Arua — The government is holding discussions with the family of former president Idi Amin to acquire large chunks of land for the expansion of Arua airport to international standards.
Officials from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) say discussions have progressed well and they will soon enter an agreement.
Mr Samuel Wonekha, the CAA general manager for regional airports, said he is hopeful that both parties will come to an agreeable position very soon.
"The issue of land in Arua; after we carried out the detailed master plan for the airport, the master plan dictated that some additional land must be acquired to implement the plan and we are actually looking for additional land," said Mr Wonekha.
"Part of this land actually belongs to the former head of state. The family of late president Idi Amin own most of the land around the airport. We are moving on well with the talks and hope to secure this land very soon," he added.
Mr Wonekha said once the land is acquired, they will embark on the construction of the terminals and runways to accommodate different sizes of the planes. CAA wants to upgrade the airfield to Category 4C airport, which has field length of more than 1,800 metres.
The category 4C airport can accommodate a plane of wing length of up to 24 metres. Arua airport currently has length of 1,800m, and officials from the CAA say the master plan demands that more land be availed to make the airport meet the required specifications.
On delays to complete the compensation of those who own land near the airport, Mr Wonekha admitted that some rejected the initial government offer, while others have no letters of administration because the owners of the land died.
"In our report, we indicated that we have effected payment so far up to 98 per cent. For the 11 members, who have not been compensated yet, there are issues that range from the fact that the estates changed because people passed on and they are to secure letters of administration before their proper settlement. We also have people who objected to the value of their properties, which are under review by the government chief valuer and we are getting positive data from those affected and soon we are going to effect their payments," he said.
Mr Wonekha also said government is currently soliciting for $56m (Shs209.2b) for the general upgrading of the airport to meet the regional and international standards. He said the major works have been delayed because government has not secured the required funds.
"Government is still sourcing for financing of about $56m that will enable us to begin on the actual major project of upgrading the airport in Arua. However, the smaller components of the projects are ongoing but the major works will start when we receive the funding," he said.
Arua is the second busiest domestic airport in the country after Entebbe, with a monthly average of 180 air traffic movements. Presently, Eagle Air operates scheduled flights with a 19- seater aircraft. Ad hoc and charter flights are also operated by Mission Aviation Fellowship, United Nations, AIM Air, Samaritan Purse and Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre.