PARLIAMENT- The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, yesterday flagged off a symbolic torch to begin a formal count-down to West Nile centenary celebrations due on April 21.
The region is marking 100 years as part of Uganda following its transfer from the DR Congo under a 1914 Anglo-Belgian agreement.
Organisers say World Steeple Chase gold medalist Dorcus Inzikuru and celebrated musician Susan Kerunen, both daughters of West Nile, will carry the torch to each constituency in the region to raise awareness and drum up public support for the event.
It also symbolises passing a luminous heritage to future generations, organising committee member Moses Akuma said.
The main celebrations are planned to take place in Arua, next week, and will encompass cultural shows, an educational symposium and conversations on legacy projects such as a museum in Arua, an information centre in Pakwach in Nebbi District and a market in Koboko to serve Uganda, DRC and South Sudan. Moyo, Zombo, Yumbe, Maracha and Adjumani districts are yet to identify their priority projects.
The commemoration is to help West Nile take stock of its development thus far, map and market the more than 40 tourism sites and plan the region’s overall future progress, according to Mr Richard Okhuti who chairs the Kampala branch of the organising committee.
Launching the Torch yesterday, Deputy Speaker Oulanyah praised the initiative, but urged people from West Nile to exploit their diverse cultures to foster the unity in Uganda in spite of the geographical gulf created by the River Nile.
“We must be proud of our country [and recognise that] the River Nile that separates us is not deeper than the blood that connects us as a people. Uganda is one country which is pressing for progress for everybody,” he said as he lit the centenary Torch at Parliament.
He said West Nile should use its checkered history, marked by armed rebellions and reprisal attacks following the 1979 overthrow of President Idi Amin who hailed from Arua, to sketch how to achieve a more prosperous future.
The key question confronting present and future leaders, he said, is what role they play to take the people, region and country forward.
President Museveni is expected to officiate at the main celebrations in Arua town on April 21, although it is unlikely DRC President Joseph Kabila will attend as initially envisaged.
The 2nd Deputy Prime Minister, Gen Moses Ali, said the focus of the celebrations will be encouraging the youths to contribute to development.
In West Nile, there is galvanised public support but with caution that politicians should not hijjack the celebrations to advance own interests.
Former Arua District chairman Richard Ferua, said: “Everybody should know and celebrate their origin.
This commemoration will help people develop literature on their language and culture …”
The West Nile comprises nine districts, has an estimated population of 3 million and has different ethnic groupings such as the Lugbara, Madi, Kebu, Alur, Aringa, Jonam and Kakwa.
In Kampala yesterday, former minister and Kyambogo University chancellor, Dr Eric Adriko, said the people of West Nile should re-dedicate to develop their region by investing in business and networking will like-minded progressives both within and outside the country.
State Investment Minister Gabriel Aridru said the region has vast untapped investment potential, considering its border location and access to huge South Sudan and DRC markets.