Proposed Anai Airfield construction, mere talks or pledge?

With National Resistance Movement (NRM) government saying she’s fully committed to reviving air transport, upgrading and reviving other regional airfields across the country to boost domestic flights might take longer.

There are more than 10 renowned airfields countrywide, and some are being upgraded to resume business.

TND News understands that some of these regional airfields, like Arua has been tendered to Survey Consult to carryout extra land acquisition.

In the NRM Manifesto 2016-2021, President Museveni Yoweri had directed and pledged Ugandans his government would bring back Uganda Airlines, and develop and upgrade other airfields.

Ministry of Works and Transport that is directly responsible for this task, in its Manifesto Commitments under Air Transport, highlighted upgrade of Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Kasese, and Soroti airfields, leaving out Lira airfield or what has been done so far to relocate it to 15 acres of land in Anai village, Lira sub-county in Lira district.

Lira airfield, located about 1km from Lira town in the East, has had controversies after part of the land it sits on was “fraudulently sold” by municipality and district leaders.

The debate (controversy) follows the relocation of timber traders from central business district (Baala road) and other areas to the airfield land, where later big buildings, among them warehouses were built, and setting up of new factories near it.

However, way back in 2005, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reportedly said Lira airfield was unsafe for landings of aircraft. However, to date, it has never been abandoned with presidential helicopter and other aircraft still risking and landing.

Investors (companies) like Mukwano Group of Companies (AK Oils & Fats), Mount Meru, among others have established huge (tall) buildings, somewhat few meters from the runways.

After CAA recommendation then, Lira authorities allocated 15 acres of land in Anai village for the relocation and construction of a contemporary airfield.

Responding to TND News question why Lira airfield or Anai airfield isn’t captured in the NRM manifesto, Mr. Wonekha Samuel – General Manager Regional Aviation says Lira airfield has a lot of safety consideration, adding that a consulting firm was hired to study proposed lands in Anai.

CAA’s Wonekha Samuel (holding microphone) responds to TND News questions on Thursday.

Mr. Wonekha added that investigations into how part of Lira airfield was sold by some district leaders, reducing the runways to just 1,200 meters in length is before the Inspectorate of Government (IGG).

The CAA spokesperson, Mr. Vianney Luggya, in his text (SMS) response to this contemporary online newspaper, said: “Spot Surveyors and Engineering Consultants was hired to undertake the Lira Anai Cadastral Survey, Topographical and Geotechnical Surveys.”

He could not reveal outcomes of the surveys and if, CAA and government remain committed.

Speaking on Friday to TND News, Mr. Baguma Brian – the above hired consulting firm Director, says their surveys was handed over to CAA for interpretation.

“It’s CAA to determine if the terrains, and other factor grants relocation of the airfield,” he added.

Engineer Monica Azuba Ntege – Uganda’s Works and Transport Minister, who presented “Progress and Challenges in the Implementation of Sector Commitments in NRM Manifesto, 2016-2021”, in Kampala on Thursday, responded to concerns raised on air transport that plans are in place to introduce domestic flights across the country.

The Minister, however says domestic flights isn’t the current priority.

“But it’s not time to invest in small aircraft when regional flight is yet to commence,” she added.

The Anai land, gazetted by former President Milton Apollo Obote’s government for modern airfield, now hosts hundreds of locals who have vowed never to quit unless they are duly compensated.

Years ago, Lira district LC5 chairperson, Alex Patrick Oremo Alot asked squatters to leave the land for development, a request no single household honoured.

In a nutshell, Anai airfield story, is very equals to proposed Akii Bua Olympic stadium story

Breakdown in performances (in %).

Inland (water) transport – 50

Rails – 40

AirAir – 80

Roads 70%

Source: Ministry of Works & Transport

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