BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU
ARUA: Thursday, March 25, 2021
Cities Alliance, the global partnership fighting urban poverty, has launched a forum to promote dialogue and networking for the urban managers of seven secondary cities in the east and horn of Africa.
The inclusive urban development and mobility network was launched during a two-day dialogue at the Rosevila Hotel in Arua city that ended on Wednesday.
The participating cities are Arua and Koboko in Uganda, Kakuma in Kenya, Oodweyn and Jidhi in Somaliland and Assosa and Jigjiga in Ethiopia.
That was the first of five planned dialogues that would promote networking and provide a forum for the mayors and their technocrats to come together to share innovations, experiences and best practices of management.
Samuel Mabala, the Uganda country urban adviser for the Cities Alliance underscored the significance of the regional network saying that it would empower the urban managers to rise to the growing challenge of migrants which most East African governments do not recognize.
In Uganda only urban refugees in Kampala are recognized while those in the upcountry urban centres are ignored.
“They increase the population and stretch socio-economic services. You find that in schools enrolment has increased, while in health centres there is congestion in the maternity words,” he underlined.
One of the activities lined up under the regional mechanism is the formation of city or municipal development forums that would bring together the urban managers, the refugees and the host communities to discuss development needs and local initiatives to realize them.
This is thought to be useful to facilitate the process of visioning and planning for organized development of the urban centres.
A community uplifting fund would be rolled out to ensure provision of common infrastructure such as classrooms, health, and water and sanitation facilities.
The alliance with European Union monetary support through the European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) has envisaged a livelihood programme that would ensure skilling of migrants and the native population so as to promote self sufficiency and relieve pressure on public utilities.
Unlike the other six cities, Arua already has the development forum and many of the programmes running under pilot schemes and therefore would be a centre for learning, officials said.
But the interim mayor Al-hajj Isa Kato painted a grim picture of the council’s struggles with urban refugees and migrants many of whom are from the volatile South Sudan and fragile Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Urban refugees and migrants has been the biggest challenge ever since I became the mayor. The reason is that planning begins from the villages or cells with community needs assessment that then informs the budget,” he said.
He elaborated that since the government has not recognized the existence of refugees among the urban population, council budgeted for the about 62,000 residents within the 10 square kilometer of the municipality prior to its expansion into a city.
“This constrained our capacity to collect garbage, maintain street lights, clean the roads, provide clean water- generally service delivery,” Kato explained.
With the intervention of the Cities Alliance and the accompanying EU pecuniary muscle, however, the council has embarked on a census of urban migrants under the stewardship of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and Kitgum based nongovernmental organization AFSI under a programme known as the reception management and integration of migrants.
The idea is to establish the exact population of the migrants, identify their livelihood conditions and access to social services, AFSI’s senior programme adviser Innocent Bidong said.
He said the data would enable the council to plan and lobby the central government for more resources to improve social services.
A capacity building component to help the council staff to manage migrants, mobilize local resources and implement sustainable livelihood models is also underway.
While Koboko municipality is powering ahead with 2.8m Euros (about sh11bn) comprehensive refugee response, a programme supported by EU and the Italian development agency, ACAV, which has injected additional sh4bn to the course.
Patrick Bongo, ACAV’s head of programmes said they are constructing classroom blocks in ten government aided primary schools, four secondary schools and one tertiary institution.
A new health centre III would be build, a mental health unit at Koboko district hospital as well as a trauma and counseling centre, eight VIP latrines at the main market, the taxi park and five satellite markets that are to be constructed during the project’s 30 months period.