Ongwen: Toronto's Uganda-Born Mayoral Candidate

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Ongwen: From Gulu with love? (Source: TheStar)

(Once a week through the end of the mayoral election, the Star is introducing readers to an obscure candidate vying to be Toronto’s chief magistrate.)

Oweka-Arac Ongwen grew up in war-torn Uganda, sought refugee status in Kenya, fled to Canada and now he has his eye on Toronto’s mayoral chains.

The 49-year-old machine operator is confident he can win the race. “In politics, everybody has a chance,” he said, laughing.

Ongwen moved to Canada under the resettlement program in 1996, leaving behind his wife and two children in Gulu, Uganda. He hopes to bring them to Canada one day, he said.

Sporting a suit and tie in a Starbucks café, Ongwen beamed when he explained how proud his family was when he made the long-distance call to tell them he was running for mayor of the fourth biggest city in North America.

“It is good for the family. They are excited and it is showing my children leadership,” he said.

Below is a condensed transcript of an interview with him.

What were some of the biggest differences between life in Uganda and Canada?

There was a lot of differences. In Uganda, most of my adult life was surviving because it was war, war, war all the time. Life was tough. There was fighting in the town, with many bodies in the streets.

When I first got here, there was peace of mind because there was no fighting around and people were friendly. I had to get a big jacket because it was so cold and I wasn’t used to that. I didn’t know what snow even looked like.

Why did you decide to run for mayor?

I decided to for lots of reasons. The main reason is I haven’t been driving for at least 10 years, I’ve been using the TTC all the time. I’ve seen a lot of problems of what people are experiencing and I thought, ‘So why don’t I go run and fix these problems together with the people of Toronto?’

For the rest of the article please see TheStar


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