How internal fights have kept Busoga in poverty

Sugarcane being loaded on a truck in Jinja District. Sugarcane growing is pointed out as the leading cause of poverty in Busoga. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Hadija Namyalo, coordinator in the Office of NRM chairman: “It’s absurd that most of the ministers with money come from Busoga, but why have the people they lead remained poor?”
  • Ezra Gabula, Iganga District chairperson: “We had got the irrigation programme where locals were going to get water from irrigating their crops so that they can get income, but the project has stalled because some leaders, whom I cannot name, went to the Minister of Finance and decampaign it.”

Despite being well-endowed with natural and human resources, Busoga Sub-region is synonymous with poverty and other vices, including teenage pregnancies, and early marriages.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) says Busoga is the sub-region with most people living in a complete poverty cycle followed by Bukedea and Karamoja.
This is according to findings released in 2021/2022 by Mr Vincent Fred Senono, the principal statistician and head of analysis at Ubos.

The findings noted that 14.5 percent of people in Busoga are “totally poor”, while Bukedea has 10.4 percent and Acholi has 10.3 percent.
“The increased poverty levels in Busoga were due to increased population caused by poor family planning,” Mr Senono said at the time.
However, some leaders in Busoga have pegged the increasing or sustained poverty levels in the area to internal fights and intrigue.

Prof Frank Nabwiso, the former Kagoma County Member of Parliament (MP), says the sub-region has so far lost several projects due to infighting, including Naguru Hospital, which he said was supposed to be constructed in Jinja City but was instead taken to Kampala.

This, he said, was after then Jinja Municipality Mayor, Mr Mohammad Baswari Kezaala, and the then district chairperson, Mr Hannington Basakana, allegedly started fighting over where it should be built.

“Mr Kezaala, who went to Beijing and lobbied for it after convincing the Chinese that they will be given land, wanted it in Jinja City, yet Mr Basakana wanted it in Jinja Rural; so, the government decided to take it away,’’ Prof Nabwiso said.

Elsewhere, Prof Nabwiso said internal bickering has also hindered the official takeover of Busoga University by the government.

He said: “The university was established by Busoga Diocese, but then Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze established Busoga University Limited to manage it. Now, the people who were directors are claiming ownership and want the government to compensate them.”

Prof Nabwiso says people are now advising the government not to “waste” taxpayers’ money by paying loans and mortgages, but to kick start operations at the new university.
The university was founded in 1999 with affiliation to Busoga Diocese under the Church of Uganda.

However, in 2017, its licence was revoked by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), which cited the institution’s alleged lack of qualified staff, teaching of uncredited courses and awarding fake degrees to more than 1,000 students.

The university was later handed over to the Ministry of Education and Sports to expedite its reopening as a public institution following a directive by President Museveni in 2018.

According to the taskforce management committee, which was appointed last June to oversee its establishment, the university will reopen next month, Prof John Tabuti, who heads the six-member committee, told Daily Monitor in an interview in April.
Once it becomes operational, it will join Fort Portal-based Mountains of Moon University which achieved a similar milestone on July 1, 2022.

Prof Nabwiso also pointed to the lucrative annual Nyege Nyege festival for which former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga rooted to be held at Itanda Falls against a section of Basoga who were opposed to it.

At the end of the aforementioned cases of infighting, Prof Nabwiso says Basoga loses out on jobs in commercial centres, business skills and revenue sources.

Senior Presidential Advisor on Political Affairs Hajjat Hadija Namyalo Uzeiye addresses a crowd recently. PHOTO/ COURTESY 

Mr Peter Kasolo Okocha, the Jinja City Mayor, on his part, says Busoga leaders engage in fights over supremacy, where one wants to outdo the other even on matters of development.
“We formed the Busoga consortium but few leaders turn up because they feel that its leaders can’t steer it and get our people out of poverty,” Mr Kasolo said.

Political fights
He added that dragging political differences in the fight against poverty has instead played a big role in maintaining poverty in Busoga Sub-region, where leaders from different political parties work against oneanother to get projects from the government.

