Silencing the hullabaloo about new cities – optimizing opportunities

Lira City main street from Soroti road. File photo.

By Otim Daniel

Agago—14, September 2020. About a year ago, a hit song titled ‘Yoo leng’ rocked the airwaves in Northern Uganda. The phrase ‘yoo leng’ in Acholi literally means “the path is clear”.

The Author

The gospel inspirational song that spoke to about faith, hope, and love became a party anthem among the Northern Uganda people. The influence of the song didn’t just stop at that; it turned into a theme song for every ambitious person or group that desired to achieve progress.

The yoo-leng hit reached its zenith during the 2019 FUFA-Drum Football competitions. The FUFA-Drum is one of Uganda’s football championships where the sixteen provinces namely  —  Acholi, Ankole, Buganda, Bugisu, Bukedi, Bunyoro, Busoga, Elgon, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Rwenzori, Sebei, Teso, Toro, and West Nile  —  front their football teams to compete for the trophy, cash prizes, and bragging rights.

The Yoo leng became a rallying cry as soon as the region received the news from the government of Uganda that some of their prominent towns had been awarded city statuses. This pronouncement brought a lot of celebrations to the people.

These excitements made me recalled my journey to the capital city — Kampala —   from my small village of Lukwa in Patongo in the then Pader district, now Agago district, way back in 1995.

To me, it was my own version of ‘the great trek’ because it tested my indefatigability and equanimity. Stepping foot in Kampala, the then only city in Uganda was a big accomplishment for me, and it played a big role in shaping me into who I am today.

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The World Bank published an article about getting Uganda’s cities to work better. The authors emphasized the need for achieving efficient, inclusive, and sustainable growth.

To scholars and town planners, these elements are prerequisite to proper planning for a metropolitan environment. When we look at the newly elevated cities in Northern Uganda, these key aspects seem unattended to.

The World Bank publication coincided with the release of Uganda Economic Update, which had projected that the economy was expected to grow at 6 percent by the year 2020. This, it was hoped, would piggy-back on high investments in energy transmission, road construction, industrial parks, local production infrastructure, and services.

When we shine a bright light on Lira, Gulu, and Arua Cities, being regional commercial hubs serving the greater Northern Uganda, Eastern Congo, and South Sudan, some tentative steps were taken by the government of Uganda including the construction of the city markets and the tarmacking of selected roads within these cities.

These have changed the face of the then just ‘ordinary’ upcountry towns to towns with beautifully lit streets and organized town markets. The markets will not only play a key role in boosting local revenue collection but also improve the aesthetic aspects of these cities with their iconic architecture.

To new city dwellers, these new cities present new opportunities to be harnessed; new city administration jobs, tenders to the new administrative structures, and many new leadership positions to be filled.

It is pleasant to notice the way youths have risen to take up political leadership positions in the most recent elections, something that was left for older persons in the past. This is the way to go. Let us embrace the new cities because of business the opportunities they render; job creation and rejuvenated leadership.

I believe that yoo leng anthem is for Northern Uganda and Uganda as a whole.

The writer who hails from Lukwa village, Patongo sub-county in Agago district, is an occasional writer, Statistician, M&E expert & businessman.

Facebook: Won Lutino, Twitter: @Won_Ogen

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