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Untold story of Proscovia Alengot: Youngest MP could be 21

Birth certificate shows she is 20

Ugandans are still coming to terms with the fact that in Proscovia Oramait Alengot (Usuk County MP) they have, perhaps, the youngest legislator in the world. Michael Mubangizi set out to bring you an insight into who Alengot is, how old she is, and how far she has come.

Proscovia Oromait Alengot could have been a news anchor, even a beauty pageant queen; instead, she ended up becoming the youngest ever Ugandan legislator. Although there is a dispute about whether she’s aged 19, 20, 21 or thereabout, Alengot’s journey to Parliament has been extraordinary. Many people reckon it began when the starlet was talked into contesting for the Usuk county seat that fell vacant after her father – Michael Oromait – passed on.

But we have since established that it was Alengot’s idea to replace her father. The second of 10 children, Alengot conceived the idea even before seeing her father’s lifeless body. Family sources say when news trickled in that her father had passed on, Alengot was preoccupied with how her family would cope in absence of its breadwinner. It was a brave call for the dark-skinned girl, one that would put her in the spotlight and raise questions about her age.

Information at the Electoral Commission and the schools she went to put her age at 20 or 21 years. Questions about her age notwithstanding, Alengot’s peers and former teachers at PMM Girls School (Jinja) and St Kalemba SS say they aren’t surprised at the confidence she exudes because she has always looked destined for bigger things – even if she was never expected to come top of her class.

Innocent Opio, her 17-year-old brother who’s now a senior five student at St Kalemba SS, says the decision for Alengot to contest for polls was her own initiative. Uncertain of how her father’s vast polygamous family would carry on, Opio says Alengot sought to know the qualifications for MPs from her aunt and Amuria Woman MP, Susan Amero. Opio recalls that at the time of their father’s demise he was at school while Alengot was in Jinja. Amero chauffeured them to Kampala. It’s on this journey to Kampala that Alengot sought to know how one contests to be an MP.

“When dad passed away, she started asking how we would survive,” Opio revealed.

When Amero revealed that one needs to have a senior six certificate to contest for a parliamentary seat, Alengot declared her interest straightaway. Opio recalls that Amero warned Alengot that to sail through she has to be “courageous” to which Alengot replied “I am very courageous”. The rest, as they say, is now history.

That she would even speak in Parliament on the first day of her appearance after swearing-in, observers say, is a pointer that Alengot could disapprove her critics and deliver. It was last Tuesday that Alengot made her maiden speech in parliament in which she urged government to come to the rescue of her people who are now suffering due to heavy rains in her area. She also asked government to avail her people fast-maturing seeds to grow.

Born leader

People who have been following Alengot, like her teachers and contemporaries in school, say they weren’t surprised at her election and at the confidence she is exuding.

“She had a great vision in life. She would say she would be a great lady no matter how many times she failed,” said Christine Akimat, a senior six student at St Kalemba SS. Jude Tadeo Kamanya, Alengot’s former Literature teacher at St Kalemba SS, says Alengot actively participated in her father’s campaigns. Because of this, she reported late for her first term in senior six in 2011.

“She called me and informed me that she was still mobilizing youth for her father. When I heard that she was contesting, I didn’t doubt that she would convince voters,” Kamanya said. Margaret N. Nambuya, the deputy Head Teacher (Academic Affairs) at St Kalemba SS, also says Alengot is ambitious, open to advice and a good listener.

“You can tell if someone will be a substance. Alengot was one of those students. She respected herself and people around her,” Nambuya said. “Apart from age, which people are using to discount her, she is capable”.

Alengot also left a mark of a creative student in St Kalemba. Before joining St Kalemba SS, Alengot collated news items that would be pinned on the school’s notice boards.

“She came with a new innovation of reading the news on the school assembly every Monday. This thing took the school by storm. It made her famous,” Kamanya revealed.
Alengot also wrote articles and took photos for the school magazine.

