President Museveni has advised the people of Acholi Subregion to focus on chasing poverty out of their homes than consoling themselves and blaming everything on isolated cases like the Apaa conflict between Madi and Acholi communities.
“If there’s a problem in one area, let the other area which has no problem continue to develop. You can’t say because there’s a problem in Apaa, the whole of Acholi must stop. That is poor leadership,” Gen Museveni said.
The President made the remarks on Thursday February 23, 2023, while addressing leaders in Gulu as he kickstarted his tour on investment and wealth creation in Acholi sub region on the theme: “Securing your future through wealth creation and shared prosperity” and vowed not to be diverted as he re-echoes the difference between development and wealth creation.
“I have been in this war for the last 60 years, this time I don’t want to be diverted by many things like Apaa. There’s no Apaa here and in other parts of Acholi Subregion which you should develop,” Museveni said.
This was after the Minister of Justice and constitutional Affairs Nobert Mao informed Museveni that the people of Acholi are still waiting for a judicial commission of inquiry, the President promised to appoint “so that the people can speak up and also to talk about how that contentious area can be governed and the security and the arrests of our people who are up to now in detention in Adjumani district and harmonize that with the desire to protect the forest and the game reserve,” Mao said.
Gen Museveni said the issue will be solved soon but it should not be solely blamed for hindering poverty alleviation in the entire Acholi.
“Some parts of Acholi were put in South Sudan by the colonial borders and some parts of Ankole were put in Tanzania and some in Rwanda, but we can’t go there to start demanding them, we are developing our area,” Gen Museveni told leaders.
Apaa land disputes turned contentious in 2017 when the Government demarcated boundaries between Amuru and Adjumani Districts where Apaa village was placed under Adjumani, to the dismay of the Acholi people from Amuru with whom they have inhabited the land for decades. Since then, the attacks have been recurring as the Madi community wants the Acholi Subregion people pushed out of the land.
The President informed the gathering that the renewed visit to all the 18 zones of Uganda is “to repeat my war (on wealth creation) I have been fighting since 1962”
President Museveni told the people of Acholi to differentiate between development (dongo lobo in Acholi) and wealth (lonyo in acholi), saying that whereas the government has improved the infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, electricity and other social services, it makes no sense to be proud when the people using them are poor.
“Even if we make the roads, it will not take away the poverty in your home. A tarmac road will pass by your home and you will remain poor,” Gen Museveni said, adding that before independence, the road from Masaka to Kampala through to Jinja, Tororo and Mbale was tarmac even before independence and government has reconstructed it many times after that but many people residing near it are poor.
“The question is, if you go there, are you not going to find poor people? Yes, a tarmac road is good and convenient, but you don’t have to wait for it before you embark on wealth creation activities. So, please, know that the medicine for poverty is wealth creation,” Museveni further said, adding that when he bought in Rwakitura in 1967, it was all bushy with no road and electricity at all but he was focused on looking for wealth from cows which eat grass and not tarmac roads.
“So, by the time the tarmac road came, I was already a very rich man. It came to help me enjoy my wealth,” Gen Museveni noted.
The President gave an example of several farmers and wealth creators he visited on his first day in Acholi districts (Omoro, Gulu and Kitgum) who he said are doing well despite establishing their businesses in areas where there are no tarmac roads.
He re-echoed the 4 sectors of wealth creation which are commercial agriculture, manufacturing and industries, services and Information Communication Technology (ICT), saying the only way to succeed in all the 4 sectors is by fighting ignorance through supporting free education for all which he said has greatly been interfered by the head teachers charging money from the poor families.
“Because many children of the poor leave school because they are not able to pay. So, we are going to review that issue. But you, the NRM leaders must know that this free education is the medicine for ignorance and therefore any excuse to keep children out of school is very dangerous,” the president said.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mao thanked President Museveni for embracing the people of Acholi Subregion which has changed the conversation of development in the region.
“I can say that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) has arrived. Previously we only knew the National Resistance Army (NRA), now you have brought the NRM, and I think the conversation has changed.
He however decried information gaps about cattle compensation in the region. He said the government paid 11.9 billion shillings last financial year, yet the outstanding amount is 141.6 billion shillings. This financial year, he said parliament appropriated 30 billion shillings but no single shilling has yet been released.
“We told the people here that you are the substantive minister of finance and we expect that in your speech you will give the necessary directives so that those who have been waiting for all these months can receive money. we have data for all the sub regions of Acholi, Lango and Teso,” Minister Mao said.
The NRM party Secretary General Hon Richard Todwong who highlighted the party’s performance in Acholi sub region, told the President that the gathering has overwhelmingly supported his proposal of not changing their presidential candidate come 2026.
“Your Excellency, I know it is not time for campaigns and politics. I openly declared to the audience that as a party, we see no option of having another candidate come 2026. So, the delegates overwhelmingly supported that and at the right time we shall process that and we know you’re not going to refuse sir. This is the demand from the people. We know you are still young and very strong; we pray that you kindly accept, and you take this offer,” Hon Todwong said.
The gathering was preceded by several topical presentations pertaining to the region by line ministers. The Minister for finance Hon Matia Kasaija (Real economy in Acholi sub region), The Minister for Local government Hon Raphael Magyezi (The Parish Development Model (PDM) releases and implementation status in Acholi sub region), Hon Nobert Mao, Minister of Justice and constitutional Affairs (Compensation of Acholi war debt claimants) Gen Katumba Wamala, Minister of Works and Transport (The status of roads and implementation of infrastructural development in Acholi sub region) and Hon. Haruna Kyeyune Kasolo Minister of State for Microfinance, MOFPED (Status of Emyooga in Acholi sub region).
The gathering attracted representation of ministers and MPs from Acholi sub region, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and LC.5 Chairpersons, Religious and Cultural leaders from all the 10 districts of Acholi.