In 1907, Sir Winston Churchill, then UK Premier visited Jinja and impressed by the beautiful scenery of the source of River Nile, opted to write a book titled “My East African Journey” where he genuinely decreed that Uganda was indeed “the Pearl of Africa”. However, this has since changed. It’s a thing of the past if events coming through are anything to go by.
For the record, a multitude of industries are situated on the 5km stretch from Steel Rolling Mills to Dunlop on the Jinja-Iganga Highway. And for Jinja City alone, there are over 110 industries in the Jinja Metropolitan Area that fetch in a lot of revenue to the Government of Uganda through taxes. Currently Jinja City has about 505kms of roads. Of these, 205km are in the Southern Division and about 300km in the Northern Division. The vast bulk of the roads are either in a state of earth or murram.This particular stretch is home to factories such as MMI Steel Mills, Madhvani’s Steel Division, Nilus Group, Keshwala Group of Companies, Nile Derivatives Limited, Busoga Forestry Company Limited, Nile Agro, Century Lakeview Apartments, Masese Landing Site, Ngaano Millers (Tip Top Bread makers), it’s also home to Jinja East MP-Nathan Igeme Nabeta but it remains to be one of the worst stretch in the city.
Residents are convinced that what remains of Asphalt will sooner than later become Murram unless something is done to rectify the anomaly. It’s not only the road that is bothering tax payers in Busoga’s only City but also the stealthy stench emanating from the garbage that City bosses have failed to collect lately as a result of the Masese Landfill being given away and the continuous load shedding making it risky for power to be sustained makes Jinja a disastrous town for any serious investor.
The pathetic roads have become impassable to unacceptable levels that the cost of repairing vehicles by the different investors is over shooting day in day out. In other words, the stretch from Dunlop to Steel Rolling Mills is in a pathetic state and needs urgent attention for it’s already a death trap in the areas of Katende and Wanyama roads alongside Budhumbuli where criminals waylay vehicles loaded with merchandize either during day or night hours and have them robbed since the roads are impassable. While on this stretch, vehicles move at 10kms per hour.
Surprisingly, different stakeholders have written and petitioned all concerned offices about the plight of this very important section of the City with several promises being made only to turn out as a hoax. During a recent meeting held at Mada Hotel, Investment Minister-Hon. Evelyne Anite Kajik was informed about this very important road that needed urgent attention but to date, her promise remains on paper.
“We have petitioned City authorities both political and technical officers including the Investment Minister for an immediate solution but they promise a lot and do nothing making it inevitable for us to resort to Plan B which is pulling out to avoid risks associated with the continuous usage of the same road”, a one Patel who has lived and worked in Jinja for long noted advising the relevant officers to prioritize this particular stretch since it accommodates several investors whose taxes are promptly remitted to the national coffers yet there is no return when it comes to social services.
The Mayor of Jinja, Alton Peter Kasolo when contacted about the plight of roads in his city sounded like one at crossroads with no immediate solution to address the current plight of roads.
“Ever since I became the Mayor of this great City, I have tried to understand our issues but the issue of roads tops out to do list as political heads herein. Of course, the cost involved in repairing broken roads is higher and it’s our financial concern to effect the much-desired solutions.
We are into negotiations with the line Ministry and its agencies to come to our rescue because our investors and the locals are overburdened”, the Mayor noted revealing that the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project had really done a good job.
In Jinja City, the USMID Project started on February 14, 2020 with works on Eng. Zikusooka Road (1.9km), Busoga Avenue (0.35km) and Main Street extension to State Lodge (0.5km). In May, while meeting Martin Onyach Olaa, the program task team leader at the World Bank, David Ereemye (City Engineer) said Jinja City would have at least four new roads constructed. Tobacco Road was conspicuously missing. These four roads were worth Shs16.5b.
