Religious leaders laud Gulu leaders for banning waragi

Some of leaders in Gulu district hold placards denouncing the sale of waragi packed on sachets during a district council meeting. Photo by Julius Ocungi

GULU-  Religious and cultural leaders  in Acholi Sub region have lauded Gulu District leaders on their firm stand to uphold the ban on sachet alcohol despite pressure from the Trade Ministry that want the sanction to be suspended.

Gulu District passed an alcohol ordinance in November last year, restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol sold in sachets prompting Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, in December, to direct the leaders to stop the implementation of the embargo until September 30, when the national ban takes effect.

However, during a special council meeting attended by officials from Trade ministry and Ministry of Constitutional Affairs at Gulu District Council Hall on Monday, the district council resolved to continue the implementation of the alcohol ordinance.

Retired Bishop of Kitgum Diocese Macleod Baker Ochola said the leaders in the district have taken a lead role in the country in ensuring that sachet alcohol is wiped out.

“The district council did the right thing to reject the Trade ministry's directives. The ordinance was approved by the Attorney General who found it relevant. Why should the Ministry of Trade disturb Gulu District to suspend an ordinance saving lives of locals,” Bishop Ochola said.

The bishop suggested that instead of the Trade ministry pushing for suspension of the ordinance, they should look at ways of helping the district to grow through creating markets for agricultural products and revive cooperative unions.

“The region has so many problems that need urgent intervention of the government but as leaders are trying to address alcohol-related problems, government instead wants our problem to continue,” Bishop Ochola said.

The bishop advised district leaders to stand firm and defend the lives of people who had become unproductive due to drinking cheap and toxic sachet alcohol.

Rwot Yusuf Adek Okwonga, the Pageya clan leader said government’s plans to push for the suspension of the alcohol ordinance that was passed lawfully implies they [government] cares more about money (taxes)  than the lives of its citizens.

He said although the Trade ministry is interested in money, “a drunkard population cannot make money because they need to be sober.

"The human capital is the brain but if they are drunk, how can they trade and make money,” he wondered.

Rwot Okwonga lauded the district leaders for their courage amidst pressure from the government and urged other districts to emulate Gulu.

Gulu District authorities since launching its alcohol ordinance spearheaded by residents, religious, cultural, political heads and civil society actors in December last year have impounded 307 cartons of sachet alcohol from traders.

In November last year, the government issued an announcement giving alcohol manufacturers up to September 30, to stop the production and sale of alcohol in sachets.

If the national ban takes effect, alcohol manufacturers will be expected to package alcohol in plastic and glass bottles not below 250mls.