Global Politics


“For me sometimes when I go for work, it is like those hunters who go hunting, sometimes you come back when you catch animals


“Although I specialized in Food Science, there is no entity in Gulu City to employ a professional like me.  “The reason why the food industry cannot grow in Gulu is because of electricity power failure,” Francis Otim.

“I have my room in one of the hotels in Gulu City that I pay on a daily basis, a single room in Gulu City outskirt and it costs UGX 16,000 a day and night. “It is affordable. “Life is hard in Nebbi District, because of challenges, that are why I turned to sex work,” says Adong, a sex worker.


By Livingstone Okumu Langol and Stephen Langole

Francis Otim, 30 years old, a councilor in Gulu City, Bardege-Layibi Division, graduated with a Bachelor ofScience in Food Bioscience and Agribusiness in 2022 but has since been looking for a befitting job in line with his profession.

Otim claims that so many of his cohorts still remain unemployed.

“Although I specialized in Food Science, there is no entity in Gulu City to employ a professional like me. “The reason why the food industry cannot grow in Gulu is because of electricity power failure. “Due to corruption, Atiak Sugar Works which got UGX 80 billion to alleviate job shortage could not employ a profession like me,” Otim decried.

Otim added that another thing that dims prospects for some youth employment is nepotism that is high both in theCentraland Local Government.

In line with the government’s emphasis on job creation, and to try and make ends meet, Otim started a bakery but the bakery remains unregistered with all kinds of legal barriers and the phobia for heavy taxation. Yet the cost for establishing the private entity has already drained him of the little capital that he had. As it is now, he does not foresee a bright prospect for the bakery business.

“The Uganda Registration Services Bureau demands UGX 1.5 million for registration which is very costly.“At the end you cannot breakeven,” Otim complained.

Otim looks at his current position as Councilor V for Kirombe ward as underemployment that he does not rate as good for a professional of his caliber. He laments that the government is giving funds to unskilled youths and that the funds end up mismanaged and not meeting the goal of creating wealth for the youth as intended.

“For example, UGX 6 million has been given per each group of unskilled youth who lack business experience. “The funds were meant for poultry keeping, butbecause the youth are unskilled, they ended up misusing the funds.”

“The government has come up with the Parish Development Model (PDM) to support projects but that is being done without any training strategy. “Each household is getting UGX 1 million, and after getting the money is spent on non-essential commodities or petty consumer goods. “They buy drinks, clothes, radios, hoofers, mattresses, cheap solar panels which are not under the PDM priority. “At the end of the day, because the money is supposed to be recovered, it will leave people poorer than they were,” Otim lamented.

Otim informed that in Bardege-Layibi, Gulu City West Division, they have 13 villages, and in Gulu City, East Laroo-Pece Division they have 19 villages to which the government sent a total UGX 32 billion.“The government put interest rates at 0.06 percent for the individuals to pay back but we are yet to see how that can be feasible.”

In Otim’s view, if the government wants to employ a grassroots community, it should allocate funds in their budget to agriculture, and that the money should be put in the Centenary Bank for Gulu City case.

In Otim’s view, the government would have done better if it supported existing businesses by first training the beneficiaries in small scale entrepreneurship.

Joseph Omagor, NBS Bureau Chief in Northern Uganda, has a unique story to tell. He says 11 years ago, he was working with a radio station in Gulu Municipality as a freelance journalist.

“For the first four months, I worked without getting a single payment. After the four months I was paid UGX 140,000, later the salary rose to UGX 280,000 and subsequently to UGX 400,000 per month.”

Joseph Omagor now earns ‘seven figures’ as a bureau chief. He says much as he persevered to stick to the journalism job starting with no pay at all, even his current ‘seven figures’ is not really sufficient to meet all his needs.

Alex Pituwa, worked as freelance for Choice 92.1 FM, in Gulu City, just like Joseph, he too was initially not getting his monthly pay and largely depended on good will from the colleagues and a few perks from workshops.

“I worked and trained to become a hardened journalist like many of my friends under Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC).“We used to get money from the workshops,” Pituwa narrated.

Pituwa, now heads newsroom in Pahida FM Radio Station in Nebbi District. He commented that although he is financially better than in the past, he still regrets that he is able to pay fellow freelance journalists at the station a meagre UGX 5,000 per story. He notes that equally, other four FM Radio stations in Nebbi also paid their staff at the rate of UGX 5,000 per article, which to him is low pay. He notes that Gulu City with 12 FM radio stations pays less as low as UGX 2,000 to UGX 3,000 per story.

Odong Mike, 40 years old, is a truck owner in Gulu City based at Kaunda Ground. He says the issue of jobs still remains a nightmare.

“For me sometimes when I go for work, it is like those hunters who go hunting, sometimes you come back when you catch animals, sometimes you come back empty handed. “On a good day, you can get UGX 400,000. “I have two employees, andI give them UGX 30,000 each on the good day but otherwise when the day is bad, I give them UGX 10,000 each. “Fuel also consumes a good part of my earnings,” Odong laments.