According to an elder in the City, Khalifah Mbentyo, the issue of roads in their area leaves a lot to be desired. “What really torments me is given the number of factories in that place including Danida and Walukuba, high-rise residences, and the presence of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) offices; that should be one of the smartest roads in Jinja City,” he said noting that when you look at the road, you will not think all those factories are on that side and that it is surprising that nothing has been done despite seeing trucks being levied on several occasions.
“The road has taken ages without being worked and whenever it rains, the road becomes impassable—particularly MMI Steel, Madhvani’s Steel Division, Keshwala Group, Nilus Group Limited.”
In 2013, residents of Walukuba-Masese Division protested the appalling state of the road. They accused the leadership of the then political leadership of allegedly failing to maintain roads in Jinja Industrial Area. The residents claimed Walukuba, Scott, Factory and Tobacco Roads were budgeted for in the 2011/2012 budget, but that they were not maintained that whole year.
Then Mayor also current Uganda Deputy Head of Mission in Qatar, H.E Mohammed Baswari Kezaala shifted the blame to the leadership of Walukuba-Masese Division. According to him, at least 18 roads were under repair after they were included in the 2012/2013 financial year budget.
The continued failure to fix the road has proven catastrophic in the recent past. In November 2018, two bodies were retrieved from a trench in Masese Village after being reportedly swept away by flash floods following a downpour.
Asked why fixing the road is never prioritised despite being a cash cow for the city in terms of revenue, Mr David Ereemye, the city engineer, declined to comment.
Moses Morrison Bizitu, the former speaker of Jinja Municipality asserts that Tobacco Road was taken over by the Central Government and that it is one of the 25km roads in the City which President Museveni promised would be worked on using the Road Fund and Uganda National Roads Authority although it has kept on rolling over to different financial year budgets. “Tobacco Road is under UNRA and it is equated to a highway because it carries heavy trucks and most industries are located on that road”.
Bernard Mbayo, the Jinja City Council speaker, said as a municipality, they have only been able to do a kilometre or two (of roads) fully facilitated with proper drainage lighting and beautification.
“Now we have been able to cover about three to four kilometres during the phases of USMID; we should be able, going forward, to ensure a project that is specifically designed for the 10 cities that are operational, that is, we get between 50 to 100 kilometres of roads that would help us solve the problems of roads in the city.
“We understand that we had 200 kilometres of roads as a municipality, but now we are a city and are bigger, hope to get better and have over 400 kilometres; but if we are doing one kilometre at a time or every financial year, then we need 400 years,” Mbayo said asking government to come in quickly.
His Worship Ashraf Nasser Mayor of Southern Division asserts that the state of roads in the division leaves a lot to be desired but is optimistic of changing this status quo gradually.
“Truth of the matter is that there is an urgent need to work on these roads lest we lose revenue and other Corporate Social Responsibility incentives when companies close. As leaders, we must address their plight such that it’s a win-win situation for all”.
Jinja North MP, Hon. David Isabirye Agha noted that the nature of roads in the City needs urgent attention for there to be sanity generally from the concerned entities.
“Government must own up and address issues affecting both locals and investors. Investors remit Taxes to Uganda Revenue Authority annually and as and when deemed necessary however, our government is failing on its part. Its high time government woke up to offer services like its meant to be the case. On this am with the people”.
Jinja City Clerk who is hardly a month in office argued that they are trying to find a way out on how best to address the issue of their road network in the City.
No wonder, given its well-planned nature of infrastructure in the area, Jinja was in 1956 upgraded to a Municipal status. This was possible because Cobb, Powell and Freeman who designed the Tropical Modernist style, knew that Jinja had a future in terms of change of status to where it is currently. This will deprive locals of employment opportunities that are much desired to address the issue of unemployment in the country.
As a result of the poor road network, investors are relocating from Jinja City to nearby Njeru Municipality where roads are said to be user friendly. Several if not majority of the investors are doing serious business in Njeru Municipality at the expense of Jinja. Both Allan Ssempebwa, UNRA Publicist and Sarah Kataike Publicist for Ministry of Works and Transport were yet to get back to us by press time. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).