Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Doubts Over Recovery Plan

With tensions easing in the north, government launches redevelopment plan – but will it succeed?
By Patrick Okino
As two decades of war with the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, come to a close in northern Uganda, focus is quickly shifting to rebuilding shattered lives and the economy.

To accomplish this, the Ugandan government has formulated a rehabilitation plan that could cost an estimated 900 million US dollars to accomplish, according to official figures.

But few in the north have confidence that the money will flow or that the work will be done. Rather, they claim that only the rich and influential in the country will benefit.

Known as the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, PRDP, the reconstruction blueprint was ordered by President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year and is expected to span three years.

The PRDP is a broad ranging response to the devastation caused by 20 years of guerrilla war and broadly sets out a reconstruction and redevelopment roadmap that is to be followed by various sectors of government and private partners.

It is intended to provide safe water, revive education, establish security, improve roads, provide emergency relief, fight HIV/AIDS and expand farming with oxen and plough to support food production and incomes across the north.

The security situation in the region has greatly improved following the peace talks between the LRA and the government that began two years ago prompting most of the internal refugees to return to their homes voluntarily.

Despite its lofty goals, many across the north are sceptical of the PRDP, however, in large part because they blame the government for the ills of the region.

This includes not only the war, but also the forced displacement of nearly two million residents who were herded into 200 internal refugee camps, some for more than ten years.

“All the government projects that have been intended to help the poor, ended up in the hands of rich people,” said James Apenyo, 50, a resident of Bol-nyapopiny village in northern Uganda, reflecting the views of many in the region who say they have gained little from current development programmes.

To avoid corruption, many locals interviewed by IWPR suggested that the money be given directly to the people who need the help, rather than funneling it through contractors and government agencies.

Peter Odongo, 40, a resident of Ogowie village, suggested that, at the very least, those handling the fund and overseeing its implementation should work closely with the beneficiaries to ensure that the money is spent properly and that people benefit.

Although the sources of this massive funding effort are still unclear, PRDP money is expected to be channeled through non-governmental organisations, NGOs, and other agencies operating in Uganda.

Some officials are also sceptical of the plan.

Member of parliament for Pader Samuel Odonga Otto says there’s a risk that the development effort may never benefit the people it is intended to help.

“According to my experience, laptop warriors and those who know how to write project proposals are now on standby to eat up the money,” he said, a reference to the international consultants whom some locals believe are overpaid and inefficient.

Otto pointed out that the omens for the PRDP were not good given the problems associated with the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, NUSAF, which is tasked with the reconstruction of the north.

Presdient Museveni recently ordered and extensive investigation into corruption within NUSAF – which has also been plagued by duplication and a complicated bureaucracy –yet this agency would be expanded under the PRDP.

“I see no reason why the government is coming up with this project,” said Otto of the PRDP.

But those backing the PRDP insist it will work.

“The PRDP is a commitment by the government to stabilise and recover the north over the next three years through a set of coherent programmes,” said Prime Minister Apollo Nsimbambi.

The programmes will run in 40 districts in the north and northeast where the LRA insurgency inflicted the most damage, and were due to start officially on the July 1, according to the state minister for northern Uganda rehabilitation, David Wakikona.

Wakikona urged local leaders to ensure that local people see benefits of the projects.

“We are very keen that PRDP and other government reconstruction projects in the north are implemented well,” he said.

“Government and humanitarian agencies have spent trillions of shillings in northern Uganda but the impact is not felt.”

He said the government has created a new body, Northern Uganda Data Centre, NUDAC, to record all the activities taking place in the region to avoid duplication and corruption.

Patrick Okino is an IWPR-trained journalist in Uganda.

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