ARUA. Situated about two kilometres on the outskirts of Arua town along the Arua-Lia border road, Onduparaka is a place of many facets.
Its reputation as a centre for entertainment, socialisation and leisure long predates the birth of Onduparaka football club that has come to epitomise it.
This suburb of Arua town is abuzz with traditional and modern amenities.
On a typical Sunday evening, a troupe of traditional dancers liven the market area with Nyambi, a cherished Lugbara dance. Though, nowadays the schedule of soccer at the Green Light stadium takes the attention off these performances, the traditional dance remains a salient feature for big occasions.
It is a moment where people freely mix, sitting in random cycles to chart and drink local brew called Kwete, a creamy brew made out of maize and sorghum flour. Mostly sold by women, it is served in plastic cups or calabashes for sh500 upwards.
Onduparaka derived its name from a drinking joint where Kwete, the most important commodity during those bygone years was sold.
The drinking joint was enclosed in a shelter made out of sorghum stalks. It was constructed by a man called Yoroo.
“Ondu” is Lugbara word for sorghum and its stalk is referred to as “Paraka.”
“Our people usually go to drink in company of their friends. They would say they are going to drink at the sorghum stalk cellar (Onduparaka). It was a popular joint, I think with good services and lots of beautiful girls!” one resident 58-year-old Alex Jurua recounts.
That was how Onduparaka got its name.
Early years and the war
Onduparaka had no permanent and decent houses in 1960s. There were only three iron roofed buildings standing. The walls were constructed out of either mud and wood or brick and mud.
The only properly built house was that of the Ayivu County chief. Onduparaka was populated by the Kakwa mainly from Koboko and Congo.
Many of the residents were doing business in Arua town but would retreat to the quite neighbourhood at night.
When the Ugandan civil war of 1979 to topple the government of former president Idi Amin broke out, the Kakwa who were his tribesmen and indeed most residents had to flee for their lives.
The Uganda National Liberation Army soldiers erased the settlements in Onduparaka and occupied the area until they were driven out of power.
It was after 1986 that normal life was restored and people began rebuilding Onduparaka. It is now a cosmopolitan centre, having Congolese, Sudanese, Asians, Lugbara, Alur and people from other tribes living side by side.
Education, water and electricity
Onduparaka primary school is the only government aided primary school in the area but three private nursery and primary schools have been built.
The new entrants are Venture nursery and primary school, Rising Star nursery and primary school and Ebenezar nursery and primary school. For secondary education, Mandela comprehensive secondary school has been joined by St Francis secondary school.
The piped water system has been extended to most homes but the water supply is erratic during the dry season between December and March.
The trading centre is hooked to electricity but very few homesteads have been connected.
The solitary road linking Onduparaka to Arua town is perhaps its worst nightmare. It is badly gullied and impassable during rainy season and very dusty during dry season. Plans are however underway to tarmac the road from Arua town to Lia at the Congo border.
Theft and burglary
Onduparaka could have developed more than it is today but the place has had a terrible record of theft and burglary.
The frequent break-ins of shops scared many industrious businessmen and women who opted to establish businesses in Arua town as a result.
That sense of lawlessness sporadically rears its ugly head to this day especially during the days when transnight discos are staged.
Onduparaka’s local council one chairman Mr Arikanzilo Oyataa says the residents tried to form a group of vigilante youths to curb lawlessness but what they have been able to achieve is reduction in the rate of verbal abuse and vulgar language towards women.
Many of the youths are engaged in petty businesses. They wash cars at the river and ride bodabodas.
On Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Onduparaka does really become busy. The rocking Congolese Lingala music and local music attracts hordes of revealers from Arua town centre and other suburbs.
The busiest entertainment centre here is the Alanos country club which was constructed by late Innocent Nyakuta, himself arguably the godfather of West Nile’s music industry.
There, musicians come to stage shows including all the way from South Africa. They also host drama, weddings and offer an array of musical menu such as ladies night and oldies among others.
There is also the Micro Uzu Classic owned by Richard Aderibo and Club Nyendo formerly known as Zina Manewe.
There used to be one famous wooden dancehall called Coffin which has been replaced by a Pentecostal church. Many residents however say that change makes little difference to them because the Pentecostals can at times be as noisy as Coffin used to be.
Lodging services and other rest places too have sprung up in Onduparaka. Roasted pork and goat meat (muchomo) is another thing aplenty that Onduparaka is famous for.