In Gulu City there are four locations, of Tipper parking, for hiring.Each lorry trucks are hired according to their sizes. “We have Sinotruk tipper, Fusho tipper, and Isuzu tipper as popular types,” says Mike. He believes that the tipper lorry and the three wheeled TukTuk motor bike employ over 200 people in Gulu City.

Otto James, 30 years old, owns Otto JYC Concrete Works at Cereleno, Laroo-Pece Division. He is proud to employ 13 workers and pays each person at UGX 10,000 per day when there is business. “Sometimes there is no work, which means there is no pay,” he says.

Proscovia Adong, 25 years old, lives in Gulu City suburb with sex work as a source of her revenue to fend for three other family members back home in Nebbi District.

Adong narrative is that she has failed to look after her children due to economic hardship.In a good day, she gets UGX 50,000 to 100,000. But on a dry day, she gets little upkeep money from the usual customers, something like UGX 30,000.

“I have my room in one of the hotels in Gulu City that I pay on a daily basis, a single room in Gulu City outskirt and it costs UGX 16,000 a day and night. “It is affordable,” she says.

“Life if hard in Nebbi District, because of challenges, that is why I turned to sex work,” Adong says.

When asked about his knowledge concerning sex work in Gulu City, Alex Okoya, the area Local Councilor II Chairman for Pece Vanguard, Pece-Laroo, Gulu East City Division, had this to say.

“Nobody knows the number of sex workers in Gulu City, they do not have a register. “They look at their business as work. They constitute all categories of people including those who are married, and even those who are employed who take sex work as part time business,” Alex says.

“They include ladies who even work in Government civil service, or those who sell in Gulu Main Market. “Some are employed in the hospitality business, in bars and lodges while others are casual workers. “Many of them claim sex work is lucrative and help them to supplement their low pay.”

Alex said slay queens are a different category, they are people who may not necessarily be sex workers but they want to show off as those who have embraced modern culture, as celebrities of sorts.

“You may find them dying their hair different colours, red, green, blue or even put on different colour of shoes on either foot, on one a black shoe, on the other one a red shoe.”

“Those slay queens can enter a drinking bar, and when they find people drinking beers, they opt for red wine, rare spirits or whisky. They enjoy appearing different, and crave to attract attention.”

“They like make-ups, skin bleaching, pedicure and manicure and ooze expensive perfumes. “They dress differently, revealing dresses, wounded jeans etc.” says Alex.

“While slay queens may be very selective about those they date, the sex workers do not discriminate, they take on anybody whom they think is able to pay them. Slay queens may just need good sex from celebrity looking people,” says Alex.

When asked where those slay queens get their money, Okoya says those slay queens are good at enticing money from their male counterparts who behave the same way. “They know how to behave right to the middle class who may be having money to splash around even if they are not their partners. “It is about the partying animals hanging out together” Alex says.

Okoya names the popular spots for sex workers or prostitutes as Acholi Road, Cemetery Road, School Road and Labour Line.

Okoya says the phenomena of rising numbers of sex workers is characteristic of Gulu attaining city status. “Once you see Pader town growing, you will see the same trend of rising numbers of sex workers. “It is typical of developing cities across the world,” Okoya claimed.

Pece-Laroo legislator, Hon. Rev. Father Charles Onen agrees that there is a big problem of employment in the country, citing Gulu Regional Referral Hospital which has a gap of 73% in its establishment. Hon. Onen revealed that Gulu Regional Referral Hospital has only one Consultant medical doctor whereas the right number of consultants should be eight.

“Not that there are no medical consultants, but the salary which is offered by the referral hospitals are so low compared to salaries offered to those employed by the public universities.

Geoffrey Axuma, the Nwoya District Information Officer says there is serious problems in regard to employment. “When the Local Government advertises for a particular job, over 5,000 people may apply for a position,” Axuma claims.Nwoya was once part of the greater Gulu but according to Axuma, investors there have created some jobs.

Axuma says there is minimal problem of sex works in Nwoya. He claimed that commercial farms have helped to employ people who would otherwise be loitering the streets.

“There are about 100 commercial famers, for example we have Delight Uganda, Amatheon Farm, Nuagric Farm, Afrokii Farm. Those are big farmers and each of them employs more than 500 workers,” Axuma claimed.

He says there are also farms of the locals such as that of Wilson Lutara, of the family of Alex Latim, and that of Gen. Charles OtemaAwany.

Uganda currently boasts of about 60 universities, both public and private, churning out graduates in their thousands with only a fraction that are absorbed in the labour market.

No wonder you may find highly qualified graduates who should be having formal jobs in the informal sector, and facing a lot of hardship because of competition. Most of those informal sectors are already flooded. In the market, many people sell the same kinds of commodities so they face stiff competition. There are university graduates in the motor cycle taxi business, in salons and barber shops and so forth while many more are at home with nothing to do.

As Gulu gained city status, street vendors from other parts of Uganda have flooded it with a variety of goods and they seem to have better experience than the locals, and tend to edge them out of business. They exact stiff competition to legitimate shop owners, so people keep lamenting about the hardships in the informal sector, yet the formal jobs are nowhere.


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