BY PEPPER INTELLIGENCE UNIT
The National Resistance Movement (NRM)’s Toro sub-region electoral chances in 2026 are under threat following a decision by Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) to drop and swap a road project that had been promised to the region.
The road in question—supposed to be tarmacked—had been promised to Kyenjojo district by President Museveni in 2011, however, it has now been dropped and swapped with one in Kamwenge district, after waiting for 12 years, a decision that has angered residents.
HOW DID WE REACH HERE
The road project in question is the Kyenjojo-(Kihuura)-Bwizi-Rwamwanja-Kahunge/ (68km) and Kahunge-Nyarukoma Kigaraale-Rwamwanja – Kihura (31km).
The key concern now is that the Kahunge-Nyarukoma-Kigaraale-Rwamwanja – Kihura road section (31km) being part of the main road circuit as pledged by the president has been officially dropped by the government of Uganda through UNRA and replaced by Mpara-Bwizi (at now 37Km) which passes through Kamwenge District in Nkoma to connect to Bwizi and Mpara in Kyegegwa district.
This is how a petition by area leaders summarizes the whole impunity:
“This same road that is NOW shown as Lot 3: Upgrading of Kyenjojo- (Kihuura)-Bwizi-Rwamwanja-Kahunge/ (68km) Mpara-Bwizi (37Km) all totalling to 105Km (QCBS/MC) is shown in FY 2022/2023 as Upgrading Project Under Design as of September 2022 as KAHUNGE NYARUKOMA-KIGARAALE-KIHUURA (105KM).
“The same road in FY 2019/2020 is shown under Feasibility Study and Detailed Engineering Design as Lot 3: Kyenjojo (Kahunge) Nyarukoma – Kigaraale – Rwamwanja – Kihuura (97Km).
“It appeared in the New Vision of Thursday, January 12, 2023 page 31 under General Procurement Notice; Financing No. 1055. NOTE: The name and naming of this road had never changed the key road sections since the fiscal year budget of 2015/2016 til1 January 12, 2023 in a procurement bid notice!
“This drop and swap of this road section is pure theft done with impunity. The road ceased to be mentioned in the national budgets from F/Y 2019/2020.”
“It is so evident, engineering activities are taking place on a very new road [Mpara-Bwizi] in the vicinity that was not formally in the budget and whose source and origin cannot be traced in any budget framework or planning, or preliminary surveys,” area leaders allege in a petition they have been blocked from delivering to President Museveni.
There are allegations that compensation of projected affected people of swapped Bwizi – Mpara 37km road in Kamwenge is going on through Centenary bank but the names used in the documents are for those of Kyenjojo for the Nyarukoma-Kigaraale-Kyakatwire, Kiyagara dropped road section. This is a story for another day.
There are also allegations that one of the officials at UNRA has about 200acres of land in Kamwenge district including other politicians from Kampala who own ranches there, reason why the road could have been swapped to pass there to either benefit through compensation or for other strategic reasons.
This is also a story for another day.
DROPPED ROAD TIMELINE
The president promised locals this road in 2011 and whenever he visited this region he emphatically pronounced and committed himself to constructing this very important road.
In 2015/16 this road appeared for the first time in a national budget.
In March 2016, the minister of works and transport presented to parliament a ministerial budget policy statement including this (Kyenjojo- Kahunge – Nyarukoma – Kigaraale Rwamwanja a (34km) design with consultant procured for debate.
In the same year and document UNRA, under vote 113: Uganda National Roads Authority, had considered the design consultant to have been procured.
In 2017/8, in the ministerial policy statement, under Vote function 04 51 National Road maintenance and construction projects 1056 Transport Corridor project under proposed and approved budget planned outputs (quantity and location) this road is indicated as a 34km road with consultant procured.
On June 14, 2017, the Executive Director – UNRA wrote a letter to the Kyenjojo District chair confirming the existence of this road with the Rwaitengya section being part of it all totaling 105kms.
On July 7, 2020, the Minister of works and Transport acknowledged the existence of the said road and feasibility study that had been going on then.
In the F/Y 2020/21 ministerial budget policy statement, the same road was presented to parliament for debate as a 97km road.
In May 2022 this same road was put under Upgrading Project Design with 105kms named Kahunge Nyarukoma Kigaraale Rwamwanja – Kihura (105km).
On January 12, 2023 it appeared in the New Vision – a government Daily as a dropped road leaving out the Kyenjojo-NyarukomaKigaraale-Kyakatwire-[Kahunge) – Kiyagara section.
“It is on record that this road has transcended all odds to rise from 31kms to 105kms between the financial years 2013/2014 and 2017/2018 when it disappeared from the National Budgets and the (radar) national road grid,” petitioners point out.
Residents are now wondering why they should continue voting for a regime that does not fulfil her promises.
