Source: The Monitor/allAfrica
A Ugandan Army soldier (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Three roads to and from Gulu Airport have been closed to motorists to protect them against accidents as the army trains its flight cadet officers.
The UPDF 4th Division on Tuesday said the move is a ‘protective measure’ because the aviation training could expose passersby to accidents. The affected roads include; Kasubi Airfield road, Bar-dege-Kasubi road and Oitino-Airfield road, all in Bardege Division, Gulu Municipality.
The 4th Division Army Spokesperson, Capt. Peter Mugisa, said residents should use alternative routes to access their homes. « The roads have been closed to ensure safety because accidents can occur when planes are taking off or landing, » he said.
Capt. Mugisa added: « Terrorists have also been targeting Uganda for a long time. They could use vehicles to attack the jets that are for training at the airport. We need to take precautions. »
There are 30 UPDF flight cadet officers undergoing a one-year training course at Gulu Air Base. According to Capt. Mugisa, the training is aimed at professionalising and activation of the airforce. He said there would soon be 15 military jets flying in Gulu and would also extend to other parts of the region.
But the development has not been received well by several residents in the affected area, who say shielding off the roads has curtailed access to their homes. Mr Duncan Ocen, 46, said the closure of the roads has forced him to pass through an area where sand and gravel is mined.
He said movement of vehicles in the area is impossible, forcing them to walk to their homes from town. « We have been using these roads to safely access our homes, now that they have put restrictions, we have no voice, » Mr Ocen said.
Early this month, residents of Gulu and Arua towns expressed fear over the presence of helicopters that kept hovering at low range over their towns. They accused the army of not informing them about the training, adding that the sight of military planes brings back bitter memories of the northern insurgency.
Mr Muhamad Juruga of Tanganyika Ward in Arua Municipality, said: « I saw the helicopters thrice and I wondered whether we were again at war. » Mr Norbert Okumu of Green Valley Sub-ward in Gulu said the sight of six planes flying at low range in the town usually sends children scampering for dear lives.
However, Capt. Mugisa said: « We have reactivated the activities of the Gulu Air Force Base but mainly in order to defend our country from any possible external aggression. »
By Cissy Makumbi and James Eriku