Location gives Arua an edge in business

Monday September 30 2013

Idi Taban’s shopping mall in Arua town. The facility has given the West Nile district a great look.

Idi Taban’s shopping mall in Arua town. The facility has given the West Nile district a great look. courtesy photo 



When the now bustling Arua District was founded in 1912, it showed no sign of what it is now. But bordering South Sudan and DR Congo would give it an advantage of thriving in business.

The district became part of Uganda in 1914 when the final borders were drawn from Belgian Congo-Zaire. February 3, 2013 marked the 98th anniversary of the entry into force of the Anglo-Belgian Agreement of 1915, which accorded official recognition of the present boundary of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo northward from Sabinio area, stretching to the Congo-Nile drainage northwest of Lake Albert.

The Lugbara largely inhabit Arua. Other tribes are Kakwa, Madi, Alur and Lendu. The Madi live in the eastern parts while the Alur and Lendu are mostly found in the western parts of the district.

In 1973, West Nile was given a provincial status but reverted back to a district in 1979 with Nebbi being carved into a district of its own. In 1979, when the Ugandan president then, Godfrey Binaisa (RIP) declared that all districts/provinces acquire their names from their regional capital, Arua got its name from the town.

Although illicit trade and smuggling thrives in the area, the district today has eight banks and 13 universities have opened their branches there. However, the district has lost its potential tourism sites owing to a reluctant local effort to promote the industry. For instance, animals at Ajai Game Reserve are facing extinction.

It was largely a peaceful district until after the fall of president Idi Amin in 1979 when the district was attacked by the Tanzanians. Insecurity also followed the 1980 Uganda National Liberation Army war that then drove away the inhabitants to seek refuge in DRC and Sudan.

Culturally, the Lugbara in Arua do not have a king but there is a strong respect and allegiance to the clan chiefs. So far Yumbe, Koboko and Maracha districts were carved out of Arua.

Movers and shakers

Grace Aciro, head teacher St Mary’s College Ediofe. She is keen in promoting girl child education in a region where some parents do not take education of their girls seriously. Aciro said she would ensure that illiteracy is reduced and competition is promoted.

James Nyakuni, Businessman. Mr Nyakuni has revolutionised the transport industry with fleets of Gaaga buses. He is one of the revered young entrepreneurs. He was the first to introduce buses which travel at night form around the area and others.

Moses Obeta, businessman. He was the first person to start distribution of MTN SIM cards, phones and airtime in the region when the company started. He deals in the name of Ejab family and personally takes airtime to rural places.

Andruale Awuzu, former minister. As minister of State for Transport up to 2006, he was able to draft plans for the construction of Vurra-Arua-Koboko-Oraba road. Several bridges and roads were constructed during his time.

Who is who in arua?

Bishop Emeritus Fredrick Drandua. He has set up educational centres and health centres in Pakwach, Erussi, Warr, Aripea, Adumi, Otumbari and Lodonga. Bishop Drandua identified the site for Nyagak power dam. He participated in peace talks with the UNRF II rebels in the early 1990s.

Bishop Joel Obetia, Anglican Bishop.
He replaced Bishop Enoch Lee Drati (RIP), for Madi and West Nile diocese. Bishop Obetia has promoted training in vocational institutions and made holistic development a priority for the diocese.

Aggrey Tata, head teacher Mvara SS. Being an Old Boy, he has ensured good leadership in the school. There have been no strikes in the school in the 10 years of his administration. The school has registered a better performance in the recent examinations.

Ahmed Abdulrahman, Businessman. He stood the test of the time when he risked his buses to travel in the volatile region when the LRA fighters used to operate in Murchison Falls Park. Though several of his Nile Coach buses were burnt, it could not deter him from quitting the business.

Bernard Atiku, Ayivu County. The youthful MP is now sponsoring 55 students in different universities. Mr Atiku is also supporting 54 primary and 30 secondary schools in engaging leaders to ensure that all policies are implemented. He is constructing a county headquarters.

