Protests As Arua Airport Works Delay for 12 Years

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In July 2009, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials and Arua District leaders flagged off a project for the upgrade of Arua airfield to an international airport, within 18 months.
Under Phase One of the project, CAA was mandated to construct a large terminal building, access roads and a parking yard.
CAA would later expand the airfield by 150 metres as well as tarmac runways to handle both domestic and international flights to allow passenger and cargo planes. The airport was expected to handle 7,000 people
But 12 years later, works are incomplete despite promises by various leaders and the President, especially during campaigns.
CAA has blamed the delay on lack of compensation for some families that availed their land for expansion.
The General Manager of Regional Airports, Mr Samuel Wonekha, said the project suffered setbacks due to lack of funds.
“Over the years, government did not prioritise this airport and funding has remained dismal. The project has been on paper for long and implanting a project like this with no funding, is costly,” Mr Wonekha said.
He added: “It is important that resources be availed to us so that domestic and international flights are made to harness the potential.”
The airport serves as a hub for passengers from South Sudan and DR Congo, connecting flights through Entebbe.
“We have a masterplan for upgrading it at Shs529 billion and this will be done in two phases,” Mr Wonekha said.
Currently, majority of families have relocated, with the exception of five.
Whew couple of journalists visited, the airfield was disorganised with runways muddled with bushes.
So far, an apron has been tarmacked at a cost of Shs7 billion and one terminal building constructed at Shs2 billion. The airport, however, still lacks a control tower and the runway has not been tarmacked.
In order to handle commercial flights, the runway is supposed to be expanded from 1.8kms to 2.8kms (3,599 metres) and a planned width of 60 metres. This requires additional 26 hectares of land.
Mr Wonekha said the airport generates more than Shs500 million annually and the money would increase if commercial flights were incorporated.
Kenya and Rwanda Airways have already carried out an assessment of the airfield’s capacity to utilise it for their commercial flights.
“And they [Rwanda and Kenya] cannot operate here because of the non-completion. And once this is finished, the opportunities are enormous,” Mr Wonekha said.
The Secretary of Finance Planning and Administration in Arua City, Mr Moses Adriko, said: “We receive planes from Juba and DR Congo and the community is willing to give land for expansion. But if there are resources to compensate everyone, this airport will be expanded.”
According to CAA, Arua Airfield is the second busiest after Entebbe airport.
The 2008 statistics from Ministry of Transport indicate that more than 10,000 passengers flew to the airfield for research and official duty purposes.
In May 2008 during his visit, President Museveni said the Arua airfield was next on the tarmacking programme after Kasese.
He said it would enable efficient transport and communication, especially between DR Congo and South Sudan.
“We shall make it because it will not only help Ugandans alone but a section of foreign countries and improve the security and international relations as well,” Mr Museveni said.
He added that upgrading the airfield is crucial for strengthening the economy of Uganda.
Bar Aviation carries schedules flights three times a week, Eagle Air for daily flights, City Link and Light Air for cross-border Uganda-South Sudan operations. Additionally, Aim Air, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), UPDF, United Nations, Kampala Aeroclub and flight Training Centre (KAFTC), Peter Swann and Air Serve carries out non-scheduled flights.
The former Ayivu Division Member of Parliament, Mr Benard Atiku, who has been at forefront of agitating for completion of the airport, said: “We are all in pain because this work is not being completed yet Parliament had approved Shs64 billion towards the project. This is our economic gem because people from Central Africa, Europe, South Sudan and DR Congo can fly here because it is short and connect to Entebbe. This will increase revenue both for the city and the country.”
According to Air Miles Calculator, flight distance from Amsterdam to Arua (Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – Arua Airport) is 3711 miles / 5972 kilometers / 3225 nautical miles. Estimated flight time is 7 hours and 31 minutes.
And the flight distance from London to Entebbe (London Heathrow Airport – Entebbe International Airport) is 4028 miles/6,483kms/3,501 nautical miles. Estimated flight time is 8 hours and 7 minutes.
Last week, the chairman for Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities (Cosase), Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, tasked CAA to complete the process of upgrading the airport.
“We need the airport completed in a transparent manner and it should be able to generate income,” he said.
The Director General of Uganda Civil Aviation, Mr Fred Bamwesigye, said lack of funds has been a major challenge.
He added: “There is no independent vote for air transport. And there is delay in release of funds allocated which is inadequate and not timely. This affects our planned activities for airports like Arua.”
Former President for Republic of Zaire, Gen Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbedu Wa Zabanga, laid a foundation stone for the construction of Arua Airfield on July 15, 1973 upon invitation of President Idi Amin Dada. It, however, remains unclear when the upgrading will be complete

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