Ian Clarke, from Armagh, is the most surprising candidate running for election in Uganda. Speaking from the back of a pick-up truck in the Kisugu marketplace , in Kampala, Clarke, with the help of an interpreter tried to explain why he is running.
He said “The reason why I first got into this race was potholes. Why are these potholes here year after year? Why does no one do anything about them?...The problem is not a lack of resources, it is a lack of management and lack of willpower.”
The crowd cheers having heard his explanation. Clarke is the only white person running in the elction but he is far from a foreign to this land.
Clarke came to Uganda 23 years ago. The doctor, a native of Armagh, arrived after the brutal civil war in the country and founded the city's leading private hospital. He then began writing a weekly column in the local newspaper and now holds Ugandan citizenship.
Clarke, who is running as an independent, in the Makindye district, is gaining support ahead of the Feburary 18 elections. Many believe that the support he is seeing only highlights the massive distrust the people of Uganda have in their political system which has become synonymous with corruption, nepotism and self-enrichment.
It seems that Clarke's track record, having founded hospitals and helped the local community in the past is what is selling him to the voters.
Clark said "You can go on talking about everything that is wrong, or you can launch in and do something, and I guess this is me launching in…I’m doing this because I am part of the community. I don’t have a home in Ireland, this is my home here.”
His rivals have argued that the fact that he cannot speak the native language, Luganda, shows that he cannot reach the people.
Clarke’s rivals argue that his inability to speak Luganda is proof that he cannot reach out to ordinary Ugandans. He opponent Livingstone Kizito said "He may have lived here twenty years but he doesn’t even know the language.” He also said that a European running for office reminds people of the colonial times.
However his arguments seem to fall on deaf eyes. The people want to see improvements in their district of 400,000 people.
Greengrocer Jacqueline Namutebi said "It doesn’t matter if he is a muzungu [white person] or Ugandan, we are just tired of people who don’t do what they promise."