When we woke up the next morning, I was all over the town trying to get to terms with this stuck contrast in my head.
I took a boda from camp Swahili to the MTN centre to make my first transaction. The MtN group has carried the Automatic Customer car machines here speaking English and Swahili, the same we see at Forex Mall and Nyonyi Gardens.
I then hit the streets, and this is where there is a feeling of Karamoja finally; Residents with mud-filled tyre sandals ambush you from nowhere, flash palms to ask for money, while others walk aimlessly from one side to another.
A few chaps are sweeping the roads, then one of them walks a few steps front, empties his nose of all mucus by blowing it in his hands, throws the contents there in my pathway. Then cleans the hands on his legs and trouser. This is normal here, as I get to see time and again with other people on my walk to Naitakwai, which is about 3kms from Moroto CBD.
Shanty houses are stuck on the very nice roads, and their owners are simply standing outside shirtless, while kids chase each other in very dirty over size NGO/ company branded shirts. Midway way my journey, a man is walking donkeys in the middle of the road, while another is coming from the opposite direction chasing after about five goats. It is full traffic on this well tarmacked road.
The place is busy, mostly with both old and young people seated by the roadsides, chasing flies off their bodies while others simply admire the weather while lapping their hands. It is very clear here that people need to be engaged to make their own money, well that is why the President is here anyway.
The president when he arrives starts a historic lecture, saying that the last time he was in Moroto, the population was about 20,000 people.
“I came for a rally and we had about 20 people,” he said.
Notwithstanding, the area has gradually made infrastructural progress. A few touches here and there and Karimojongs will be producing their own sayings about another region and mocking its development.
People here were disturbed by cattle wrestling, coupled with armed highway robberies by Karimojong worriers, but here we were traveling on the same roads at 2:00am, with no incident.
Women here were marrying over nine (9) times because partners would be taken out during cattle rustling, it is not the case.
There was no single secondary school in the area, an primary schools were not more than 7 until recently. Now we have over 300 primary schools in Karamoja and at least 25 secondary schools.
It took at least 12 hours for anyone to travel from Kampala to Moroto, now with the road well made, you can say bye bye in Kampala at 6:00am and you will be trying on tyre sandals in Moroto by midday.
The biggest problem in the area was water, the days I was there, President Museveni launched a national water project to supply water to the entire Moroto Municipality. He also promised 20 dams to help solve the problem of water scarcity.
The Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda was with us here, and had not pitch for miss curvy in Moroto, so he said government will put efforts in promoting the region as a tourism centre, with further investments on roads leading to game parks like Kidepo.
Tourism in the area will boost earnings here. Plus, Museveni pledged to invest in services sector here; Salons, boda boda, artisans, restaurants, taxi operators etc. These will be able to create their own wealth.
He also promised to introduce diary farming and attract investors to build huge factories that would employ a litany of idle Karimojong.
So we can say that if Karimojong start making their own money, there is no doubt they will be on the right path and We indeed shall wait for them to develop, because it is now very visibly possible, unlike before.
All that is needed is to generate personal wealth, then change their lifestyle by quitting the Manyatta mentality. Otherwise infrastructure-wise, they are on the right track.
The writer is a private contributor to Nile Post