Mysterious fires have for the last two weeks gutted Atiak Sugarcane plantations in Amuru District razing over 800acres.
The total loss in the three different fire outbreaks is estimated at about Sh3billion. Atiak Sugar Factory is owned by Horyal Investment Holdings Company Ltd belonging to businesswoman Amina Hersi, in partnership with government and the local community.
Dan Kidega the Atiak Sugar Factory Board Chairperson, says they are ready to work with security agencies to investigate the mysterious fires.
“On behalf of Atiak Board of directors, we regret and condemn these incidences. We are going to work with police and other security agencies to investigate this matter. Our people on the ground have arrested some Balaalo who are marauding around the area trying to burn the grass to get fresh pasture for their animals. We have also had cases of charcoal burners and wild fires, but all these cases shall be investigated,” he said.
Kidega ruled out foul play by the local community saying people are behind this project. “In fact, this is a big loss to the people of Acholi because the sugarcane belongs to them. But most importantly, we would like to ask questions to NAADs and the leadership of the corporate society why the sugarcane belonging to out growers has not yet been insured because this is a loss of over Shs3bn to the people and government of Uganda,” Kidega said.
The Area MP (Kilak North) Anthony Akol expressed frustration with the rampant fire outbreaks saying that there are people who do not want the factory to be operational. He however, said that this frustration will not stop them from operationalizing the factory in April 2020.
“We are not going to be frustrated by any other person who thinks that the factory should not start. We are going to ensure that the factory starts this April and I am happy about the progress. Whereas they are people here who want to stifle investment in Northern Uganda, majority of them especially local communities have embraced investors and they are ready to work with them,” he said.
Akol suspects that the influx of Balaalo and conflict of investment could be the root cause of these fire outbreaks. “There was sabotage of delayed equipment and the factory could not start last year and now I am seeing another foul play in terms of fire outbreaks to destroy sugarcane. So I think the investigations should go beyond the local community, or even the balaalo, but also the different investors in the sugar industry,” he said.
Mysterious fires have been destroying Atiak sugarcane plantations since 2016 where 150acres of sugarcane were burnt, causing an estimated loss of Shs150m. In 2018, fire again destroyed a huge acreage of sugarcane. Last year, another estimated 600acres of cane were burnt down, leading to a financial loss of about Shs2billion to the company.
MP Akol pledged to raise the matter on the floor of parliament to ensure that a select committee is constituted to investigate rampant fires in Atiak sugarcane plantation since police investigations have failed to conclude on the matter.