Uganda: Shunned By Regime, Civilians Pool Money To Host East African Games

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Athletes from Rwanda.

GULU, Uganda--Shunned by Gen. Yoweri Museveni's dictatorship which has starved this region of Uganda from development funding compared to other parts of the country people pooled their resources and refurbished a stadium so they could host a regional sporting event.

The Federation of East African Secondary Schools Game attracted 7,000 participants to the once ruined Pece Stadium, here in Gulu. All the resources to refurbish the stadium came from contributions from several thousands of people who once languished in government operated concentration camps in the Acholi region of Uganda.

James Ngobi, chairman of the East African Secondary School Games urged the six East African member states to use the occasion the games have provided to promote sports talent and skills to create opportunity to meet the strategic goals of the East AfricaCommunity. "I would like to reassure you in Gulu that we are not going to leave you empty handed, we are going to leave foreign currencies,” he said, referring to the infusion of spending by visitors to the region.

Gulu district Chairman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, in his remarks at the opening of the games appreciated the communities, NGOs and local businesses for stepping in to help make the games possible despite no help from the central government. The total money collected according to Mapenduzi was 350 million Ugandan shillings --approximately 98,000 US dollars-- not including material and labor support.

According to The World Bank the proportion of the Ugandan population living below the national poverty line declined from 31.1% in 2006 to 19.7% in 2013. However, the proportion of the total number of poor people who live in the northern and eastern regions increased between 2006 and 2013, from 68% to 84%.

The chairman, Mapenduzi, applauded an 80 year old man who walked 96 kilometres from Awere village in Omoro district to Gulu, just to contribute Uganda Shillings 1,200 money enough to buy twelve bricks towards construction of the stadium. “This is just the beginning for Acholi community to fund for their own development projects, as we have constructed the sport stadium and the Olympic size swimming pool which is the second biggest in East Africa,” Mapenduzi said.

Uganda's Third Deputy Prime Minister, Kirunda Kivejinja who attended ceremonies here said in part that "... today Pece stadium is back on course hosting the East African secondary school games."

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