By Walter Akwat
There has been an increased agitation by legislators from Northern Uganda, calling for the region to secede from Uganda because of marginalisation and the theft of PRDP funds by officials in the Office of the Prime Minister. This agitation is a non-starter!
Could the legislators tell the people of northern Uganda what they had done to check the mismanagement of the PRDP funds? Are the MPs not supported by Parliament to mobilise and monitor service delivery in their constituencies?
What is the agitators’ definition of Northern Uganda? My understanding is that the PRDP districts include Teso, Karamoja and West Nile? Should these regions join Lango and Acholi in seceding from Uganda? Have the MPs consulted their constituencies and verified that secession is the most urgent ‘development’ priority in their region?
While the MPs rightly lobby for increased government funding to northern Uganda, have they verified that the region has got the capacity to absorb these funds? Statistics seem to indicate that the region is incompetent to utilise even the little funds disbursed by the Government. So where is the problem? Is it Government or the incompetence of our political leaders and bureaucrats?
In September 2012, the media reported that Lamwo district had returned to the treasury sh1.2b unspent in the 2011/2012 Financial Year, despite the ‘marginalised’ district occupying an unenviable position as one of the poorest and least developed areas in Uganda!
During the same financial year, Kitgum district returned over sh2b to the treasury while Lira Municipality returned over sh300m meant for the construction of four community roads! Arua is reported to have returned over sh2b in the financial year 2010/2011 – including PRDP funds, while in financial year 2009/2010, the district returned over sh1.7b meant for water and construction works in schools.
In all these disturbing incidences, the leaders of these ‘marginalised’ districts have blamed delayed remittances by the Government for their poor absorption capacities. This cannot be farther from the truth! Scheming politicians and bureaucrats bent on diverting public resources for personal gains continue to frustrate development in most districts in Uganda.
Do not mistake me; I applaud the pro-people concerns of the legislators in reminding the Government of its obligations to equitably extend service delivery to all parts of Uganda. However, I believe our political leaders have the duty (and people’s mandate) to push for good governance on home turf: demand for better accountability and improved service delivery from the local government bureaucrats. Does it not bother us that many children of northern Uganda nodded to their graves because of the outbreak of the Nodding Disease, yet some of our districts returned billions to the centre because they could not spend it on service delivery? Our children have been left behind in education, for as petty reasons as inaccessible roads, lack of classrooms and inadequate accommodation for teachers. And yet, those in authority at the LG levels have the impunity to return unspent funds, because they are preoccupied with local politics and in fighting, instead of service delivery.
Our legislators should push for the people’s empowerment, so that they can put their leaders to task over their incompetence to deliver services, despite a seeming ‘abundance’ of funds. Many of our local governments are bedeviled by graft, with rampant complaints about corruption in recruitment and procurement processes. It is an open secret that most of our political leaders and civil servants have manipulated procurement procedures and often ‘won’ themselves lucrative contracts in both the construction and the service industry.
It is not in doubt that the north feels so marginalised, but secession will not and cannot be the best solution. In any case, do we have the economic base to fall back to? Do we have to disengage ourselves from Uganda, with the very dominant contribution we have made to the development of this country, right from independence in 1962?
Surely, I am proudly northern, but the Nile Republic does not sound palatable to my ears!
The author is a concerned Ugandan citizen
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