Leaders from the Karamoja region, are mobilizing for increased investments in the area, as a way of solving the persistent problems experienced by local communities.
In a meeting held in Kampala on Saturday under the theme “the Karamoja Spotlight”, aimed at creating more awareness about the region’s opportunities, and boosting investor confidence, the leaders said that their region is a sleeping giant.
Remigio Achia the Chairperson of the Karamoja Parliamentary Group, says the region is ready for more investment and has all that it takes to for a business to thrive, except a few areas where there are incidents of insecurity.
According to Achia, the present deployment in the region has brought peace in predominantly insecure places. He adds that the time is now for the government to find a permanent solution to the insecurity in the affected parts of the region.
According to Achia, many things are taking place in the region, especially infrastructural development, which can facilitate investments in the region now more than ever before.
“Government is doing the right thing now in terms of putting the infrastructure, the roads, electricity, we even have an industrial line now in Moroto. We used to find tarmac in Teso, and the electricity in Kapchorwa we thought it was a bush fire” Achia explains.
He adds that the Karamojong are very passionate about investment, and are ready to offer their land for the same, however, it’s not for sale because it is communally owned;
Karamoja is known for its mineral and cultural wealth area. However, since colonial times it has been the most underdeveloped region in Uganda, with residents bonded to their traditional lifestyle to date.
For various reasons, the region has been vulnerable to diseases, insecurity, and social catastrophes like drought and famine, with the most recent having claimed more than 900 lives.
Emmanuel Lodio, the Kotido District Speaker says the biggest problem in Karamoja is hunger and the government should provide permanent solutions to avert it before introducing other projects for development.
Lodio says there is no way the people of Karamoja can deliver when they are hungry and this discourages them from work.
He also noted that the region has many development partners and government injecting funds for developing the region, but there hasn’t been any impact on the ground.
Lodio observed that many of the investments and any other development programs are usually designed by the central government and sometimes they are introduced without considering the nature of the region.
Mariko Lochap, an elder in Matany Town Council observed that many investments have been established in towns within the region but unfortunately the Karamojong youth are not willing to work.
Lochap says there is also a need to sensitize the youth to embrace technical courses so that they can be employed in the local firms around the region.
‘’Our youth fear any work that makes them sweat, so even if these investors come in, they can’t be employed because they have no skills”, he revealed.
Lodio says he has been moving around firms in Towns but surprisingly it is only the people from outsiders handling technical duties while Karamojong is used as a casual laborer.
He also revealed that the government should embark on skilling all the reformed warriors to have at least some skills which they can use to generate activities.
David Pulkol, the former Director General of the External Security Organization, says that it is a colonial design for locals in the region to be insecure, yet other people are there extracting minerals.
“How is it insecure in Karamoja when the UN is there, the Chinese, Tororo cement is taking marble. Marble is taken to Jinja to make tiles, yet the locals are losing their cows. This is historical from colonial administration and the postcolonial regimes, but the NRM establishment has tried to link the region to the rest of the country because it has stayed longer in power.”
Pulkol says that since the area now has industrial power, the industries should come in the area instead of ferrying minerals to other places, adding that government must have a deliberate plan to skill Karamojong.
According to Pulkol, as leaders they are concerned about the livelihood of their people, adding that increased investment will solve all the problems in the region since they are mainly social and political issues that are easily solved.
Pulkol says if the Karamojong are kept behind in poverty, no one will enjoy the peace, because they will look for guns from wherever and disturb, and it will be a risky policy decision to keep the community in poverty.
Steven Asiimwe, the CEO of the Private Sector Foundation, says that it is a good gesture for the Karamoja leaders to come up and reawaken the local and international investors to consider their region, adding that the example is the Africana hotel in Moroto by the BMK group.
He says that “Karamoja region only needs skills, good capital base, professional services, and more infrastructure like the internet connectivity.
He adds that the insecurity in the region is due to a lack of resources, and will varnish naturally as investments set in.
According to Asiimwe, Karamoja has grown from what it used to be, and though the negative perception has lingered on for a long time, the PSFU is ready to take on the responsibility of marketing the region to potential investors.