Close to 500 people have encroached on the land of the defunct Koboko Airfield, according to the local authorities.
Found in Arumaji Village, Mengo Ward, South Division in Koboko municipality, the facility which was established during the regime of President Idi Amin has been in a state of disrepair following years of neglect.
Despite its historical significance, human activities like bricklaying, cultivation, livestock grazing, and settlements threaten the existence of the airfield.
Part of the land hosts a football pitch. The runway is now been used by some residents to learn driving especially during weekends.
Paul Aloro, one of the elders in Koboko and a former pilot during Amin’s regime, says that the airfield was established to link Uganda to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan given the strategic location of the District.
“It’s now more than 30 years. I don’t see planes landing there,” Aloro said.
John Candiga, one of the settlers says that they will only vacate the land if the government gives them alternative land or compensates them.
“I came here in 2009 and the landlord from whom I got this land is now dead. His name was Abdallah and the former LC1 chairperson of this area. He advised me to leave 25m as a reserve from the runway but in 2017 some people came here and told us to leave 100m from the runway, which was different from what the landlord told us. Unless we are shown alternative land or compensated as occupants around the airfield, we shall not move,” Candiga vowed.
Ashraf Mambo, the LC V Chairperson of Koboko District has blamed Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCCA) for not doing enough to secure the facility, which falls under their mandate.
He says the non-functionality of the airfield made it easier for the locals to encroach on the land.
“If you look currently, the airfield has been extremely encroached on by the people around the area. If a place is idle and no activity is taking place what do you expect? And that is why people are laying bricks and doing other things there. Absolutely Government Is not taking care of its own property so I think Uganda Civil Aviation Authority should come and safeguard their property,” Mambo noted.
Samuel Wonekha, the upcountry airport manager in UCCA told URN on the phone that the district leadership is accountable for the mismanagement of the airfield since they are mandated to secure and maintain the facility.
“We still have plans of developing the airfield. So the District Land Board and other officials in the District are supposed to ensure that the airfield is fully secured”, Wonekha said.
Currently, Arua airfield is the only active facility under the management of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority in West Nile.
Others like Nebbi, Yumbe, Moyo, and Adjumani are nonfunctional and are being managed by the respective districts.