By David Martin Aliker
It is a week since Uganda hosted its 6th annual East African Secondary School Games 2017 in Gulu.
The games that were officially launched at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala were graced by the State Minister for Sports, Charles Bakkabulindi.
Brookside Dairy Limited continued their commitment to the games injecting in Shs1.2 billion to cater for this year’s meet that ran from August 16 – 27 at St. Joseph’s Layibi College, Sacred Heart Secondary School, Kaunda Grounds and Pece War Memorial Stadium.
On the final day of the games, a young man discussing the success of the local fundraising efforts to renovate Pece War Memorial Stadium at Mukungu Caro bar said, “If government is to host the Olympic Disability Games in Pece Stadium, it should ask for their permission.”
I find this a great statement of new sense of ownership of Pece War Memorial Stadium.
Before Gulu Municipality won the bid to host the games in March this year, there were great doubts whether Gulu could competently host the games.
Pece War Memorial Stadium had to be renovated and Layibi College was to build an Olympic size swimming pool for the games.
It was estimated that Gulu required close to a billion shillings to competently host the games.
And government had reluctantly failed to release funds in time to prepare for the games.
So why is this statement from a young man at Mukungu Caro bar important? How did Gulu leaders get to renovate Pece War Memorial Stadium and erect an Olympic size swimming pool?
Realizing that government is reluctant to invest in this games, and aware that government processes could fail the district’s biggest post conflict test in reshaping its peaceful image to the world; Gulu leaders turned to a robust grassroots focused fundraising approach.
Gulu leaders instituted a local media campaign on radios and rallies asking locals to donate as little as Shs500(less than a dollar) to a savings box or donate their labour and expertise.
Layibi College Alumni mobilized former students to donate a bag of cement each for the swimming pool and asked them to donate money.
Banks, local companies and churches joined efforts to fundraise and renovate Pece War Memorial stadium.
According to Gulu District Chairman Hon Ojara Mapenduzi, approximately close to 700 million Uganda Shillings was raised in cash and in kind to renovate Pece War Memorial Stadium and to erect an Olympic Size Swimming Pool.
By the final days government was unable to finance an East African Sports event, it lobbied for and won but Gulu’s local fundraising event by its leaders had saved Ugandans the embarrassment of having the event elsewhere.
The implication of this successful and patriotic initiative from Gulu District leaders is that, this is the single greatest transformation in Gulu resulting from community action that has highlighted the highest level of success of the decentralization story.
Gulu a town and district that was dependent on aid, handouts from humanitarian agencies barely a decade ago has become a donor to central government renovating and delivering on time a stadium and an Olympic size swimming pool to host the East African Secondary School games.
Therefore, Gulu district local government should immediately institute a team that should comprehensively come up with a strategic plan on how they want the stadium to be used for the good of the community without denying them the sense of ownership.
I suggest Gulu should through community action translate this passion to start a serious football team that must join the Azam premium league.
This will help not only to uphold the unity of purpose in Gulu on an idea they are all passionate about but also translate the passion of the different English premier league fans who donated their money and labour to renovate Pece Stadium to support a local team that can bring back Gulu’s pride in the post war period.
Finally, its only in order to congratulate the district leadership in Gulu and all organizations and persons who donated and made the event a success.
And this includes Government of Uganda for choosing Gulu to be the host.
The author is the CEO of Cock Media Group based in Gulu. Email: email@example.com