By Barbara Among PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has stopped the sale of land belonging to the East African Civil Aviation Academy (Soroti Flying School).
The land has been under dispute between the academy and the Uganda Land Commission. While the academy argues that it needs the land to expand, the commission went ahead with the sale.
“We have plans to lengthen the runway, which is now 1,800 metres. We need it for our aviation plans,” Museveni told a gathering at the academy on Wednesday.
The Government plans to rehabilitate and upgrade four airfields into airports. They are Soroti, Gulu, Kasese and Arua. A new airport is to be built in Ntugamo at Rwentobo, Museveni said.
“Going through Entebbe interferes with business, especially when somebody is in a national park like Kabalega and has to come to Kampala (to fly out), instead of Gulu. Uganda is developing fast, exports will pick up. We need to expand air infrastructure.”
The President, who launched six new Skyhawk aircraft, said training pilots is expensive, especially in Africa, where training facilities are inadequate and most governments invest little money in it.
“The weaknesses come because some ministries don’t know how to prioritise. There is no money to cover all matters but when it comes to prioritisation, there is no way we can fail to rehabilitate an academy like this one. The academy will be rehabilitated and developed fully,” he announced.
He said pilots for civilian airlines and for the army are on high demand and advised the trainees to be disciplined and avoid alcohol and prostitutes.
According to the academy’s acting director, B.D. Wandera, sh17.5b is needed for basic rehabilitation and re-quipping the school.
He said the academy had got six new single-engine aircraft and was replacing old asbestos roofing with pre-painted iron sheets. Training has been hampered by inadequate funds. Night training is also impossible for lack of appropriate lighting.
The Inspectorate of Government is investigating the sale of the land. The sale came into the limelight in August when MPs from Teso sub-region petitioned the Prime Minister, Apolo Nsibambi, to halt the transaction.
In September, Nsibambi ordered the land commission to stop the sale of staff houses and land belonging to the school.
A total of 31 housing units were to be sold off. They are located on Kyoga Avenue, and on Harper, Komollo, Bisina and Esunget roads in Soroti town.