Mr Kasolo further explained that leaders in both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the Opposition play a big role in maintaining poverty in Busoga Sub-region, adding that where NRM leaders own projects, Opposition leaders discourage people from participating in them.

Mr Ezra Gabula, the Iganga District chairperson, says leaders indirectly meddle in programmes meant to fight poverty in the Sub-region by blocking them from the centre.

“We had got the irrigation programme where locals were going to get water from irrigating their crops so that they can get income, but the project has stalled because some leaders, whom I cannot name, went to the Minister of Finance and decampaign it,” Mr Gabula said.
While meeting stakeholders recently in Kamuli District, Ms Kadaga sounded her displeasure at those who make Busoga Sub-region lag behind by fighting for supremacy.

Ms Salaam Musumba, the former Kamuli District chairperson and FDC Vice President (Eastern), avers that whenever Busoga gets a whiff of unity, intrigue is used to tear it apart.

She said: “Basoga are good at being used like they fought Bishop Bamwoze and he missed out on being the archbishop.”
The Bugabula North MP, Mr John Teira, has however, dismissed Ubos’ household survey 2019/2020 report that shows that Busoga Sub-region leads in poverty as “misleading”.

According to Mr Teira, although Busoga Sub-region has “some extent of poverty levels”, it can’t be compared to other regions where people still sleep in grass thatched houses, and children have nutrition-related diseases and are stunted.

Basoga, he insists, are not poor but a “lazy lot” that doesn’t use their time appropriately, but instead spends it gossiping, fighting each other and spreading intrigue.

Mr Teira cited the Shs45 Billion agricultural fundamental change project dubbed “Revolutionalising of Livestock Farming in the Greater Busoga region,” which was launched by Kyabazinga of Busoga William Nadiope Gabula IV at Kasolwe livestock farm in Balawoli, Kamuli District in 2019.

The project was formulated to increase resilience, wealth and positive livelihood outcomes among the smallholder players along the livestock value chain, fight household poverty and raise household income in Busoga Sub-region among others. Mr Teira, however, says it has been frustrated by intrigue.

Mr Michael Kanaku, the Buyende District chairman, regrets that Buyende, which now boasts of many minerals and oil deposits discovered, is yet to get the political outstanding pledge to have the Kamuli-Bukungu road tarmacked.

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, Eng Patrick Amuriat, last week described Busoga as “the sleeping giant of the country” in reference to its high poverty levels.
Eng Amuriat was speaking during the burial of Ms Alice Nabugembe Oguttu, the wife of former Bukooli Central Member of Parliament (MP) and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the ninth Parliament, Mr Philip Wafula Oguttu.

 “Busoga will remain the poorest nationality in Uganda; you have the capacity to rally yourselves to remove this ‘nuisance’ from this country,” Eng Amuriat said.
Earlier, the Special Presidential Adviser and coordinator in the Office of the National chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Ms Hadija Namyalo, blamed leaders in Busoga Sub-region for the persistent poverty residents have endured.

Ms Namyalo, who was presiding over the endorsement of Mr Museveni as a candidate for the 2026 presidential seat at Kakindu Stadium, said some of the richest leaders in Uganda come from Busoga Sub-region, but locals remain poor because they ignore poverty eradication amongst them.

“It’s absurd that most of the ministers with money come from Busoga, but why have the people they lead remained poor?” Ms Namyalo wondered, adding that President Museveni has always played his role of making people rich but is “frustrated” by leaders.
Her remarks followed concerns raised by the crowd, expressing their frustration with the biting poverty levels.

Ms Namyalo said she came to Jinja City to try and ‘rebrand’ the President whose name is allegedly being tarnished by people who fail to understand that he empowers their leaders.

Ms Namyalo said residents should prepare themselves with reports of problems affecting them so that they hand them over to the President who is set to visit Busoga Sub-region soon.

Compiled by Philip Wafula, Abubaker Kirunda, Tausi Nakato, Sam Caleb Opio & Denis Edema