FIRST LADY SPEECH
The First Lady of Uganda and Minister for Karamoja Affairs started her speech by expressing great pleasure to be at the 2nd Uganda Convention in UK.
She conveyed greetings from the President and all the people of Uganda and said it was gratifying to know that Ugandans in London are still interested to know about what is happening in Uganda, and especially in a corner like Karamoja, which most people don’t normally really care about.
Hon. Museveni informed the delegates that she came to the convention in response to an invitation by the chairman Mr. Willy Mutenza, to share her experience, successes and challenges in her work in Karamoja.
The Minister reminded delegates that she was given this assignment in 2009, when the region at that time, had just been through a drought for three years. She said the region was dry, there was shortage of food but surprisingly the cattle were not as thin as she had expected. There was shortage of water for both people and cattle. The situation was bleak and people had no hope for anything to change. She reminded delegates of the expression that was so common that “the rest of Uganda cannot wait for Karamoja to develop”
Her first task, Mrs.Museven said, was to conduct a monitoring tour of all the 41 sub-counties of Karamoja to understand the development and challenges faced by these people. Through dialogue with the grassroots population and communities interaction, she was exposed to the pains and suffering of the ordinary families in Karamoja. “I touched the depth of the tragedy of many years of isolation of these communities and the despair of these people was truly emotionally draining”, she said.
“In my hands, I held children debilitated by acute malnutrition while talking to mothers whose only hope was the next supply of irregular food ration of humanitarian agencies.
I knew then that we had the responsibility to get our people out of abject poverty and to lead them to prosperity where we are as a country in Uganda now.”
Mrs Museveni shared that some few years before she was appointed, the president has pitched camp in Karamoja for three month and had launched the disarmament programme which was on-going. Unfortunately, she said, the poverty levels were the engine that drove conflict and insecurity in the region. Therefore, there was a need to get God’s own wisdom and inspiration that would breathe life back to this devastated region of Uganda.
She wondered how many delegates remembered the biblical story in the book of Ezekiel Chapter 37, which talks about the valley of bones.The First Lady said,” If you know it, you will understand that, if God could raise the valley of the dry bones into a standing army of Israel, then Karamoja was nothing to God, for God can do all things”. Therefore” she said, “our work in Karamoja started with a lot of prayer and believing in God to lead our plans”.
They set to work with the cooperation of the UPDF, who reinforced the disarmament exercise by including the Karamojong elders who, in turn, helped by mobilising the youth for peace. The police galvanised the numbers to ensure that law and order was in place and Local Defence Units (LDUs) were trained by police to ensure that communication at the grassroots was easy, as LDUs were Karamojong themselves. As security forces continued to stabilise villages and communities, they started new initiatives on food production.
She elaborated that the Ministry of Karamoja, under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) launched a comprehensive food security plan for Karamoja which was to consolidate the approach towards a transformed production system, although there was need for some emergency measures. They therefore came up with a short term solution to get the population back in the mode of growing food for themselves instead of relying on food aid.
Having recognised that the women who form the bulk of farmers in Karamoja, as they do in the rest of Africa, were too weak and too discouraged to plough and plant enough to get them out of the vicious cycle of famine and food relief, they initiated a tractor hire scheme, whereby a commercial firm was brought in to plough, harrow and plant an agreed acreage for identified vulnerable households and women groups to ensure that they would get adequate quantities of food. Her ministry, and NAADS, Ministry Of Agriculture and other donor agencies supplied seeds and other planting materials.
They started by opening up some 2300 acres for vulnerable households at that time. In the last season, they opened up 20,000 acres and planted food in all the districts of Karamoja. This is over and above what some farmers manage to do for themselves.
“Presently”, she said, “some able farmers make independent arrangements with commercial farms to hire tractors to open up land. Others are already asking government to help them acquire tractors, while others are beginning to discuss ways they can come together, as farmer associations can bring in big harvests, manage their produce better and obtain better prices on the market for their produce.
