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Betty Amongi, Obote’s Maruzi country deserves much better

By Admin

Added 2nd October 2016 04:15 PM

Not even boda bodas, which have become a common sight in all other parts of the country, can be found in Akokoro”, (Obote’s languishing birthplace, December 6, 2012).

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Not even boda bodas, which have become a common sight in all other parts of the country, can be found in Akokoro”, (Obote’s languishing birthplace, December 6, 2012).

By Sam Akaki

In a report, which would have made good men and women cry and bad ones laugh, the New Vision reported four years ago, that “former president Milton Obote’s home area has never seen electricity, lacks regular transport means and has no tap water.

Not even boda bodas, which have become a common sight in all other parts of the country, can be found in Akokoro”, (Obote’s languishing birthplace, December 6, 2012).

Since then, it has become worse. For example, recently, Obote’s cousins delivering the body of their brother Engineer Herbert Akora for burial and some of the 2,000 mourners returning to Kampala, had to wade through thick water hyacinth, which has clogged the River Nile ferry crossing between Kungu and Masindi Port.

At its current rate of growth, the hyacinth will soon stop the ferry service altogether, forcing travellers to make a detour through Apac- Lira- Kamdini-Kampala. Given the horrendous state of the Akokoro-Apach-Lira road, the detour would add some 10 hours to Apac-Akokoro-Kampala trip, which normally takes about five.

The lack of electricity would be a dispensable luxury were it not for its adverse affect on Apac hospital, other health centres, schools and businesses, which also lack running water.

Why is Maruzi county languishing, although its greatest son, Milton Obote, led the country to independence – and ruled twice?  The local Member of Parliament, Max Akora who is also the UPC national secretary general, does not lack the gift to tackle this vexing question.

He is one of the most academically gifted politicians and technocrats in Parliament. Unlike many of his colleagues, who have lost their seats for presenting fake academic papers,  while in the UK, Akora was deemed qualified enough to manage a multi-billion pound National Health Service (NHS) Trust for several years before he returned to Uganda.

To understand why Obote’s Maruzi county is mired in poverty, we have to unpack the word “politics”. Politics is not about activities associated with the governance of a country or area or the debate between parties vying for power, as some scholars want us to believe.

Politics is about activities aimed at improving someone’s personal and financial status and increasing their power within an organisation or country. Related to this, at the top of the pile, politics is about who gets what, where, how much and when - according to an American political scientist, Harold Lasswell. Let us elaborate.

The story often banded around is that the first UPC government randomly built 21, 100-bed hospitals in Abim, Anaka, Apac, Atutur, Bududa, Bugiri, Bundibugyo, Busolwe, Gombe, Iganga, Kagadi, Kambuga, Kapchorwa, Kawolo, Kiboga, Kitagata,  Nakaseke, Nebbi, Palisa and Yumbe.  But a closer look suggests that their location was not decided by tossing up a coin.

Take Apac hospital, for example.  It would have been a remarkable coincidence for it to be located six miles from the home of the then minister of Economic Planning, Akbar Adoko Akaki-Nekyon. The uncomfortable fact of the matter is that all the 21 hospitals were located in their respective places around Uganda because there was someone close to the UPC government, who lobbied for one to be built near to their homes.

For example, one hospital went to Iganga because the then minister of works, Shaban Nkutu and his Permanent Secretary, Engineer Zukusoka, Obote’s personal friend and old-boy in Mwiri College, were born nearby.  Budadiri had a hospital because the minister for Public Service, Joshua Wakholi would have bent the president’s ears in favour.  In Acholi, the one hospital went to Anaka in the west because Alex Ojera and Peter Oola of the powerful Payira clan were influential in local and central government.

Just as the other unfortunate counties missed out on the 21 hospitals in the 1960s, because there was no one to lobby for them, so has Maruzi county been missing out on vital public services since the 1980s, because there was no one close to the NRM government.

To his credit, the former Maruzi county Member of Parliament, Jovino Akaki-Ayumu, then junior tourism minister, had managed to secure a project funded by the European Union/World Bank, which graded the road from Kungu on the bank of River Nile to Lira, making transport relatively easier and safer.  

Thankfully, like manna from heaven, Maruzi county now has a full cabinet minister in the name of Betty Amongi, who is married to former president Obote’s son, Jimmy Akena. She is the powerful Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, which is exactly what the dilapidated Maruzi country and Akokoro sub-county in particular, need, if they are to be rehabilitated. Why?

Amongi’s strategic position enables her to directly and indirectly lobby President Museveni through her cabinet colleagues to take services to Akokoro.  What the people desperately need are electricity, running water and health and school facilities.

But Amongi’s post carries a serious health warning. Another Lango sub-region child, Daniel Omara Atubo, who held the same post in 2006-2010, lost his seat for non-delivery.  He is unlikely to go back to Parliament soon. Amongi’s omission or commission could spread political halitosis to her husband as well.

The writer is the former FDC international Envoy, and former independent parliamentary Candidate now executive Director, Africa-UK relations, London


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