On hearing that Tom Butime had resigned as Minister of State for Karamoja Development, I expected a response to come from the Karamoja politicians ( MPs, LC chairpersons etc), street protest in Moroto, but nothing happened. On the other hand, Batooro political leaders heaped praises on Butime, while
Karimojong have always blamed the government as being responsible for the backwardness and underdevelopment of the region. Itâ€™s a shame that Karimojong failed to raise to the occasion and state their position on the matter. Karamoja will never develop on the benevolence of President Museveni unless the Karimojong themselves rise to the occasion and make clear, structured, focused and consistent demands.
Karimojong voted 92% for Museveni while Kyenjojo gave Museveni 91%. If the Karimojong donâ€™t speak for themselves, no one will do it for them, as they continue to vote for Museveni in each election and getting nothing concrete in return, while singing thoethikithi ekapolon Mutheben, ki booye alokicholong ( in Ngakarimojong meaning, let the big man, Museveni continue sitting on the chair) a very popular song in the region.
However, Butimeâ€™s resignation has helped to expose to the public the secret that the ministry is under-funded with a development budget of sh67m in the 2005/6 year, the cost of treating a Minister abroad. So, to avoid another Butime style resignation, the government should upgrade the Ministry of State for Karamoja to a full Ministry. Given the gross underdevelopment in the region, it requires a Ministry with clout that can marshal resources from various line Ministries and donors.
Currently the most senior technical staff in the Ministry is Senior Assistant Secretary. Besides budget support, the Ministry should be allowed to mobilise resources for funding certain projects directly. Marginalised areas like Karamoja need affirmative action and effective coordination. Then the President should appoint either a Karimojong or a non Karimojong from a pastoral background because the lifestyle of pastoralists which involves mobility to access water and pasture in a fragile environment is misunderstood by other people.
But since Karamoja has only two Ministers in cabinet, this is an opportunity for the region to get a third Minister. After all difficult and marginalsed areas are better served by their own people because they have a personal commitment and passion to see their people develop. We would not like a scenario whereby the President will switch one of the Karimojong Ministers (Omwony Ojowok or Peter Lokeris back to the Ministry of Karamoja Development. If a Karimojong is to be appointed to the Ministry of Karamoja Development, it should be an addition. Not a rotation. While other regions are moving forward, Karamoja will be lagging behind, still waiting for its Minister.
Some people say the problems of Karamoja are difficult to solve because of insecurity blamed on the Karimojong. The insecurity is due to poverty, underdevelopment, poor government policies, and the availability of guns in the hands poor and hungry people? Disarmament is not the solution. Development should either precede the removal of guns or go hand-in-hand. Development should make the use of guns redundant as a means of survival. But all this is possible if the Karimojong donâ€™t remain docile onlookers and allow fate to take its course as in the Butime case. They should shape their destiny and future development.
Karimojong, why quiet on Butime?