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

Museveni Development Plan Raises Hopes and Fears

Politicians concerned corruption could threaten president’s multi-million dollar regeneration programme for war-ravaged north.
By Samuel Okiror
Northern Ugandans have broadly welcomed the official launch last week of President Yoweri Museveni’s comprehensive Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, PRDP, for the war-torn region of northern Uganda, but many say that implementing it will be tough.

Politicians interviewed by IWPR were unanimous in their support of the president’s three-year programme aimed at kick-starting the recovery process in the area devastated by the 21-year insurgency of rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, and now hit by some of the worst flooding in decades.

However, concern remains that the much-needed cash boost for the region could be misappropriated - which has happened in past projects.

At the announcement in Kampala on October 15, Museveni outlined the 606 million US dollar programme aimed at developing the region and consolidating stability that has come about as a result of sporadic peace talks between the LRA and the government in the South Sudan capital of Juba.

“The plan is a commitment by the government to stabilise and recover the north. This programme aims at creating stability, building security, access to roads, providing water, reviving education and improving health provision in northern Uganda,” said Museveni.

IWPR has seen a copy of the programme, which also includes steps to eliminate the threat to the region from the LRA.

In July 2005, the ICC issued arrest warrants against LRA leader Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti and top commanders Dominic Ongwen, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukiwiya for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Lukwiya has since been killed in battle in Kitgum, northern Uganda.

But while many in the region applaud the plan, past experience has led to concerns that it could be marred by corruption, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.

“The plan is good. We hope the funds meant for the recovery of the region will not be embezzled and misappropriated by those in government, [as has happened in] previous projects,” said Norbert Mao, chairperson of Gulu District Council.

Leader of the Uganda opposition Professor Morris Ogenga Latigo also described the plan as good for the recovery of northern Uganda, and like Mao, he expressed hope that the cash would not be squandered.

However, he thought it unlikely that the plan would be achieved within the three-year deadline set by Museveni.

“[Although] the idea of the plan is a very good framework for the recovery of the region, the 606 project is too big and cannot be implemented [by the deadline].”

Gulu Resident District Commissioner Walter Ochora told IWPR that measures were being taken to ensure that project funds would be spent as intended.

“We are going to set up a committee to audit and oversee the programme. Those found to be involved in mismanagement, misappropriation and embezzlement will be arrested and prosecuted in courts of law,” he said.

Ochora said lessons learned from past failures would ensure the success of the plan - which is essential for the recovery and redevelopment of the region that has lagged behind as a result of two decades of rebellion.

“We are going to gather lessons from the previous government programmes in the region to ensure PRDP is going to be a successful story. As government, we are going to put strong measures in place to safeguard the implementation of the plan.”

Samuel Okiror Egadu is an IWPR journalist in Uganda.