“We too belong to this country; we positively contribute to her social, economic and political development and transformation. We have supported NRM/A for over 35 years. We have voted for the ruling party always and overwhelmingly with over 85.75%,” says petitioners who are over 5600.
Residents now want powers that be to “stop giving us empty promises” wondering why this road pledge has taken 12 years and counting.
“When will it be fulfilled!? Can we see expeditious works going on, on this road as the wooden bridge is always collapsing and killing many of your voters and supporters?
“Consider tabling a supplementary budget to construct this road as now the collapsed bridge is raising an issue of national importance. So often, people in this area have staged demonstrations and blocked this part of the road whenever it rains. The escalation has always gone up. We expected an even bigger one come October rains.
“Discussions of disgruntlement about whether this government has been helpful can be heard in the community; these are serious issues to address with the construction of the road now. We look forward to your listening to our plea and immediate consideration of our prayers.”
They further add that, Mpanga River in western Uganda, in its youthful stage, cuts across this road and it has since become a death trap.
“It is a wide river with a linear flood plain of 300m that cuts off accessibility in the rainy season hence hampering trade and travel in this region.
“This river-crossing has claimed 176 lives of NRM supporters and voters; this raises a matter of National Importance that needs urgent attention. Residents now want it considered in a special way for construction.”
COMPENSATED WITH MARRAM ROAD
Instead of tarmac, UNRA will now compensate Kyenjojo district residents in the form of elevating the dropped road to marram standard—19kms of spot grading and drainage improvement and as well 3.3kms of spot graveling along slippery sections—and that’s all.
The dropped road directly serves the sub counties of Kyenjojo Town council, Nyantungo, Kigaraale, Kyakatwire TC of Kyenjojo district and Busiriba of Kamwenge district.
When contacted for a comment, UNRA’s public relations manager, Allan Kyobe Ssempebwa promised to get back to us but he has not done so after a month of waiting despite numerous reminders.
“I am in touch with ED [Allen Kagina] and she has advised me on the key person to share information and our response on this: I am now engaging him as well,” Kyobe said in a response to one of our reminder messages via WhatsApp on April 3.
Independent sources however, told this publication that the road was dropped and swapped following pressure from funders like World Bank and the United Nations (refugee department).
That the funders reportedly wanted a good road network to ease aid delivery and access to Kamwenge district based Rwamwanja refugee settlement and as well Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa District.
However, local leaders dispute this excuse and blame UNRA and some area politicians who reportedly have other agendas including linking to a rail network as we shall be reporting in our subsequent publications.
WHY THE ABANDONED ROAD PROJECT MATTERS
Available data indicate that by 2020, the area in which the road passes has a projected population of 860,600 people, with a growth rate of 3.2% per annum. They say this is a potential propeller of faster economic development if served with a reliable, easy and accessible tarmac road.
The dropped road is the major shortest route linking the great Albertine Oil Rich Fields to the Greater South Western Region through Kagadi, Kyenjojo, Kamwenge, Ibanda and Mbarara districts.
It is the shortest land route between Katuna and Nimule hence fostering internal trade, according to local leaders.
To them, construction of this road would ease the pressure of vehicles on other roads in the region as it promotes the social-economic development of the communities along the route.
This particular road stretch is also part of the African Highway (The Great North Road) running between Cape Town and Cairo.
Hence, its construction would boost regional trade, cooperation and Pan Africanism.
It is also one of the longest routes in the NRA Security Road Corridor. This, in the bush days, was a major food supply link between Mubende and the Rwenzoris.
It is the main agro-economic road linkage for the Kyenjojo farmers where produce is sold through this route to Rwanda, Kampala, the Albertine and South Sudan.
Furthermore, residents stress that this is a link road to the Eastern Kibale National Park and the Queen Elizabeth Game Park.
“Chimpanzees are regularly cited here and occasionally lions have criss-crossed this route, hence a tourism-booster road.”
The same route reportedly sits on a large belt of mineral deposits especially iron ore and limestone in the Kamwenge mineral belt.
“The area is endowed with good arable land; it is no doubt the food basket for Rwanda and the whole of Uganda in supply of maize, beans and Irish-potatoes, etc; besides, it is becoming a confluence of factories i.e. sugar, coffee and tea as farmers are now moving away from subsistence farming – kukorra ekida kyonka like Your Excellency usually puts it to a money economy! The area is an epicentre of food markets and weekly markets ebikomera for cattle which attract traders all the way from Kampala; these include but are not limited to Kyakatwire, Busiriba and Rwamwanja.
“Irrespective of the sorry infrastructural stance, the area is reportedly covered by this delayed road, is an enclave of numerous primary, secondary schools and health centres whose accessibility is a challenge in both rainy and dry seasons; in summary, it is a hard-to-reach area. Government institutions in the area lack workers because of their inaccessibility,” the petition which has been signed by about 5600 locals further reads.
MORE REPORTING ON THIS WILL BE IN OUR SUBSEQUENT PUBLICATION.
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