Arua’s Hotel Pacific grapples with dwindling business after army raid

Sunday August 18 2019

People passing by the renovated Hotel Pacific

People passing by the renovated Hotel Pacific that was raided last year. PHOTO BY FELIX WAROM OKELLO. 

By Felix Warom Okello

Pacific means to be at peace. That was what people experienced when they walked into Hotel Pacific, located Adumi Road in Arua town. The raid on the hotel that happened on August 13, 2018, however, took away that reputation the hotel had had since the 1980s when it was constructed.

Hotel Pacific was the epicentre of chaotic scenes that lasted for about three hours on August 13 when violence cropped up in the town during the last campaign day of the Arua Municipality by-election. Soldiers and the police swung into action at the hotel to arrest Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, as well as other opposition MPs and supporters who had returned from the rally on that day. At least 20 doors of the hotel were broken by the soldiers and policemen as they searched for Bobi Wine and other opposition politicians, who garnered support for Arua Municipality MP, Mr Kassiano Wadri. Members of staff were roughed up and threatened.

Mr Saidi Anguzu, a boda-boda cyclist who had parked outside waiting for customers near the hotel at that time, said: “I was not spared also because a soldier kicked me when asking whether I saw Bobi Wine entering or coming out of the hotel. Before I could answer him, I just got a hot slap from behind me while another one kicked me and told me to go away. I nearly lost my motorcycle.” After the attack, Hotel Pacific was cordoned off for some days as the police ransacked the rooms looking for exhibits like guns, T-shirts and other campaign items. It was total chaos.

What it was before

In the past, one would find it hard to get a parking spot at this hotel. It had many customers. Its owner, the late Luiji Candia had many friends that patronized the place. The hotel was also generally well-liked because of the ambience it provided. Most of the customers were Candia’s long-time friends, and the elderly who liked to sit in the spacious lounge as Lingala and old-time music played in the background, before they retired to their rooms.

Since the raid last year though, business at the hotel has slowed down, hence affecting the revenue.

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Many political parties used to hold their meetings at the hotel because of spacious halls, good customer care and good traditional food that is cooked at the hotel. It is now rare to find such customers at the hotel.

It has instead now become home to football fans especially on Saturdays and Sundays as it has three halls that can host fans who want to watch matches on TV.

Speaking to Daily Monitor, the acting manager, Mr Timothy Afi, said that some of the staff have remained traumatised because of the beatings and what happened when the army raided the hotel.

“Even our manager has not returned to work because he is still traumatised by what he saw. After the raid, people were scared to book accommodation with us because they felt they could be attacked since the investigations are still on-going,” he said. “We used to have our rooms filled up, but these days, some rooms are left empty because people have fear,” Afi added.

One of the usual customers at the hotel, Mr Harold Acemah, said: “The psychological effect is the worst thing because now at night, those who booked may not sleep peacefully. Pacific was one of the best hotels with comparative advantage; it is near the market, on a highway with good customer care. I still go there, but there is fear in some people. At lunch time, you could rarely get free tables, but it is no more.”

He added: “Services were very good with quality and variety of local food. They were in real business. That tragedy of last year has made them not to recover to date. Government owes the hotel a public apology because the hotel had done no offence. It will take time for the hotel to recover their businesses and I hope the children can revive it to what it used to be.”

After the raid, the police handed some money, to Candia to help repair the broken doors. They however did not take responsibility for the lost items of the customers who had booked at the hotel. To date, the lost laptops, projector, money, bedcovers, files and documents of the hotel have not been recovered.

Getting back on its feet

Hotel Pacific, is among the first hotels in Arua town, having been built after Rippons Motel. Candia, is remembered for sticking to his stance when he denied that there were guns found at the hotel. Two days after the raid, the police, led by the Regional Public Relations Officer, Ms Josephine Angucia, continued to display the alleged sub-machine gun Reg No: 01-UE0471-1998 and a Pistol Reg No: 02-56-4301247 and 35 rounds of ammunitions which, Angucia said was recovered from Bobi Wine’s room.

The police attempted to coerce Luigi to admit that guns belonging to Kyagulanyi were found at the hotel, but he did not budge. 11 months after the raid, Candia breathed his last, after suffering a stroke. He was 69 years old.

The People Power supporters commemorating one

The People Power supporters commemorating one year of the army raid at Pacific Hotel in Arua Municipality. PHOTO BY FELIX WAROM OKELLO

It was with these memories that on Tuesday, August 13, exactly a year after the incident happened, supporters of People Power returned to the hotel to commemorate one year after the raid. They danced and feasted at the hotel peacefully before dispersing in the evening.

The hotel has now been re-painted, the doors fixed and some of the broken chairs replaced by the hotel management. Slowly, the management says they will get back to business.

wokello@ug.nationmedia.com

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