Kampala — As Uganda celebrates 50 years of Independence, the Karamoja region also has reason to celebrate as government recently approved the construction the region's first tarmac road.
Construction of the 93.3km Moroto - Nakapiripirit highway is expected to commence in the next three months and will be a welcome relief to businessmen who have been spending days on the road as a result of the impassable roads.
Located in North Eastern Uganda, Karamoja is home to the Kidepo Valley National Park that is known to be the only place where tourists have the chance to see lions feeding.
According to Eng. Abraham Byandala, the Minister of Works and Transport the project will cost Ush184b ($7.7m) and will take a duration of 36 months and will trigger the development of other social infrastructure like hotels and lodges.
Hon. Ayepa Michael, the Member of Parliament for Labwor County in Abim District says that much as government had finally come true on their promise 16 years later, there were about five gateways into the Karamoja region and all of them are in the worst condition.
"Moroto is not the whole of Karamoja, you have Kaabong which is very strategic because of the Kidepo Valley. The miners and World Food Program (WFP) trucks are destroying these roads. How will drugs reach the people when the roads are not passable? We have to go through Kenya so as to access karamoja," he said.
Dr. Lokii John Baptist, the MP for Matheniko County in Moroto District said that government needs to fast track the tarmacking of the roads in Karamoja if the country is to fully harness the tourism potential in the region.
"Kidepo is a gold mine for Uganda's tourism. As I talk now, there's a truck full of tourists enroute to Kidepo that has been stuck for four days. What message are we sending out there?" he wondered.
Hon. Samuel Lokeris, the Chairman of the Karamoja Parliamentary Group says that the region has a lot of potential and yet the issue of infrastructure has hampered its development.
"Karamoja is now ready for investment and service delivery. We have pacified and disarmed and so service providers shouldn't be scared," he said.
The appointment of the first lady Ms. Janet Museveni as the Minister for Karamoja Affairs gave the legislators a lot of hope that development would soon follow, but the road network has of late become a hindrance as a result of the floods that have made the roads impassable.