She assured delegates that the mind-set of the people in Karamoja is already changing with an illustration that when they started this mission, 70% of the people in Karamoja were living on food aid but today the food insecure families are only 10%.
Turning to the situation of water supply, the Minister reported that the government of Uganda put in place a framework to guide this recovery and development in the whole of northern region and Karamoja, called PRDP. Under this program, they set to provide water both for human and animal consumption. By the end of this year, they hope to have at least 15 parish valley dams and hope to provide at least one valley dam per parish for animals in all 177 parishes in Karamoja. The rest of the valley dams will be constructed under NUSAF2 program, starting at the end of this year.
The Minister informed delegates that the Ministry of Water which is responsible for providing water reservoirs in the country, has constructed one reservoir per district in Karamoja. She was hopeful that when all these water points are completed, there will be sufficient water for animals and for irrigation assisted agriculture.
Mrs.Museveni said that in addition, they have boreholes for domestic use and are working with UNICEF to ensure repair or drilling where necessary so that they can ensure clean water for communities wherever they may be. They also want to fit solar pumps on each borehole so that communities can be empowered to grow vegetables around the water source using drip irrigation, thus improving the nutrition status of households in Karamoja.
On community empowerment, the Minister reported that they have designed the program specifically to try to bridge the gap left by cattle rustling, which at times left families too vulnerable to know how to survive. In efforts to motivate such families, they provide livestock such as cattle or goats to some women and youth groups and they include some oxen so that they can enable people to revive the use of ox ploughs for agriculture.
In order to curb cattle theft, the minister said they started an electronic branding of all cattle in Karamoja. The practice involves inserting an electronic chip in the stomach of the cow, containing information such as name of owner, its locality, colour of the cow etc. If the animal is stolen then traced, an electronic monitor can easily read the information and the cow relocated to its rightful owner. She said this form of cattle branding has helped a lot to minimise cattle rustling in Karamoja. The people have regained the confidence that they can actually keep their animals once branded. So far, 80,000 heads of cattle have been branded and the exercise is still on-going. “I am glad to report that the people of Karamoja have embraced and appreciated this intervention. Neighbouring districts have requested for this service to be extended to their livestock as well”, the minister concluded.
On the education sector, Mrs.Museveni noted that Karamoja has lagged behind because of various challenges which include infrastructure, school buildings and staff houses, lifestyles and attitudes of communities, leading to low enrolment and high dropout rates. She lamented that despite the progress the country has made in education, Karamoja is only still at 12% literacy rate, which is very low. In response to this, the minister reported, the government of Uganda, assisted by partners in development like Irish Aid, have constructed new staff houses and classrooms. She said they will continue on this road to consolidate these achievements through the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund in the next three years. “As part of the affirmative action for Karamoja under UPE and USE, Karamoja children access free education and 100 scholarships for tertiary education are set aside for Karamoja children every year. Government also plans to build model boarding primary and secondary schools throughout the region, complete with teachers’ houses so that children are taught and fed and kept in school full time instead of dropping out.”
Reporting on the health sector, the Minister informed delegates that provision of health services has remained a big challenge in Karamoja. The region continues to report high levels of maternal and infant mortality rates. She identified the following as critical factors responsible for the crisis: inadequate accommodation for health workers and inability to attract and retain qualified staff, thus making service delivery particularly difficult. In order to address these challenges, she said government has taken the following steps: allocating resources through PRDP and NUSAF 2; two district hospitals in Abim and Moroto have been elevated to referral medical facilities for that region;
collaborating with private hospitals like Matany missionary hospital to train midwives and nurses who will be absorbed into government health facilities; through MOH and UNICEF, immunisation, nutritional therapy, sanitation and sensitisation of communities on maternal and child care.
She concluded that in an effort to bring primary healthcare services closer to the people, UNICEF has helped them to establish village health teams in communities across the region of Karamoja. Village health teams are small health clinics at village level.
