The Pride of Maracha Town
Located midway along Arua-Koboko road, Maracha town had strong connections to Asian businessmen regarding everything in its early years. The town is about 35km from Arua town. It is now regarded as the main business hub of Maracha district. Many businessmen traveling to and from Juba usually make stopovers there to buy millet, groundnuts, potatoes and sometimes, its vines.
Maracha town was previously known as Nyadri. That name was come up with in a very interesting way. It all started with the caves under a hill, 200 metres north of the town. Hyenas lived in those caves. Hyena is called “Nya” in Lugbara. But as people passed by, they would see hyenas raise their head (“Dri”) to stare at them. They would tell the story to friends that they saw hyena’s head (“Nyadri”). That is how the hill was referred to and the town derived its initial name from the hill. When Maracha county was elevated to a district, it then became Maracha town.
Economic Activities of Inhabitants
The original inhabitants in Maracha town were the indigenous Maracha. When the area was cleared of wild animals, the people converged on that hill to trade. They wore leaves around the waist to cover private parts and around the chest by women to cover mammary glands. They sold Kulu (edible insects) which is still the cherished dish today. People also sold millet, sorghum and in the evenings they sat in cycles to drink Kwete and Enguli (Local brews made out of maize and cassava flour respectively). Maracha market days have been on Wednesdays and Saturdays until July 1, 2011 when the district council resolved to make it daily as a town trading centre.
The first people to erect shops in Maracha Town were Asians from India. This was in 1933. One of them was called Kakaji Loroa and the other’s name was Dusaji Tibia. They were later, joined by three others Babu, Badura and Santiba. The Asians sold manufactured goods cheaply. Their merchandise included salt, sugar, soap and khaki clothes mainly. But being new, people shunned clothes because they said clothes got hot and burned their skins. Maracha town is near the Uganda – DRC border, so many Congolese came to the town to buy manufactured goods from the India shops. They brought millet and groundnuts for sale. The first Arab merchants whom the people called “Tukuku” settled at Alikua which is four miles from Maracha town. Alikua was the place where the Barajiki (Belgians) had their headquarters when they colonized the region. But in 1953, Abdurrahman Sr. the father of Abdurrahman Ahmed Salim, the owner of Nile coach buses built a grass thatched mosque in Maracha town. This attracted the Arabs to relocate to the town because it is strategically located on the main routes for traders going to and from Juba. The Asians left in 1970s when former president Iddi Amin got tired of them and ordered them to leave the country. The grass thatched mosque was eventually razed down and replaced with a permanent one which is the only mosque in Maracha town today.
Locals Venture into Organized Trade
The first Maracha to build a shop in this town was Lino Nyazu in 1953. From then on, people started building shops and engaging in organized trade. Thereafter, the town grew steadily until civil war interrupted it. During the war in 1979 to 1982, people fled to Congo (Zaire) and others ran to Sudan. There was no much killing in Maracha town because the killers arrived when the locals were already in exile. The town was disserted. When fighting ended, people came back home and concentrated on developing the area once again. Local farmers in cooperative unions constructed shops stocked with clothes, eggs, utensils and other assorted merchandise. Some sell medicines. From Nyacu River, people get drinking water piped through a solar pumping system and distributed in pipes.
Bites and Drinks
Many hotels have cropped up in Maracha town now, replacing makeshift eating joints that used to be in papyrus mat shelters. They serve different kinds of dishes but the one locals recommend for any visitor not to miss is “Ucakuca” which is cooked out of beans or cowpeas, Kulu and simsim paste. Have a good appetite and don’t bite your tongue!
Where to Sleep
Maracha town has two lodges for travellers and visitors to sleep. You only pay between sh10, 000 and sh20, 000 for a night. At night shopkeepers sell beers and other hard drinks. Beyond midnight, the town is quite; the only sound you hear might be that of patrolling police boots.
Watching sports and films on TV, and sports betting especially by youths is common these days. Due to the rapid growth, people are also selling part of their plots to those interested in developing them at a fair rate ranging from shs5m to shs20m on average depending on the size.
Glimpse into the Future
From the time Maracha attained a district status, this town has been on track for rapid transformation. In as much as it has no single commercial bank yet, the mobile money service has greatly helped the people living in Maracha town. With the tarmacking of Arua – Koboko-Oraba road, Maracha town has become a strategic stop over for businessmen to reap big from increased flow of traffickers. Now the coming of electricity has also added value to various businesses in Maracha town. One can now easily find cold drinks in Maracha town because there is power to run refrigerators.
Located midway along Arua-Koboko road, Maracha town had strong connections to Asian businessmen regarding everything in its early years.