Kassiano Wadri, MP. Born on 29/09/1957, Kassiano Wadri is known for his stance in fighting corruption in the Parliament as chairperson Public Accounts Committee. The ex-seminarian has lobbied for water connection, electricity, roads, improving education and fighting poverty.

Prof Christine Dranzoa, educationist. She is the Vice Chancellor of West Nile University. Prof Dranzoa founded a non-profit organisation - Nile Women’s Initiative to respond to the educational disparities and gender gaps in the region, among other projects.

Margaret Ayiseni, Teacher. A member of the education service commission, Ayiseni has uplifted the status of Muni Girls SS where she has been the head teacher. Many girls who excelled under her watch refer to her as their role model.

Amb Harold Acemah. The Sunday Monitor columnist rose from a humble background to become a career diplomat. He first worked at UTV and Radio Uganda from 1968 -1970 before serving in the Foreign Service from 1970 to 2007.

Sam Ogenrwoth, CAO. The Chief Administrative Officer is building on his experience after serving as CAO for Nebbi District for about 10 years. He is known for not tolerating corruption. He worked in more than 10 districts before he was transferred to Arua.

Nicholas Tembo, DEO. The longest serving District Education Officer has ensured discipline among teachers and students. He instituted most education reforms, was part of the formation of education ordinance, and started Arua district examinations board.

Constance Embatia, entrepreneur. Mr Embatia started his business by dealing in Waragi. He then expanded to Bus Company - California. This has helped improve the transport system in the region. Embatia has a hotel in Arua which is frequented by most visitors in the area.

Dr Paul Onzubo, municipal health officer. The straight forward man has been instrumental in curbing Cholera outbreak. Despite finding challenges in health, he has strengthened curative services with completion of theatre and a maternity ward.

Akbar Godi, former Arua Municipality MP. The youngest ever former MP for Arua Municipality encouraged youths to take up leadership roles. While an MP, he offered computers to women groups and churches to promote technology.

Amina Atako, journalist, Politician. She was the first woman to contest for the Arua Municipality MP seat. The courageous woman, running on the FDC ticket, promised to help women fight poverty. She has served as an editor at Radio Pacis.

Christine Abia, Woman MP Arua. The tough talking Abia is known for chasing away witch doctors who she accused of causing disunity in families. Since she joined Parliament in 2006, Abia has been at the centre of ensuring service delivery to mothers and girls.

Henry Lulu, AIC West Nile Coordinator. He has worked as Aids Information Centre coordinator for decades. Lulu has ensured that Arua becomes a leading district in promotion of male circumcision and expansion of Voluntary Counselling and Testing centres.

Dr Gabriel Aridru, Arua Municipality MP. After returning from Botswana, Aridru contested for the Arua Municipality seat in the 2011 polls on NRM ticket. He was then made Minister of State for Investment. He is lobbying for construction of Olewa dam.

Ibrahim Abiriga, RDC. Hate him of love him, the P3 graduate has stepped on a few toes in the fight against corruption. Abiriga says he wants to ensure that there is transparency. He also notes that there is need for accountability for judicial officers in courts of law.

Ibrahim Abiriga, RDC. Hate him of love him, the P3 graduate has stepped on a few toes in the fight against corruption. Abiriga says he wants to ensure that there is transparency. He also notes that there is need for accountability for judicial officers in courts of law.

Charles Asiki, Municipal Mayor. He has been able to open more access roads and ensured some are tarmacked. Asiki successfully lobbied for a World Bank project on garbage recycling plant in Ewuata which has tremendously improved sanitation.

Michael Oluma, entrepreneur. He is one of the latest young driving forces in the economy of Arua. In his mid-30s, Oluma owns Desert Breeze Hotel, a three-storied facility. He also employs more than 30 youths in the hotel.

Martin Opoka, Palmart Telecommunication. He is the Managing Director of Palmart Commercial Links and Palmart Telecom Uganda Limited which deals with Micro Credit. He provides loans and also trades airtime.