ARUA. Ms Lillian Paparu will join the 11th parliament having had no challenger in the general elections; a historic first time victory for the lady from a humble beginning.
Born in 1978 to Col. Nelson and Evelyn Obiale, a retired Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) officer, Paparu is the second born of the seven children in the family.
A year after Paparu’s birth, her father was forced into exile in Zaire or the current Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when the government of Idi Amin Dada was overthrown.
A young Paparu was forced to spend her early childhood in Congo until a time she reached an age suitable to join school, she was then sent to stay with a relative in Uganda near the border with DRC in Opia parish, Vurra sub-county, Arua district.
In 1986, when President Yoweri Museveni took over power, Col. O’biale, a former soldier under the Idi Amin Dada government decided to return from exile with the remaining family members and settled on their ancestral land in Anzu parish, Vurra Sub County.
Paparu first joined Opia primary school and later transferred to Ekarakafe primary after the return of her father where she eventually completed her primary seven in 1994.
She later enrolled in Ediofe Girls’ Secondary school in 1995 for her Ordinary and later Advanced level certificates before proceeding to University.
In 2002, she joined Makerere University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences majoring in sociology and political science.
After failing to immediately get a job, she decided to return to school to start a Post Graduate Diploma in Education in 2004; later in 2007, she would enroll for her Master’s Degree in Education.
On completing her master’s degree, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Arua branch had just opened and Paparu was hired as an Assistant Lecturer.
While at UCU, Paparu and some of her mates started the West Nile Rural Development Agency (WENRUDA), a community-based organization in which she served as a volunteer besides her university job.
This was the time when Paparu unsuccessfully kept applying for a series of jobs in government. She, however, met her luck in 2009 when she applied for a job at the Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD) as a field officer.
Paparu served as a field officer for many years until a promotion to the position of a program officer and a subsequent resignation to join politics.
Paparu’s political fame
In August 2020, Paparu tendered in her resignation at CEFORD to try her luck by contesting for Arua district Woman Member of Parliament (MP) seat under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket.
Although it was her first experience, Paparu won the NRM primary elections on September 4th, 2020 defeating her two opponents; Ms Immaculate Bako and Ms Diana Ayikoru to carry the party flag.
However, fast forward to the last day of nomination for MPs in the general election, there was no report of any candidate coming to contest against Paparu.
She remained nervous as the deadline time of 5:00pm (EST) set by the electoral commission clocked, but once the five minutes allowance given had elapsed without any signs of anyone showing up, she was declared unopposed for the seat sending her supporters into wild jubilations across the district.
With her political slogan ‘Together we are Strong’, Ms Paparu wants to bridge the development gap in Arua district.
Paparu says the challenges members of the community face are not new to her given the responsibility she undertook while at CEFORD.
“I think issues of community mobilization and facilitation are what I learnt from CEFORD as we dealt with rural communities. This is the time when I said I can lead in another arena with the skills I have gained over time,” Ms Paparu narrates.
“I think I look at leadership at this level as a bridge which is a two-way traffic but not a ladder which is so vertical that when somebody climbs up and knocks something, it will fall and people will not climb, so my leadership will be a bridge which can connect one community with the government being at the centre and it’s not one person’s show.” She further says.
Some of the things Paparu wants to do during her tenure include; promotion of agriculture, education and to lobby for funds to address the looming water challenge in the district.
She is married to Mr Simon Ababo, an Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (ACAO) working with Arua district local government, the couple has two children.