By Nahaman Ojwe
The overwhelming NRM support by Karamoja region was never by accident but through a well planned, executed and sustained effort to uplift the area and the people from the abyss of poverty, insecurity and underdevelopment.
History is abounding on how past regimes and government commencing with the colonial failed to pacify and develop Karamoja.
The British forceful approach met stiff resistance that claimed the lives of its officers and native agents like Sir Peter Kirka colonial District Officer, Chief Achia and Chief Lorika among others.
The only legacy the colonial government left in Karamoja is by declaring it a “Human Zoo” where entry into it required a special permit and even with permission still one would do so at his own risk.
Post independent regimes of Milton Obote, Iddi Amin, and Tito Lutwa did very little to change the status quo left by the British.
One of the leaders declared that “the rest of Uganda cannot wait for Karamoja to develop” and in early 1980s carried out unpopularand brutal disarmament in disregard of human rights and the peoples concerned.
The Amin era for example left over two hundred people dead in an attempt to making Karimojong wear clothes and embrace education. The victims were massacred at Nawaikorot parish, present day Napak district as they resisted the well intended but poorly planned and executed program.
The emergence of NRM in 1986 under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni in the case of Karamoja is comparable to the Moses era that rescued the Jews from the yoke of burden in Egypt and deliverance to the Promised Land.
Never before the NRM government and President Museveni has Karamoja felt a sense of love, care and being part of Uganda.
It is on record that from the time Uganda became a Nation State it is only the NRM/A even before capturing power whichhad a special consideration and programe for Karamoja.
Point No. 8 of the original NRM/A Ten Points Programm is dedicated to addressing the Socio-Economic, Security and Development challenges of Karamoja.The region had realized the abandonment by past regimes and welcomed the NRM government without any resistance.This therefore strengthened the already established goodwill and planned programe for the region by the government.
Although translation of the intended program for the region delayed due to several challenges in the initial years of NRM in power like the several insurgencies that diverted attention and resources, the population did not lose hope in the government promise.Backed by the strong political will from none other than HE the President himself and NRM Government, the Karamoja Disarmament Act was made in 2002 and this provided the legal frame work that supported the planning, resource mobilization and implementation of the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Program KIDDP.These two instruments, the Act and KIDDP enabled resource mobilization from within and without and finally the programmewas officially launched.
A number of times have proved that well intended,planned and adequately funded programmes have been disastrous due to poor supervision and management and to realize the success of KIDDP government with the wise leadership of the President, made very careful and appropriate selection of political, security and technical managers to deliver the good results in Karamoja.The appointment and deployment of 1st Lady, Hon. Janet KatahaMuseveni in 2008 as the Minister for Karamoja Affairs was a milestone to the successful implementation of the variousdevelopment and livelihoodprogrames.
Under her supervision all programmes were effectively and efficiently implemented with tangible results on the community. Some of the notorious NGOs had to enforce self discipline to deliver good results.Intensive dialogue to enlist local leadership and community support enabled active participation by all stake holders and minimize resistance by negative forces.
TheDisarmament component though challenging was successfully executed by the ideologically focused UPDF with disciplined commanders like late Brigadier Patrick Kankiriho and others without serious human right issues.In appreciation of the delivered peace the local community comprising majority former warriors have formed themselves into Peace Committees to mop up cattle thieves and consolidate the gain.All parts of Karamojaare peaceful and business is booming in all the towns.
The successful pacification of Karamoja has become a lesson of good practice in the IGAD member states with researcher and pace scholars travelling from Ethiopia,Kenya, Djibouti and South Sudan to witness the miracle NRM government has done for the pastoralists.
Prior to the implementation of the KIDDP, Law and Order sector had totally collapsed and traditional justice system was the only option. However the Restoration of Law and Order RELOKAsub project has now established Police stations at every Sub County and judicial staffs are effectively deployed.Readers may remember that at one moment an L.C I Court passed a death sentence and a suspect was executed in one of the districts in the region before RELOKA.
On infrastructure, it is only in the NRM government that parts of Karamoja started to see real infrastructure development. Some of the cases in point are the connection of Abim, Amudat, Moroto ,Napak and Nakapiripirit to the National power greed since Owen Falls Dam was built in 1952.
The NRM government also rehabilitated 22 Secondary Schools infrastructure across the region with funding from Irish Aid plus the recently commissioned modern dormitories and teachers’ houses in 21 model Primary Schools across the seven districts.These facilities are to boost school enrolment, improve on retention of learners and better completion of the learning cycle both in primary and secondary.
The NRM government has also embarked on roads up grading with Moroto- Nakapiripirit now tarmacked and work to upgrade Soroti- Moroto- Lokitonyala [Kenya border] has started.
In the water sector, the NRM government has also provided adequate funds, to provide large dams in each district. Arecek in Napak and Kobebe mega dams as well as provision of valley tanks and ponds at Sub County and parish levels has addressed the previous issue of severe drought that used to drive the Karimojong west wards to conflict with Acholi, Lango and Teso.
The government did not stop at infrastructure development alone but initiated a sustainable school feedingprogramm whereby Prison Farms in partnership with Ministry of Karamoja Affairs, produce chunks of cereals for the schools. Last season alone 400 tones were realized for distribution to schools and this is to relieve the fatigued World food Programme which has borne the burden for a long time.
Then came the 100 State House Scholarships requested by the region’s leadership to support the brilliant but poor students access university education.This affirmative action is producing result and boosting the dire state of human resource in the region.
According to a recent Cabinet Retreat report, service delivery was found to be wanting in Amudat district that is operating with only 24 % of the desired work force.
The government has put in several programmes to diversify livelihoods for Karamoja.One of such is community empowerment from the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs that targets Youths, Women, Elderly and Persons with Disabilities and provides them with production assets like heifers, bulls, goats, ox ploughs, walking tractors and planting materials. Others are Operation Wealth Creation provisions, Youths Livelihood Programmand so on.
Karamoja is also benefiting from the Social Assistance Grant for the Elderly though it begun from the southern part but is now rolling over to all the districts in the region.
The NRM government has also unveiled the mining potential and several companies are now engaged in lime stone and marble extraction with plans to establish a cement factory in Moroto.
Future plans for the region includesurfacing Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong-Kitgum road, extension of power to Kotido-Kaabong and Karenga and extending a high voltage line from Opuyo in Soroti –Moroto – Tapac for industrial use.
All these good deeds of establishing peace and fulfillments of the promises by the NRM Government and the President has confirmed and fused a fundamental bond between President YoweriMuseveni, Mama Janet and the people of Karamoja.
Like the Biblical quotation “ For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son to save the people” so is the case for Karamoja “ For Museveni so loved the Uganda that he sent his only dearly beloved wife to work for Karamoja”.
Considering all the background , concerns, considerations and commitments by the government to the region of Karamoja , no any other party or candidate could sell other than NRM and HE YoweriMuseveni.
That is the reason behind the support; it is an expression of appreciation for the good work done and continues to be done by President and NRM Government to region. The NRM Government under the able leadership of President YoweriMuseveni saved Karamoja and set it for development.
The writer is the RDC of Napak District.