In the last part of our interview, Hon Reagan Okumu talks to Acholi Times correspondence Eunice Lamunu about land and investment in Acholiland.
We must safe guard our land, the way our people are selling their land is worrying, the way people are going to Acholi to use the Acholi people to grab Acholi land is worrying.
If you go to a place like Nwoya now, you will see how Sudanese are going there using our local agents to get their land. The constitution of Uganda is very clear, you can not own land in Uganda when you are a foreigner.
In Amuru for example there are many people scrambling for Amuru land who are foreigners, but are using Acholi people to steal their own land.
Everyone is salivating for Amuru land, even Professor Bukenya had went Pader around Lagile to also grab land until when the likes of father Okumu intervened and eventually Professor Bukenya was eventually evicted, what about areas which do not have the likes of Father Okumu? They managed to intervene because the land belonged to Father Okumu’s clan.
The Government claims there is free land in Amuru because they want to bring investors, our principles have been, investors are not bad, and I want to repeat it here that investors who want to come to Acholi, our people must be alert, the principle is simple, investors who want plots of land in towns, they should be given because they can be got in the town areas, but investors who want large chunks of land, they must engage in partnerships with the land owners, the land owners should not sell their land, investors should bring their capital then they enter into an agreement that the business will go for about 20 t0 30 years and they will share the profits and after 30 years they will renew the agreement and if the investor does not agree, then he takes his money and you remain with your land, this should be the kind of investments we should accept in northern Uganda and this is our strong position. Unfortunately some Acholi leaders do not share this view because they too want to grab Acholi land. This is what we told the Madhivanis, we told them to go and negotiate with the land owners and give them shares so that the shares will be able to help them for generation and generations to come. This is what is done even with most businesses in the US and other places in Europe; they don’t sell their land outright.
Our leaders should lecture our people that cheap things are expensive in the long run, its better you retain what you have for now rather than being deceived because there is free money somewhere. This thing of giving money here and there like they do in elections does not help and our people will learn through elections that actually buying their votes after elections has never transformed their lives, I have seen people whose votes were bought, but has the lives of those people charged or their expectations? Actually it has worsened because the expectations of people have become even higher but at the end of the day where are they? So our people must learn that cheap things are very expensive in the long run.
This is a challenge to leaders and they should take up this matter unless you are not responsible and the focus should be on both national and local leaders before we even turn to government, leaders should be able to redirect development funds going in Acholi land to focus on the right thing not to go for cultural things, if these money going for cultural things were diverted to agriculture, it would have a big impact, cultural activities will always develop when society gets stable. What I am crying for is priority and these priorities can be handled by the districts, every district in Acholi sub region must know their priorities and those are the challenges facing my people.
Do not dance to the tune of NGOs who are looking for jobs for themselves, they lobby for funding and they come and claim they have come to help. NGOs must also fit in the development framework of every society that’s the only way it can work. Therefore our districts must get tougher whether you come with your free money; it must be channelled to the right priority and to me the major challenge in Acholi region are majorly three because you can not do every thing.
The first one is education; we must focus and refocus on education so that we improve the infrastructure of education. We should have primary schools every short radius where children can easily walk to school and those schools should be of good quality. Once we have done that we should be able to build good secondary schools and after that we have to ensure that our children will afford private sponsorship to University that will mean we would have transformed. If every village can have a graduate, then that would be the best thing because they would be able to transform the village either by example or the work they do.
The second challenge is agriculture; education will help agriculture because people would know what to do. Agriculture is the most fundamental because it’s the back bone of our economy.
The third challenge is infrastructure for health and communication especially roads network so that people can transport their goods to the market. Bridges should be built and roads opened so that people can access the market. Therefore to me this is the most fundamental thing we can do to break this kind of crisis.
Of course not forgetting the need to develop strong health and other social services. Without health centres we are going to die, sicknesses will finish us all but with a stronger health network, that will go along way. With decentralisation the power is in the hands of the districts for example Government policy is now very clear that every parish must have a health centre II, every sub county must have health centre III and every constituency must have a fully fledge hospital with a theatre. And that every sub county must have a secondary school. So it’s incumbent upon the district to create more parishes and sub counties in Acholi sub region in order to attract those kinds of services. For example if you divide a parish like Agonga into three then you are going to have four health centres and if you do not do that, you will loose on the services. To me this is the best thing we can do to bring services closer to the people because the ball is in our hands.
Our national government is not very responsible but the positive thing is that with decentralization some money is channelled to districts and we also have the capacity to lobby donors and these donors listen to us and give money which we have to use to transform our society.
If we want to improve our government, the most fundamental thing is to fight corruption because it is the reason why when tenders are given, people put up poor services and yet a lot of money is spent. Part of the challenge of decentralisation is that the resources are limited and the centre still holds a lot of power to the extent that they send to the district a delegated power. For example the Chief Administrative Officer who is also the Chief Finance Officer is a delegated person from the government. So the district does not have absolute power over him but the fact remains that the district can still monitor him and redirect him to do the needful. There is also money that goes to the Sub County and LCI level; with Decentralisation even the LCI has powers to draw plans for his village. So if you see that boreholes are not being built in the village, you do not have to blame the councillors or MP, and it’s the responsibility of the LC to pass on the plan for a particular village to the district so that services are provide. The big problem her is the quality of the leaders we have, if you get an LCIII of a sub county who has not gone to school with that big budget of the sub county, and then the assistant Chief Administrative Officer who is at the sub county level is a graduate and an accountant and the Parish Chief is an S 6 graduate in some cases how do you expect these people to work? It’s like having a chairman at the district who is not a graduate with all the superiority complex dealing with the CAO who is a graduate. Another example is when you have a secretary of works who is illiterate and supervising an engineer of works at the district to construct roads. So what do you expect to happen? The major challenge we have therefore is unequal capacity to supervise and to be supervised because the secretary of works who is not educated can not supervise an engineer of works who is a graduate. All these people at the district are graduates so if you have a council which is illiterate you don’t expect much to happen is different at the national level where there are MPs and highly educated people so these civil servants can not play with them.
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