Some MPs from northern Uganda yesterday launched a campaign to collect signatures to back their renewed call for the region to break away and form an independent country called Nile State.
The lawmakers, addressing journalists at Parliament, accused the government of discriminating the people of northern Uganda, whom they said had suffered a lot in the last 30 years.
The other grounds they advanced for their secession threat include the theft of donor money meant for the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), the government’s proposal to allocate Amuru District land to investors for sugarcane growing, and the failure to adequately address the “nodding disease”.
However, in a quick rejoinder, the Information minister, Ms Mary Karooro Okurut, criticised the move, saying the government had done a lot for the people of northern Uganda. “It is very unfortunate that at a time when the country is moving along as a nation, anybody can talk of wanting to break away. The government is addressing all these issues and whereas some of them may not be solved today, a mechanism has been put in place to do so,” she said. But Acholi Parliamentary Forum chairperson Reagan Okumu said though the government had committed itself to rehabilitating the north after the war, it had not done so.
Ms Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Women) said the government had for a long time frustrated the people of northern Uganda. “When you move across the country, you will realise that northern Uganda is like South Sudan in terms of poor infrastructure, and a sick education system, and yet the donor funds have been swindled by the Office of the Prime Minister.
The nodding disease syndrome hasn’t ended and it is high time we broke away and formed our own government or continue to be marginalised,” She claimed that President Museveni had ordered the people of Amuru District to sign up for a sugarcane growing project against their will. “We have our oil in that particular area, where investors want to grow sugarcane and we are asking the President to take his investors to Rwakitura, where he has his own land,” she said.
For his part, the chairperson of the Greater North Parliamentary Forum, Mr Felix Okot Ogong, disagreed with the secession talk, saying the MPs should instead strive to reconcile Ugandans.
The State Minister for Northern Uganda, Ms Rebecca Atengo, declined to comment on the matter, saying she was engaged in a meeting. But Nwoya County MP Gilbert Oulanya said land was the only resource left in northern Uganda. “The President has ordered that the land be given away, and that I must be dealt with,” Mr Oulanya said. “He told my people that they must go to the Attorney General’s office to sign off the land. There must be a resolution of Parliament for this to happen.”