No markets, No schools, No movement!
During rainy seasons, the world around one in Apac town creates a feeling that one is living in an Island with streams of water running across all roads. Other places get flooded to the extent that it is impossible for people to cross over without being soaked. Only four wheel drive vehicles can pass through while small cars need to park and the people cross over on foot.
This is a great challenge to people traveling within Apac to Kole or Oyam districts. Road users are left with three options namely; passing through the water, paying three hundred shillings (one route) to be pushed in a small boat (which has been hired to help pedestrians) and carries three to four persons or pay five hundred shillings to be carried across by some strong youths. Those with motorcycles or bicycles have to carry them while crossing.
The Gender question
The women, for instance for fear of being carried by men have to cross through the water and get wet or others raise up their clothes if they do not want them to get wet. This becomes another issue of discussion by men that the women are provoking them.
Effect on school children
School children are being carried to cross the water while those without money have to cross through it and some of them have their books soaked up. For fear of children drowning, some parents have resorted to keep their children at home thereby making them miss lessons which could easily affect their performances. However, to some children, this is a blessing as they resort to swimming either when they are from school or others do that at the expense of going to school. This has further affected the time these pupils have arrived to school.
Markets days are no more
Apac district has a big market that takes place twice every month (Arocha Market) just a few meters from the ‘lake’ caused by rain. This market brings together traders from Apac, Oyam, Kole, Lira, Gulu and other districts bordering it. This market has high turn up as it brings people from almost all villages within Apac district so as to come to buy and sell goods at reduced costs especially now that the communities have harvested beans, simsim, maize, groundnuts and others.
However, during the previous Monday (17th October 2011), there were hardly people in the market. Many people feared to cross the water while those dealing in perishables made losses. This greatly affected seller’s income for the day.
To worsen the situation, during mobilization for the SPIDER project in one sub-county, WOUGNET staffs asked the officials where they reside and their response was that they all stay in Apac Town and commute every morning. When asked about how they cross the water, the Sub-County Chief said that they fold their trousers and pass through it though they often hide their faces for fear of being captured in the media. I think you can get the picture of what is happening in Apac.
The communities of Apac had been silent on the matter for some time but now that a lot of businesses have been brought to a stand still as trucks carrying merchandize are getting stuck in the water and other business people are planning to strike. The communities are also now raising their voices on the bad status of the district and central government roads.
The issue of the bad roads has been hotly debated on the community radio, 92.9 Radio Apac FM as the Mayor of Apac Town Council and his team have threatened to block the road if no action is taken. The question that this poses is where are the voices of the marginalized if even the leaders do not take the action?
Monitoring service provision using ICTs
In September this year, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) started an initiative – the SPIDER project on enhancing the local people and communities to monitor districts service delivery through the use of ICTs in Northern Uganda districts of Apac, Kole, Oyam, Gulu and Amuru.” This project involves local communities in monitoring quality of services provided by the local governance.” In the past it would have been difficult to let people outside the Apac community know the state of the roads and how it affects people’s daily activities, their livelihoods and even children’s performance in school.” We hope that this project will help communities have great impacts through promoting good governance by enhancing accountability and promoting community participation in decision making on matters that directly affect them especially when it comes to the quality of services provided. The communities will be empowered with skills and tools that enable them speak out and cease to accept poor public services offered to them since they will be aware that it is their right and not a favor being offered to them by duty bearers. Therefore, let us all ‘ play our parts‘.
Brenda A. Otika
WOUGNET Rural Projects Manager
Kubere Information Centre (KIC), Apac