By Joel Ogwang
FIFTEEN years on, memories of the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army (LRA) attack on Atyak village are still fresh in James Akwooâ€™s mind.
â€œMy wife, who was eight months pregnant, was raped, chopped and cooked in a pot,â€says Akwoo, 43.
The rebels harvested his one-acre potato garden, looted everything in his house, set it ablaze and killed his children. Like Akwooâ€™s wife, Jessica, many people were butchered and cooked in pots.
The implementation of the long-awaited $606m (about sh1.3 trillion) Peace, Recovery and Development Programme (PRDP) that kicks off in July 2009, comes like sweet music to many in northern Uganda.
â€œBut what will it change?â€ Akwoo asks. â€œIt will benefit those people who sit in offices. They will steal the money,â€ he laments.
PRDP is a three-year joint venture between the Government and development partners.
The Government has committed sh100b funding in the 2009/10 financial year, with the World Bank approving $100m (about sh220b) under the International Development Association (IDA) credit to support PRDP.
The project, to be implemented under the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office, seeks to lay a foundation for the recovery of 40 war-ravaged districts of northern Uganda.
Richard Othieno, the Northern Uganda Data Centre (NUDC) monitoring and evaluation specialist said: â€œIf fully implemented, PRDP will offer a firm foundation for the recovery of northern Uganda and play a big part in enhancing Ugandaâ€™s ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.â€
â€œWe will be strict on accountability,â€ he says, emphasing that transparency and value for money from every transaction will be paramount.
Godfrey Bwire, the health ministryâ€™s PRDP deputy focal person, says sh600m was advanced to the 40 riparian districts to prepare implementation plans.
â€œA total of 10 Karamoja districts got sh20m each as an affirmative action. The other 30 districts got sh10m each from the ministry coffers,â€ he says.
NUSAF I follow-up
PRDP is a follow-up on the five-year $100m (about sh 300m) Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF I) which started in 2003 and closed in March 2009 as part of the Governmentâ€™s broader Northern Uganda Reconstruction Programme (NURP).
The project empowered communities in the 18 (now 29) districts of northern Uganda by enhancing their capacity to systematically identify, prioritise and plan for their needs within their own value systems and ultimately improve economic livelihoods and social cohesion.
About 47% of the population in northern Uganda were supported to access improved social services, 336,200 people got access to safe drinking water and about 19,075 people got access to improved sanitation facilities. The World Bankâ€™s $100m (about sh300m) will be spent on livelihood investment, community infrastructure rehabilitation and institutional development.
For all the pomp that may come with the sh1.3 trillion project, will PRDP open a new chapter in the lives of people in the war-ravaged north?
â€œI donâ€™t think so,â€ says Norbert Mao, the Gulu LC5 chief. â€œThis is supposed to be a catch-up scheme, the money is too little.â€
Cost of the war
According to Mao, the 23-year-old war is estimated at $1.4b (about sh3.1trillion). â€œThe education sector alone needs $2b (about sh4.4 trillion), so the $606m is an under-doze that may just kill a patient,â€ he says. He believes that total reconstruction of the northâ€™s 40 districts requires $10b (about sh2, 200 trillion).
Richard Todwong, a presidential aide in-charge of the north, says: â€œThe north canâ€™t be rebuilt in only three-years and the $606m is too little compared to the needs and demands of the people.â€
According to the World Bank and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) statistics, Uganda loses about sh500b in corruption annually. Will PRDP swim past this storm?
â€œAccountability will be a problem,â€ says Todwong. This, he says, was one of the challenges that the first phase of NUSAF I met. Other challenges may stem from delays in release of donor funds as well as conflicts between district politicians and area MPs.
Monitoring of the funds will be done by geographical information system, advertisement of their releases in local newspapers as well as the Office of the Prime Ministerâ€™s website.
Hope is the only asset Akwoo and people living in the war-ravaged north are left with. Will PRDP fulfill their dream? Only time will tell.