Kanungu Pressure Pays As Road Is Fast-Tracked

New taxes aside, there is something for people to like in Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka’s 201415 tight budget.

The budget lists a number infrastructure projects that some political analysts believe are politically crafted to calm agitation among specific communities.

“This budget is laden with projects of political expediency,” says Masaka municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga.

“One fact is that they will not be accomplished in the new financial year, they will purport to be launched to keep down political agitation, especially from what is seen as service delivery failure,” he added.

Minister Kiwanuka announced impending works on 11 road projects, covering 650Kms. Two of these roads are, Rukungiri-Kihihi-Ishasha-Kambuga and Kihihi – Kanungu – Kambuga. These projects, located in Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s home district, are politically significant because the Kanungu district local government recently warned of dire political consequences for President Museveni if nothing was done.

It is believed that as a result of this threat, these roads were fast-tracked. Kanungu is particularly significant because son-of-the-soil Mbabazi has been linked to a presidential bid of his own in 2016, although he denies it. Tarmacking of the Rukungiri-Kihihi-Ishasha-Kambuga road was first promised 28 years ago, when Kanungu was still part of Rukungiri district. However, the project picked urgency after Kanungu leaders turned the heat on Museveni, threatening to derail his re-election bid.

On May 23, during the opening of the Uganda Nursing School in Bwindi, an event that Museveni skipped, Mbabazi had an uphill task telling people to be patient as the road was about to be fixed. Worse, a critical bridge washed away by heavy rains two years ago, was until April unattended to, adding to the residents’ anger.

To mitigate the widespread dissent in Kanungu, President Museveni hosted the district’s leaders at his Rwakitura country home on June 3. During the meeting, Museveni reportedly told the group that government had secured a loan from the African Development Bank to finance the road works.

Two days later, Museveni announced during his state-of- the-nation address that he would not allow politicians to exploit the issue of poor infrastructure in Kanungu.

“I know some people have been planning to use the road to Kanungu for their campaigns, but I feel sorry for you because that is one of the projects we have embarked on,” the president said.

With road works now set and Mitano bridge under construction, Museveni is expected to visit Kanungu on July 3.

“That bridge has been reflected in the previous two budgets that is why some of us still doubt whether the government is this time round committed to fix it and the road,” said Rukungiri municipality MP, Roland Mugume.

His Kinkizi East counterpart Dr Chris Baryomunsi was more positive. He explained that construction of the bridge had been delayed by the court process after the contractor (Prime Construction) challenged the cancellation of his contract, following the intervention of the IGG. The executive director of the Uganda Media Centre Ofwono Opondo ruled out the Mbabazi factor in the execution of the Kanungu road.

“Mbabazi does not come from the whole of Uganda what pressure was there for government to work on all the other roads that have been done? Those roads have been sung and sung until we secured funds to work on them,” Opondo said.

The budget also lists 26 road projects, measuring about 1,700km, to be accomplished in the new financial year. Some of these roads, including Villa Maria- Sembabule, Nyendo – Bukakata, Mpigi-Maddu-Ssembabule and Mukono-Kyetume-KatosiKisoga – Nyenga, have appeared in the budget speeches for several years.

“The budget at this stage is the only opportunity for the regime to show that it is willing to respond to the agitations from different communities because next year’s will be a campaign budget,” Mpuuga noted.

“We have road [projects] that have been in the budget for the last five or more years but have never taken off they are there to keep the people in perpetual hope.”

However, Opondo told The Observer that such projects are held back by financial constraints.

“These are projects you can’t complete overnight the [reason] they keep being included [in the budget] is that we don’t want them to get off the radar. How many times have we sung Bujagali and Karuma?”

Source : The Observer

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