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Politics, Poor Communication Obstruct Okuti International Border Market

Okuti is one of the six border markets identified by the government in 2011 to be upgraded into international border markets under the Common Market for East and Southern African (COMESA) policy to promote regional trade. The others markets are Katuna in Kabale, Elegu in Amuru, Mutukula in Rakai, Malaba in Busia and Bwera in Kasese district.
15 May 2022 13:55

Audio 7

At least 35,000 local business persons are still needed to meet the required 100,000 people for the proposed Okuti International Border Market in Orom East Sub-County Kitgum District.   

Okuti is one of the six border markets identified by the government in 2011 to be upgraded into international border markets under the Common Market for East and Southern African (COMESA) policy to promote regional trade. The others markets are Katuna in Kabale, Elegu in Amuru, Mutukula in Rakai, Malaba in Busia and Bwera in Kasese district. 

In 2014, eighteen clans in Kitgum District offered 100.05 hectares of land at the Uganda-South Sudan border for the construction of an international border market by the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives. The leaders then said the land would be leased to 100,000 local investors for 49 years at 4 million Shillings per person.

In 2016, the business community started applying for plots at the market site. However, six years later, only 65,000 people applied for the plots. Mathew Otoo, the Senior Land Management Officer in Kitgum District Local Government says at a certain time he had to halt the registration of those who wanted the plots because the communication surrounding the market was unclear. 

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Otoo explains that the market was proposed at a time when the tenure of the local government was about to expire, and when a new government came in, the political head saw the project as an initiative of the past government, which he did not want to associate with. 

For that reason, the locals became confused and developed cold feet toward the project, and ask endless questions whenever they are asked to register for plots.

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Otoo says that it is very important to mobilise 100,000 businesspersons to acquire plots at the market to enable the area to acquire a municipality status quickly, boost tourism, create employment opportunities and mechanized agriculture which will result in food security.   

He says despite the foreseen benefits of the proposed market, it is important for the district leaders to come out with clear communication to build the trust of the business community to start registering for plots again. 

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Early last month, residents and leaders in Orom East Sub County where the market will be, expressed concern over the delayed construction of the International Border Market.    

But Otoo believes that once a clear political statement is made, the business community will be aware of the strategy of developing the international border market and why they are being mobilized to apply for plots, as well as the strategy of developing the community neighbouring the market site. 

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Kevin Joyce Atim, the vice-chairperson of Kitgum District acknowledges that starting the market slowed because the locals were not involved from the beginning.

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Atim tasks the production, marketing, and natural resources committee to find out the concerns of the community before they resume the issue.

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She adds that when the district approves the budget for the financial year 2022/2023 this month, another team will go on the ground to find more facts from the community and present them to the council so that the project is not taken as a project of a few individuals. 

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The proposed Okuti international border market is expected to transform development in Northern Uganda and boost trade between East Africa and the Horn of Africa.