The dismantling of camps for internally displaced people in and around Kitgum town is causing huge losses for businesses that were set up specifically to serve the displaced communities.
At the height of the Lord's Resistance Army guerilla war two million people across Northern Uganda were living in camps. Numerous small businesses were established around the camps to provide people with cheap food, used clothing, salons, restaurant services, bars and entertainment centers.
In 2006 when peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the LRA and a ceasefire was declared, government began to create satellite camps to decongest the main IDP camps. By mid-2007, thousands of IDPs had moved into the decongestion camps and today all camps in Lira and Apac district have been closed and only half a million people live in IDP camps.
Joseph Okumu, a pub owner at Palabek Kal in Kitgum, says his business has suffered greatly because of the decongestion of the camps. He says that although he is happy about the return of peace to his district and the end of suffering for thousands, his business is on the verge of closure because of the dwindling clientele.
Okumu hopes that the position of his pub near the Sudan border may attract cross-country travelers.
//Cue in: iHere I have pool #i
Cue out: i# lousy here now.i//
Charles Nyeko, a kiosk owner in Labongo Amida Camp along the Gulu-Kitgum Road, is also battling with fast-declining customer numbers. He says sales of soap, sugar and salt, which brought him income over the years, have almost stalled because a large proportion of the population is returning home.
At Kitgum Matidi trading center, Grace Aciro who runs a catering business, says these days money only comes from a handful of conferences and workshops held in the town. She says she is one of the fortunate few in her line of work that are still in business.
//Cue in: iIt is now very difficult #i
Cue out: i# they cannot get it.i//
Lieutenant Fearless Obwoya, the officer in charge of the IDP Return Monitoring in Kitgum, says more than 85% of IDPs in the district have returned home or moved to satellite camps.