with her election. It all boils down to sympathy votes because her father was a staunch, popular and senior person at NRM. People will be drawn to her youth more than her performance because she represents a very large majority,” political analyst Angero Izama told the BBC Africa.
Alengot can create impact like Swede Anton Abele, who was at 18 years elected to the Swedish Parliament for his activism against street violence in 2010.
Another notable teen politician was Dusseault Pierre Luc, who at the age of 19 was elected to the Canadian House of Commons last year.