The Minister informed delegates that the roads in Karamoja region, like any other infrastructure, suffered many years of lack of maintenance and because of insecurity, the road network was not used. Therefore, there was no maintenance for a long time and in the rainy season, floods would wash away bridges. To alleviate the situation, the Government has decided to upgrade some of the roads in Karamoja to make them permanent. Some funds have been secured to commence work on the Moroto-Nakapiripirit road. The Ministry Of Works, through the National Roads Authority (NRA), has also advised Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the working on several roads. PPP is a strategy they use in Karamoja to try to change the road network. The Minister concluded that she had no doubt that this improvement in infrastructure will boost development and will open the region to further investment opportunities.
Addressing the housing sector, the First Lady reported that the Karamojong have for a long time lived in grass thatched houses, in community settlements known as manyatas.
“Knowing the role of good housing in promoting better quality of life and taking the aspirations of local people to experience social recovery and transformation, we have piloted the construction of permanent housing settlements in Nadunget, in Acerere village, Kamuswahili, in Moroto town and Olengedwat, in Nakapiripirit district” she highlighted.
She elaborated that each organised homestead has twenty homes fully connected with solar lighting. Around those homes are situated schools, water sources and an agricultural production area. This arrangement, it is hoped, will act as an incentive for future development of permanent homes in the area.
Mrs. Museveni outlined government interventions in the area of Rural Electrification. She said Government has completed construction of electricity lines in the areas of Muyembe, Namalu, Amudat, Soroti, Katakwi and Moroto, and was exploring solar power initiatives with private sector. She encouraged Ugandans at the convention to explore participating in this programme of rural electrification.
“As we look to the future, we shall continue to work towards the region producing its own food, engaging in other development activities and with improved infrastructure. Therefore, we shall attract investors to help the region harness its natural resources and potential so that prosperity can become a reality in this region” the minister stated.
She concluded that they hope to achieve all these aims within the framework of Karamoja Integrated Development Program. The program enables all stakeholders to contribute and stay together as equal partners for the progress of Karamoja, a region of opportunity for private entrepreneurs and investors from within and outside Uganda.
The First Lady proceeded to list what Karamoja has to offer: Karamoja is home to one of the most beautiful and highly endowed game parks in Uganda, the Kidepo National Game Park. The stunning and unique scenery in the region and undisturbed habitat offer tremendous opportunity for eco-tourism. The vast territory with its rich volcanic soils is a great advantage for mechanised commercial crop and livestock agriculture to feed the market within Uganda, as well as the regional and global demands. The region is rich with various minerals, many of them ready for exploration. Avenues for green energy production, including solar and fuel thermal renewable energy, are unparalleled. There are opportunities for large forests plantations to offer carbon credit to partners from industrialised countries, as well as for contributing towards mitigation and adaptation of global warming and climate change.
“This meeting, focussing on sustainable prosperity, should embrace these opportunities and encourage all Ugandans, friends and partners in development and entrepreneurs, to pursue these opportunities in Karamoja. In so doing, we shall have a win-win situation, where profits are shared, and the people of Karamoja can taste prosperity like the rest of the world”, emphasised Mrs. Museveni.
Citing that Europe could not be complete without Germany, whose role is very significant in the contemporary Europe, she said that Uganda’s development cannot be complete without the development of Karamoja.
Concluding her presentation, the First Lady and Minister for Karamoja Affairs called upon all present to join them on this journey to bring our brothers to the same level with the rest of Uganda, in dignity and prosperity. “The development of Karamoja”, she reiterated, “is a collective responsibility. It is a frontier we have to cross even as we celebrate the golden jubilee of our independence. Fortunately investments opportunities are wide open for us to exploit for the good of the Karamojong and Uganda at large”.
She pledged the commitment of the government of Uganda to support any endeavour towards enhancing the prosperity of Karamoja.
Hon. Museveni once again, thanked the organisers for giving her the opportunity to share her experience with the convention delegates.
“I thank you for listening to me and God Bless you”
For more information about investment in Karamoja contact
Nekesa Barbara Oundo, mp
Minister Of State For Karamoja Affairs.