Acholi leaders question the contribution of investors in community empowerment

ACHOLI – Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) and Ker Kwaro Acholi (KKA), the Acholi Cultural Institution has questioned the contribution of the several investors in the sub-region on socio-economic empowerment of the community.

This was during last weekend’s Investors Forum organized by Acholi Parliamentary Group held in Vila Kazi in Got Apwoyo sub-county in Nwoya district.

Tony Awany, the APG Secretary for Lands and Investments says, despite the influx of several investors setting up farms and factories in the sub-region, the community has remained poor.

Awany faults some of the investors including Bukona factory which is located in Nwoya East for rallying farmers in larger numbers to plant cassava promising ready market yet they did not buy even a kilo of cassava.

“About three years ago, thousands of farmers were rallied to plant cassava because there was a ready market. But when the cassava got ready, not even a kilo of cassava was bought by Bukona which rallied people to plant cassava,” Awany notes.

According to Awany, several community members, especially those who stay around the factories, have been reduced to casual laborers who are mistreated and in some cases, not even paid their due allowances.

“We have heard cases of investors failing to pay their workers for several months and yet while lobbying for funds from the government; they claim they want to empower the community around them. One wonders whether this is an empowerment or adding more salt to their injuries,” Awany said.

Paska Achiro Menya, the Pader district Woman MP says, despite the government of Uganda through NAADs and the Uganda Development Cooperation (UDC). having supported the investors to set up their investments, the socio-economic status of the communities in the region who are used to lobby for funds from the government has remained miserably low.

In some factories, the owners recruit casual workers from other parts of the country and in some cases import workers from other countries other than training the community members to have the required skills and then employ them, said Achiro.

Anthony Akol, the Kilak North Member of Parliament who also doubles as the Chairperson Acholi Parliamentary Group says, as leaders, they have resolved that if any investor is not ready to employ community members in the Sub Region, they will not be allowed to operate in the sub-region.

According to Akol, as leaders, they want the investors to prioritize local content while employing workers and establishing various corporate social responsibilities.

“What we want is that for any investor operating or who wants to operate in Acholi sub-region, they must ensure that they have local content as far as their employment is concerned. They should also design some corporate social responsibility activities which cause real time impact not just games per say like some companies have been doing,” Akol noted.

Mohamoud Abdi Mohamed, the Director of Agriculture from Atiak Sugar speaking during the forum says that most of the people around their factory are lazy and often opt out of the jobs even when given opportunity.

According to Mohamoud, depending on various factors, there’s generally low skills level from the community which has forced them to in some cases import workers from other countries. He says that in 2016, they imported 600 welders from India because they could not access highly skilled people in the local market.

Julian Omala Adyeri, the Director of Delight says, in some cases they are constrained by finances which make them struggle to reach the communities.

According to Omala, for Delight, they have distributed Ipads, seedlings among others to more than 3000 farmers in Nwoya district.

Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister, Ker Kwaro Acholi, says that in most cases, the cultural institution is left out by the investors which is why in some areas; people have continued to languish in abject poverty.

Olaa says that as the cultural institution, they have a clear demand from any investor who intends to establish an investment in the sub Region that seeks to ensure that the livelihoods of the community members in the areas are elevated.

Recently, a study conducted by Uganda Bureau of Statistics put the poverty level in Acholi sub-region at 68%.

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