“From her writings I realized she had a bias towards feminism and advocacy for women issues. She wanted to unearth vice and hypocrisy in society,” says Kamanya, who also coordinates publication of the magazine

Most teachers, in fact, say that their former pupil wanted to be a journalist. Her brother Opio also says Alengot started talking of being a journalist in senior three when she selected subjects.
“Dad also used to buy her novels,” Opio said.

During her senior six holidays, Alengot worked at Apex FM (Jinja) and Joshua FM (Katakwi) before joining Diamond Trust bank. A teacher at St Kalemba SS told us that Alengot applied to study Mass Communication at the university, but her performance only got her admission for Bachelors of Education at Uganda Christian University, Mukono. The Observer has learnt that she scored nine points in her senior six exams, including Ds in Divinity and Literature.

A teacher at PMM Girls says Alengot’s best subjects at O-level were English/Literature and CRE. An average student, she is understood to have scored “five or six” credits in the final exams.

“Even in her weaknesses, she capitalized on her strength. She may not have excelled but then she was also not dull,” the teacher revealed. Speaking in confidence, another teacher said: “That’s the interesting thing about her: very active in other things but not academically.”

This teacher reckons Alengot will deliver as an MP, because of her strength in areas like public speech and fluency in English.

Miss wildlife

Kamanya recalls that shortly after joining St Kalemba SS, Alengot contested for “Miss Wildlife” on March 8, 2010, which left many old students wondering how a new student would win such a feat. Paul Bagavowe, her Economics teacher and master of Wamala House at St Kalemba, says Alengot was an asset to the dormitory.

“For the first time Wamala House won Music competition because of her. She composed a song, taught the rest of the students. That’s how we won.”

Other teachers variously describe her in similar adjectives – active, organized, confident, cheerful, interested in reading and creative writing. Alengot joins three PMM Girls School former students – all Woman MPs – in parliament. They are Dorothy Christine Mpiima (Buikwe), Margaret Makhoka (Namayingo) and Veronica Babirye Kadogo (Buyende.)

“She can take on a task without hesitation. She is ready and willing to learn,” said Enock Arubu, the Director of Studies at PMM. “She does her work well given the opportunity and clearly defined parameters”.

Age controversy

While most of her contemporaries predict that Alengot is likely to defy age and put up an impressive performance in Parliament, Alengot will need to first overcome a credibility test after revelations that there are contradictions about her age. Our investigation also reveals that her records in Electoral Commission (EC) and in some schools she has been to give varying dates of her birth, ranging from 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Our multiple sources in the EC say that her birth certificate issued by the Katakwi Sub-County chief on December 4, 2011 states that she was born on July 11, 1992. This makes her 20 years old, contrary to widespread reports that she is 19. However, the information she gave to the EC while registering as a voter indicates that she was born on July 11, 1991, which makes her 21 years.

“Yes there is a discrepancy, but we don’t know if it was a mistake. But to us the issue is that all figures indicate that she is above 18,” a source at EC said.

Paul Bukenya, the Electoral Commission spokesperson, referred us to the Katakwi Returning Officer, Joseph Omona, who confirmed the conflicting dates of birth. Bukenya later said information on the birth certificate could be more valid than the details on her voter’s card that he says are prone to inaccuracies. Efforts to talk to Alengot failed as she did not answer or return our calls.

But in the information she submitted to EC, she states that she finished her O-level in 2009 at PMM Girls School, Jinja, aged 17. She also said she did her A-level in 2011 at St Kalemba SS Kayunga at the age of 19. Earlier on, Alengot had been to Soroti-based Madera Girls Primary School, Kigulu Girls in Iganga (PLE) and Iganga Girls School (S.1- S.3.)

Information we obtained at one of the secondary schools she attended indicates that she also gave conflicting reports about her date of birth. One school said some of their records indicate that she was born on July 11, 1993 while others put it at July 11, 1992.

“But you go with July 11, 1992,” said one teacher. “it’s the one she wrote herself,”

Whatever the case, Alengot seems to be enjoying herself. And her life will, perhaps, never be the same again.

mcmubs@observer.ug

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