By Onghwens Kisangala
Leaders from northern Uganda are bitter that their region is marginalised. The Independents Onghwens Kisangala asked the chairman of the Greater North parliamentary group to explain what their woos exactly are. Below are excerpts.
Why do you say the north is marginalised?
The facts are very clear that our people are not treated like the rest in this country. In the cabinet for example, we have the lowest number of only two misters from the entire Greater North. In the civil service, our people are very few at the level of Permanent Secretary, Under Secretary, Principal Assistant Secretary and the rest. Quietly and slowly we are being edged out.
If you look at the recent promotions in the administrative structures, none of the 18 promoted Assistant Secretaries is from northern Uganda. Seven Under Secretaries also did interviews, six of them promoted, the one who was not promoted was from the north. These are the people who can now go up the scale. So, it is a clear trend that can be seen.
What is Greater North?
The Greater North covers West Nile, Acholi, Lango, Teso and Karamoja including Kapchorwa. But now the people of Elgon and Bukedi want to join us. They are saying what is happening there is happening in our area.
In that case you need to talk about North of the Nile if not the whole country?
I do not know, but if they say so, then let it be. If they feel they have all the similarities and we can speak as one voice to demand our rights, they are welcome. We are doing this in good spirit so that we work hard for the interest of developing our country.
There are many regions that are not different from the North. Why do you think the North needs special attention?
We have made the analysis and you can make your own conclusions. The poverty levels in the north are different from those in the west. An employment opportunity to a westerner is very different from that of a northerner. People from one part of the country are dominant in positions of decision making. These are the people who allocate businesses and similar opportunities and our people are not there. In the areas of economic, social, military and political empowerment, we are in another page.
What do people of the North want?
The poverty in the north is probably the highest in the country. We want more money to be put there to cater for that. Unfortunately that is not the case. We need our schools to be rehabilitated. They are in a very bad shape. Our performance is also very poor. It makes our admissions to tertiary institutions also the lowest because the quality of education in our place is too low and our people can hardly afford private education given their poverty.
Gulu LC5 Chairman Norbert Mao was the first to suggest secession of the north; Hon. Hussein Kyanjo then called the same for Buganda, both on grounds of marginalisation. Would secession help?
What we are all saying is that we need justice. An injustice committed in one place is not good for anybody anywhere. Whether in Buganda or the Greater North, all we need is fairness and equality. It is not about breaking Uganda into small pieces but we want to make it loud, the cry should be loud for every one to hear. Uganda should know that as long as we let these things continue, the future is not good for our country. Discontent and dissent will breed inevitably as long as injustice exists.
There have been many interventions to revitalise the North?
Those have not been projects or programmes; they were just relief. These have been efforts merely to relieve people of f their bad experiences. They are just like some pain killers. We need total recovery programmes, reforms and transformations for our people. And those programmes must be implemented with our full participation.
So do you think PRDP is a good plan for the North?
It is a good plan but we need a martial plan for the North. Once we have that plan talking about recovery, peace and development, then we have what we want. That is why we are now in dialogue with the government that this plan must address priorities.
The North has many highly educated people in the Diaspora. Wouldnâ€™t they make a big difference if they returned to help their people?
Development does not only come from well educated people. Any meaningful development must be appreciated by and involve the masses. If we are to wait for people in London doing their own things to come and develop us, we will have got it wrong. It is a matter of involving and supporting the people.
You said the North is systematically being edged out, yet you and others are supporting a government that is deliberately marginalising your people?
I support the Movement because of the good things within it and I disagree with them on any bad thing that may happen in the Movement. Therefore, we want to work with everyone including the president to ensure we integrate Uganda. Let us not talk about Greater North but Greater Uganda.
Many might agree with you just as many agree that there is no political will to sort out these problems?
Once we speak with one voice, it will be very loud to even move a mountain. You can see that since we started to speak about these things it has provoked some reactions including the president. He is very concerned.
What is the way forward?
We are now demanding a quota system at every level in every department in all institutions. From sweepers to the top. Everything has to be national in character reflecting the population percentage. This is how it happens in India and it can happen here.