Uganda: Leaders in Acholi, region destroyed and neglected by Museveni, Preach Self-Reliance

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Acholi Cultural King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II

“For every three Ugandans that moved out of poverty, two fell into poverty. Poverty has also become increasingly concentrated in the Northern and Eastern regions of the country”-- World Bank report.

“Wang-OO was initiated by a group of youths to unite the people of Acholi. If we don’t unite, then development cannot take place in Acholi”--Okello-Okello, former MP.

KITGUM-UGANDA: After failing to get compensated by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government of Dictator and Ruler for Life President Yoweri Museveni, after a two-decade senseless war which destroyed the region causing millions in losses, the people of Acholi have finally come together to discuss challenges affecting post conflict recovery in Acholi sub-region.

Although the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion ended about 12 years ago, in 2006, the region is still languishing in poverty despite government programs like Northern Uganda Rehabilitation Program (NURP), Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) and Peace, Recovery and Development Program (PRDP) which were meant to rehabilitate the region.

The World Bank reported in its 2016 annual report that in 2013, more than a third of Uganda’s citizens lived below the international extreme poverty line of US $1.90 a day.

"For every three Ugandans that moved out of poverty, two fell into poverty. Poverty has also become increasingly concentrated in the Northern and Eastern regions of the country”, reads part of the report.

It was these hardships that in 2015 compelled about 50 youths to go and meet former Member of Parliament for Chua County, Kitgum district, Mr. John Livingstone Okello-Okello, in Kampala and write a concept paper to establish Wang-OO (bonfire). The sole aim was to help the people who had returned home from the government concentration camps euphemistically referred to as Internally Displaced Persons Camp (IDP) by uniting them to fight poverty.

"Wang-OO was initiated by a group of youths to unite the people of Acholi. If we don’t unite, then development cannot take place in Acholi”, says chairman of the new body, Mr. Okello-Okello.

He made these remarks on December 1, 2017, during the third meeting of all leaders, elders and civil society leaders from Acholi sub-region which was convened at Kitgum Technical Institute under the theme; “Laying a foundation for re-organizing, re-building and restoring Acholi community by improving the management of Health, Education and Land sectors”.

Mr. Okello-Okello said that donors are tired of giving money for the reconstruction of northern Uganda, where results are not reflected on the people apart from infrastructures like schools, health centers and road network. He appealed to the community to revive the old concept of "self-help" if the region wants to get out of abject poverty and develop saying, if they don’t embrace the concept then they will be mocked by other Ugandans.

“If we sit and wait for donor and government to provide us money for development, then we are in for a shock. We should embrace the old concept of self-help if we don’t want others to mock as us. We are years behind other Ugandans”, says the former legislator.

The Member of Parliament for Kitgum Municipality, Ms. Beatrice Atim Anywar, appealed to the people of Acholi to massively plant trees on all empty land not under cultivation to avoid land grabbing for other Ugandans who think we don’t know how to utilize our land. “Other Ugandans, who come here and see our un-cultivated land, think we don’t know how to utilize the land. The best way to prevent land grabbing is for us to plant trees on all empty land”, says Ms. Anywar.

The retired Anglican Bishop of Kitgum Diocese, Rt. Reverend Macleod Baker Ocholla II threw in some interesting history. He said in the old days, Acholi ancestors managed to protect large chunks of land from neighboring communities by waging wars on those who infiltrated Acholi land boundaries. “The River Nile was our natural border with the Banyoro and Madi. We went to war with the Madi people over boundaries. The Acholi warriors captured a girl from Madi and brought her here. She was given to one of the soldiers as wife. She bore a baby boy and the child was named Allimadi. You have all heard of Otema-Allimadi who was Uganda’s Prime Minister,” says Bishop Ochola. (The late Allimadi is father to the publisher of The Black Star News).

The meeting resolved that the people of Acholi should hold government accountable for the strange disease, the Nodding Syndrome whose causes are still unknown. They also resolved that all the eight district local government should enact ordinances against the sale and consumption of alcohol to curb rampant youth alcoholism.

On the poor educational performance in the region, the meeting resolved to set up a special select committee to do research on why pupils and students don’t perform well in national examinations; to establish academic competitions among schools and that each clan should have an agenda to improve on education in their communities.

The Acholi cultural King, Rwot David Onen-Acana II, decried the rate at which the community is destroying the environment through massive tree cutting and wetland degradation.

He appealed to local governments to implement the resolutions passed by Wang OO.

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