Lawmakers from Lango sub-region have protested the decision by government to abandon the construction and lining up of the Aki-Bua Stadium in Lira City as one of the facilities to host matches during the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2027.
The MPs says they are in disagreement with the reason given by the government that AFCON2027 matches cannot be staged in the areas because there no roads and airports to meet the standards set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The Aki-Bua Stadium has been an unfulfilled pledge by the government after plans to construct it to a modern facility were announced in 2010.
Addressing journalists at Parliament, the MPs led by the Lango Parliamentary Group Chairperson, Judith Alyek lashed at Sports State Minister Peter Ogwang for announcing that Aki-Bua Stadium had been struck off the list due to lack of funds and requisite infrastructure required CAF.
“The reasons being given for lack of an airport and good roads are unjustifiable since construction of roads are a function of government which it failed to fulfill in Lango Sub-region despite several calls to do so over the years.
“Even then, the remaining 3years are sufficient to have this requirement. Lango Parliamentary Group distances itself from the proposal to construct Aki-Bua stadium in a phased manner since previous efforts to carry out the construction failed to take off and the sub-region got a raw deal,” said Alyek.
Alyek who is also the Kole District woman MP, called for an urgent meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and the leaders from the region in order to address sentiments brewing within the region where the people are claiming to have been marginalised from the rest of the country.
“Lango sub-region has been further marginalized and sidelined in the development of this country, unfairly excluded from hosting AFCON 2027 and from reaping benefits of infrastructure development, social transformation and economic growth. Lango Parliamentary Group demands that the plan to construct to host AFCON be maintained and implemented within the time lines with the CAF bid. Lango Parliamentary Group demands an urgent meeting with the President on the shocking, exclusion of Aki Bua Stadium,” added Alyek.
In September, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania were announced as winners of the hosting rights for AFCON2027 under the Pamoja East African bid. As a requirement, the Bid had to carry a list of stadia paraded by each of the co-hosting country.
Budiope East MP Moses Magogo, who is also the president of the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA), told Parliament on October 3, 2023 that although in the Pamoja bid, they were competing with nations rich with sporting facilities, there were strong points that evoked the CAF decision.
Magogo said that the three nations promised to have three international standard stadia each and presented the eight international Airports in the area that will ease transport.
He added that as much as CAF wanted two stadiums in each country, the promise of having three each is that if one of the host nations fails to meet the standards, the remaining two can still guarantee the required six facilities for the tournament.
At the time of debating the motion to pay tribute to the successful East Africa Pamoja Bid, the Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni in a statement read by Junior Minister of Sports, Peter Ogwang reiterated government’s commitment to CAF regarding the facilities.
“Uganda made a commitment to CAF to undertake and ensure the construction of two additional stadia to host the Afcon; Akii Bua stadium (Lira) and Buhinga stadium (Fort Portal) or Hoima City stadium in Hoima” the statement read in part.
Sources close to the bid revealed in early October that on top of the promise to build two new stadia, the government of Uganda had also submitted Nakivuvo war Memorial stadium whose redevelopment has been completed by business tycoon Hamis Kigundu and the Denver Godwin Stadium in Garuga near Entebbe that is being constructed by private persons.
Still at the press conference on Wednesday, Kole North MP, Samuel Opio described the latest position as breach of contract against the 2.5million people of Lango sub-region and questioned Uganda’s preparedness to host AFCON if the Government has abandoned construction of Aki-Bua stadium because it has no funds for such an investment.
“Government has claimed that they don’t have funds to construct, but in the bid they submitted, they said that they will secure all the funds that are required to construct the stadia, develop the infrastructure and to ensure the successful deliver of the AFCON games.
If Government is saying they don’t have the money, then they have breached the commitment that they made to CAF and we begin to ask ourselves if we are really serious about hosting AFCON in 2027,” said Opio.
Opio also castigated the Government for using Aki-Bua stadium as a ploy to win the AFCON bid, but later abandoned the project after securing their interests, wondering why Mandela National Stadium was constructed and named after the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, but Government can’t do a similar honourable thing for John Aki-Bua who was the first Ugandan to win a gold medal in olympics.
“This is a breach of contract, a contract whereby Aki-Bua stadium was used as a ladder to rise to AFCON 2027 to win the AFCON bid at CAF and after that bid has been won, that ladder has been kicked off and thrown at our faces.
This isn’t just a political matter, this is a matter of development an issue of economic growth and social development for the people of Lango, so we are disgruntled as the people of Lango about this breach of the contract,” he said.
Opio added, “We have been sidelined, marginalised and put aside, we begin to ask ourselves whether Lango people are valuable. We have seen a stadium constructed and named Mandela National Stadium, to remember foreign heroes, but we are failing to see stadia being constructed to remember our local heroes.
Aki-Bua was the first Uganda gold medallist in the Olympics, it is now 50years, we have remembered others who came after him, but we have failed to remember him, what remains is just a miserable shed that is being called Aki-Bua stadia,”
Speaker Anita Among during her communication at the start of the Wednesday afternoon plenary sitting warned the Lango Parliamentary group against plunging Uganda into negative public relations in relation to preparations for AFCON.
She insisted that the bid document in her custody does not necessarily name Aki-Bua stadium as one of the facilities submitted to CAF for hosting the AFCON2027 matches.
Among, informed the House that her reaction was primed on a press conference held by the legislators and social media posts including printed t-shirts inscribed on the words; “No Aki-Bua, no vote”
“I want us to distinguish between presidential pledges and what was put in the AFCON bid. The AFCON bid had requirements that had to be fulfilled and the presidential pledges also have to be fulfilled, there is Aki-Bua and Buhinga stadium which must be fulfilled. Let us not antagonize our AFCON bid, this is an international thing, let us not localize it,” said Among.
The Speaker reechoed the requirements for the bid to succeed to include among others, the nearness to an international Airport something to put Hoima stadium construction into the frame because of the near completion Kabalega International Airport and then Kampala metropolitan area which is close to Entebbe International Airport.
Alex Ruhunda, MP Fortportal City Central Division who has been on the case for fulfilment of the Presidential pledge on construction of Buhinga stadium, said that the AFCON2027 hosting rights for Uganda should come as a blessing for other parts of the country to have stadia that will help develop sporting talents.
“Madam Speaker, you mentioned something very interesting in your opening remarks and this is about children going back from schools. The issue of sports facilities that will occupy or children and give them talent is really important. After learning of the conditions of AFCON, government can commit resources to build additional stadia in other parts of the country,” he stated.
Information, ICT and National Guidance Minister, Dr Chris Baryomunsi informed Parliament that after winning the AFCON2027 bid, Cabinet has drawn a plan to build stadia across the country in a phased manner beginning with regions before cascading down to district level facilities.