By Phiona Kesaasi
SOME past leaders coined the infamous slogan: â€˜We shall not wait for Karamoja to developâ€™. But do not tell this to First Lady Janet Museveni, the minister of state for Karamoja affairs, as she is sure soon this hopelessness will be no more.
Her appointment has seen the construction of 20 units of hydraform houses that were handed over to the poor peasants at Nadunget sub-county Moroto district on October 28.
Not only is Mrs. Museveni spearheading the construction of these houses, but also put to task leaders here to account for the monies they received for the various development projects. Those suspected of misappropriating the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) money will be investigated and dealt with as the law stipulates.
â€œNAADS is supposed to bring inputs to the people to help them start up activities to generate income for their families but in many parts of the country, the officials have abused the programme. In this region, the signs of abuse are glaring; there is nothing to show for the amount of money sunk in,â€ Mrs Museveni said.
She also expressed disappointment at the attitude people have towards the region. She wondered why a beautiful people with such a beautiful culture, are always at the bottom end of every development in Uganda. â€œKaramoja has been isolated and ignored, with self-centred people taking advantage of the region because of its remoteness. Because people think it is insecure, many, including the Government agencies that are supposed to monitor programmes do not want to come here,â€ she said.
Mrs. Museveni was recently speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Hydraform houses, where she handed over 20 housing units to the beneficiaries, most of them the elderly and people with disabilities. She said the units, with solar lighting and safe water, would be replicated all over the region.
Nadunget Housing Project, meant to transform the living standards in the region, was constructed by Karimajong youth and the UPDF, trained in Hydraform technology.
Apart from Moroto town which has a few brick houses, the rest of Karamoja is littered with mud-and wattle grass-thatched huts commonly known as Manyatta. But with these low cost houses under construction, all this will be history.
Mrs Museveni was also concerned about the indifference by policy makers and stakeholders towards the region. She said most of the money allocated to the region ends up in wrong hands.
â€œA lot of resources that come here donâ€™t go to the communities or the programmes they are designed for. The money is taken by individuals and the people remain destitutes,â€ she stressed.
The underdevelopment of the Karimajong can also be attributed to the environmental constraints. Karamoja is semi-arid and because of the sandy soils, even after a heavy rainstorm, the water just runs off.
The sh11.3b earmarked in the 2009/10 budget for the implementation of development projects in the region is finally being put to good use.
â€œI am committed to giving the people of Karamoja a fresh hope. The region will benefit from the programmes we have designed for the whole of Uganda,â€ she asserted.
With just a few months in office, Mrs Museveni says the task to deliver the necessary services to this hitherto neglected region has just begun.
â€œIt may take some time, but something will certainly be done. I will ensure that something visible is done so that these people can begin to believe that the Government means well for them,â€ she said.
Paul Abul, the Moroto district education officer, says Mrs Museveni had proved her critics wrong. â€œShe is more practical and committed than her predecessors.â€
But for Mzee Lorika Athiyo of Nakapiripirit, corruption and selfishness of the district leaders will make it difficult for Maama to achieve a lot for this region. â€œThey are not telling her the truth,â€ he said.
Mrs Museveni calls on the elders to work together to improve the region.
â€œThe elders have a role to influence the youth in behavioural change. If this happens, I am committed to ensuring that these people achieve a better living.
â€œEveryone deserves the best. It is important for all of us to work for peace because without it, what we are doing will not take root,â€ she said.