From a battle field to Atiak Sugar factory

By David Muwanga

AMURU, UGANDA: Atiak sub-county in Kilaka County, 85km from Gulu city on Gulu-Nimule road is remembered by its history of the former rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Atiak massacre occurred on April 20, 1995, when a group of estimated 300 Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers led by Vincent Otti entered the northern Ugandan town of Atiak, Amuru District. After routing the UPDF and rounding up hundreds of civilians, the LRA announced, “you Acholi have refused to support us. We shall now teach you a lesson.” The LRA then handpicked young boys and young girls from the rest, in order to conscript into their ranks and to use as sex slaves, and marched them into the bush. Most of the remaining 200–300 captives were executed by gunfire.

However according to the Chief Executive Officer of Atiak Sugar Factory Amina Hershi Moghe the former battle field is now a green field of which they have developed a theme for the project called “The former battle field turned into a Green Field”. The green filed is currently comprised of 30 acres of sugar cane, supporting 15,000 households and created jobs for 2000 people in the area,” she told the people who attended the commissioning of the multi billion sugar factory at the factory premise in Atiak.

The colourful ceremony held on the evening of October 22nd, 2020 was attended by both Uganda and Somali top government officials who included Somali’s First Lady Saynab Abdi Moallim. It was also attended by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) Board Member Godfrey   Byamugisha Kereere, Acting Director General of the UIA Mr. Lawrence Byensi, the Deputy Directors of Business Development Peter Muramira, of SME Division Winnie Lawoko-Olwe and Senior Investment Executive Business Development Prossie Kikabi.

L-R Ms Prossie Kikabi, Mr Peter Muramira and Ms Winnie Lawoko-Olwe at Atiak

President Yowei Museveni who commissioned the factory said that the subject of economics points out four factors of production to create wealth.

“If you wanted to create wealth, you needed labour, Land that includes natural resources, capital and of recent they have added knowledge, but if you have all these without entrepreneurship, then you cannot create wealth,” he said.

L- Mr. Lawrence Byensi, Mr. Godfrey Byamugisha Kereere and Dr. Julian Adyeeri at the function.

“Uganda as a developing country is still lacking three elements; capital and knowledge but also we still entrepreneurship skills to develop further. My people in Uganda, if you want Uganda to develop, you must have these factors. Ensure that the natural resources – land, minerals, forests, rivers among others – are exploited,” he said. We need people who have spectacles that see far and this is what Amina Hershi has done. Government also provided part of the capital and this project and this project is to increase Uganda’s capacity in sugar production,”. In addition the neighboring villages are to benefit from a large market, schools, hospitals, clinics which will be constructed as a result while the project is also to diversify into manufacturing Ethanol and electricity,”. He cautioned against claims that foreign investment projects belong to foreigners. “Investments in Uganda belong to Ugandans because they are the prime beneficiaries through job opportunities and taxes that are used for national growth,”.

Before he commissioned the factory, the President was taken on guided tour of the factory covering 15.1 km across the sugarcane plantation to the banks of River Aswa, where a bridge will be built on the river to ease transportation of sugarcane to the factory from across the neighboring districts.

It was established after a feasibility study, that sugarcane can grow in the area, way back in 2016 under the initiative of Amina Morghe Hersi, a Somali entrepreneur, who together invested in it with Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) that possesses 40% of total investment.

In May 2018, the government of Uganda, through Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), took a 40.1% ownership in Atiak Sugar Factory, for an investment of Ushs20 billion (approximately US$5.5m).

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, referred to President Museveni as a great hunter whose idea has taken shape successfully.

“Mr. President, it is due to your foresight, you had a vision, knowing what works and what does not work. This is a success of an idea that has taken shape and transformed the area,” he said.

Trade State minister Michael Werikhe Kafabusa said they are committed to work with Atiak Sugar Factory and the UDC management to ensure economic transformation.

Amina Hershi, the proprietor, said, “This is a clear testimony that we want our people to get rich through economic transformation of Africa,”.

“The war times in the minds of the people in the area will be put in the archives and the children will only be told stories. Over 5,000 women are today beneficiaries of the factory by affirmative action.  A wealthy woman is a wealthy society and a wealthy nation,” she said.

She hailed President Museveni for his support to the project, saying that his dream has been achieved.