Leaders from Acholi want the focus of government aid given to the sub-region to change to training them on how they can sustain themselves instead of being 'beggars'.
District leaders from the north recently told journalists at the International Alert offices in Kampala that the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme (PRDP) had achieved a lot. Now the region has most of the infrastructure it needs, but the unfortunate truth is that they are lying idle.
Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu district chairperson, said while 99 percent of the internally displaced persons (IDP) had returned home, a lot more attention needed to be put on the aspect of household income generation, reconciliation and peace-building, and psychosocial relief.
Many people, Mapenduzi said, were still traumatised by what they went through during the war.
"Most people have resorted to alcohol and violence because they lost the meaning of life," he said.
He argued that districts should be allowed to recruit more staff to make use of the available infrastructure. It should be the focus for PRDP III, Mapenduzi said.
"Schools and health centres - yes we have, but there are no teachers or nurses to run these facilities. They are idle," Mapenduzi said.
"During the war, most staff left and after the war, many did not come back because the place was very unattractive," Mapenduzi said.
Mapenduzi and other district leaders from Amuru, Lamwo, Kitgum, and Nwoya, among other districts, were in Kampala to discuss where and what PRDP III should focus on. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), published in the press last week, said PRDP II focused on education health, roads, and water.
Consequently, more than 2,800 classrooms were constructed in northern Uganda in the last three years. At least 250 classrooms were rehabilitated while latrines, and health and water facilities were constructed.
But the Acholi leaders say there is need to go beyond physical infrastructure. And OPM agrees.
"[While] access to water registered a steady increase in Bukedi, Karamoja, Acholi sub-region has surpassed the set target of 77 per cent, there is need for additional interventions to cater for former IDPs that have returned to their homes," said the OPM statement.
Next year, PRDP II programme will expire with the possibility of extending it to project III. A lot has changed in the former war-shattered region, but much more needs to be done. The area still ranks feebly in all life indicators - HIV/Aids prevalence, maternal and child mortality rates, and school dropouts.
District leaders recommended that the project's span, if granted, should be increased to five years instead of the usual three years.