BY VENENSCIAS KIIZA
“First impressions matter. They can make or break an opportunity. It’s human nature to make a judgment about someone when you first meet them…,” goes a common saying. And going by this, LoganDott Services ltd passed this recently when the steering committee of the Regional Connectivity Roads Improvement Project, or DRC Roads Project, visited their Namanve-Mukono based Inland Custom Deports (ICD), to assess whether they are ready for the task ahead.
For the uninitiated, Dott Services is the main contractor for a 233km roads project which will link Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The project is expected to spur trade, improve bilateral relations, security and as well promote regional integration, according to Eng. Steven Kitonsa, the Commissioner for Roads and Bridges at the Ministry of Works.
It is within this spirit that a steering committee of nine members composed of technical officials from DRC (3), Ministry of Works-Uganda (3) and the contractor-LoganDott (3) was set up to ensure both countries do the needful. It has been reviewing the consultant’s report that is made up of details on the feasibility, scope of work and the interventions going to be made on the project.
The purpose of last Wednesday’s visit at Dott’s Namanve ICDs, was for the committee to verify the contractor’s equipment capacity and readiness, something that will enable the latter to complete a report whose recommendations will pave the way for the commencement of the first phase of the project.
At the two ICDs, the committee was convinced that Dott Services is taking the project seriously given the quality and quantity of equipment that has been mobilized for purposes of the project execution.
The first batch of road construction equipment and numbering over 120 has already been imported and ready to be moved to project sites in DRC. These include excavators (22), graders (22), bulldozers (22), rollers (22), trucks (40), wheel loaders, and small vehicles among others. 50 well equipped containers for office and accommodation purposes have also been mobilized. According to Dott’s contracts manager, James Olonya, more equipment is on transit.
“This [project] is a huge milestone for Dott Services. We take it seriously and we are committed to make sure we deliver according to the expectations of the two countries’ leaders,”Olonya said.
He on behalf of Dott Services committed to make sure local Congolese take first priority as far as the labour force on the project is concerned.
At the conclusion of the inspection, the committee members, who during the tour were keen on detail for each and every equipment, were given an opportunity to speak to the media and they could not hide their excitement.
The steering committee’s chairperson and also The Congolese ambassador to Uganda, Jean Pierre Masala, said he was excited and impressed by the quality and quantity of the equipment that has been mobilized for the project. Already satisfied with what was on the site, he could not believe that actually more equipment was on the way.
To him, this is a clear sign of goodwill, seriousness and commitment on the side of the contractors and the GoU through the ministry of works as far as the execution of the project is concerned.
He also blew his government’s trumpet by revealing that his presence was a clear signal of how serious DRC values this project.
He said: “We are very happy by the number of equipment that we have found on the site. It is not yet even complete. We are aware that other equipment is on the way. What we have seen on the grounds shows the goodwill by the contractor and seriousness. This is a sure deal to fulfil the commitment that was made by the two heads of state. Our presence here is part of the commitment that was taken by the government of the DRC to participate in the achievements of these roads which will promote security, economic and social links between the two countries. This is to show you that we are committed towards this project to have achieved what has been done so far for this project for both countries.”
The committee is expected to incorporate their tour findings in a final report, have meetings in DRC and afterwards a decision will be made to introduce the contractor to North Kivu and in Goma camp sites so that they can start work.
HOW UGANDA STANDS TO BENEFIT
According to Eng. Steven Kitonsa, the project is expected to spur trade, improve bilateral relations, security and as well promote regional integration and both countries can’t wait to see it becoming a reality. Uganda has been earning about USD500Million in trading with DRC, but once this project is executed the figure is expected to shoot to USD2Billion, according to Kitonsa. He said the project is going to be implemented in two phases with the first being an emergency intervention to facilitate the movement of goods and services.
He also made it clear that whatever is being done is being guided by an inter-government agreement together with the project development agreement which were signed on 27 May 2021 and the groundbreaking ceremony of this project was done by the two heads of state at Mpondwe Kasindi on June 6, 2021.
“This project is going to be executed through a design and build contract and here we are going to do major milestones. The first milestone was the signing of the agreement, and the second important milestone will be the submission of an engineering report by Dott Services together with mobilization of equipment,” he stressed and went on to elaborate that: “We are now holding a project steering committee meeting to receive and review the engineering report. We have carried out a number of studies which include traffic studies, development studies, engineering design, accosted bills of quantities and part of our steering committee meeting we agreed to come and visit this site and see the equipment that has been mobilized by Dott services.”
He was also equally impressed by Dott’s equipment before revealing that as MoWT, they are now ready to begin the physical work. “On Friday, we shall be traveling to Goma. The delegation will be headed by the two ministers-Ministry of Works and Transport (Uganda) and Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works (DRC). On this day, the contractor (Dott Services) is going to be introduced to the leaders of Rusuru, Bunagana, Butembo and Beni and officially be handed over the camp sites and this is why the equipment is here because the camp sites have not been handed over to the contractor. So, the meeting on Friday is going to give the way for the commencement of physical works. And already with this mobilization of equipment, we are very hopeful that this project is going to take off very well.”
PROJECT AT GLANCE
The roads to be built cover 223 kilometres. They include Mpondwe/Kasindi to Beni (80km), Beni-Butembo axis (54km) while the third (89 km) will start from Bunagana border town, through Rutshuru to Goma, the capital of the North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC.
The project will be funded by the two governments, with each contributing 20 per cent of the cost, while the contractor, Dott Services, will raise the 60 per cent.
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