Lt Gen. Charles Otema Awany, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Reserve Force Commander, has spoken out about his political ambitions in the coming 2026 general election.
Gen. Otema recently kicked off consultative meetings in several parishes within the Bardege-Layibi Division, where he intends to vie for the Gulu West Constituency Parliamentary seat. Gulu West constituency is currently under the leadership of Martin Ojara Mapenduzi.
Speaking to Uganda Radio Network in an interview over the weekend, Gen. Otema noted that his political intentions were a call from the locals, who are experiencing a leadership deficit in the constituency. Gen. Otema says the consultation he is conducting is to find out if the people truly believe in his capability to lead them in 2026.
He also notes that there has been poor service delivery in the Bardege-Layibi division and accuses those elected in the respective offices of failing the local communities.
Gen. Otema says the Acholi sub-region currently ranks among the poorest sub-regions in the country and needs capable leaders to help improve its economy.
According to him, he plans to apply for retirement from the army to enable him to carry out his political activities freely. The consultation meetings haven’t gone down well with some members of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Party, who accuse Gen. Otema of launching a campaign disguised as consultation.
Justine Odong Obiya, the FDC Party Chairperson in Omoro District, says Gen. Otema is carrying out political campaigns illegally despite being an army officer. He says Gen. Otema should resign from the army before he engages in politics.
Obiya also accused Gen. Otema of dishing out money to the locals during his consultation meetings, alleging that it’s being used to bribe the conscience of the locals ahead of the polls.
Brig. Felix Kulaigye, the UPDF Spokesperson, told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the army can’t yet comment on the intentions of Gen. Otema without clear confirmation of his political bid.
He, however, notes that there is nothing wrong with an army general talking to the people in his area and describing it as “good” civil-military relations.
Section 99 of the UPDF Act states that a serving officer or militant who desires to seek political office shall first resign or retire from the defence forces.