By Godfrey Ojore
Awoja Bridge along Mbale-Soroti road in Eastern Uganda that connects motorists from Mbale, Kumi to Soroti district has been commissioned following the completion of repairs works.
The 60m long bridge was constructed by Spencon services Ltd at a tune of approximately sh9b. It was co-financed by the European Union which contributed 51.5% while government of Uganda contributed 48.5% of the money.
The bridge, that was first built in the early 1950s, was weakened by floods of 2007 and 2012 that submerged it due to heavy rains that forced motorists from Kumi-Mbale road to be diverted to Aguu in Serere district.
Minister Byandala, EU ambassador Schmidt after cutting the ribbon to symbolize the official commissioning of the bridge on Friday. On the left is Dan Kitakule Alinange, the UNRA head of corporate communication
“We lost hope when the bridge was closed. We thought we were headed for the back days of our grandparents who used boats for crossing to Kumi, but now we have all reasons to celebrate,” a happy Moses Elibu a resident of Awoja said.
Speaking after commissioning the bridge, the EU ambassador to Uganda, Kristian Schmidt, said that the bridge will help to unlock the northern region and Karamoja to access national and regional markets in both Kampala and abroad.
“The region is secure and safe from floods of the river Awoja,” Ambassador Schmidt said, adding that it has been a good partnership with Uganda where they have worked on the improvement of infrastructure.
“Many needs remain, and I am pleased that our cooperation in this sector will continue looking at the 2020, targets,” he noted.
The construction works was part of the physical infrastructure component of the “Post Flood Rehabilitation of Rural Roads and Social Infrastructure in Northern Uganda” programme.
EU ambassador to Uganda Kristian Schmidt greeting the minister of works Eng. Abraham Byandala as other guests look on after commissioning Awoja Bridge.
Awoja River and Swamp connects Lake Kyoga to Lake Bisina. The construction started in 2010 and was completed in December last year.
Minister of roads and works Eng. Abraham Byandala applauded EU for their support to the government of Uganda on road sector.
“The EU has also been co-operating in the development of other roads and bridges. We trust that EU will continue supporting the road infrastructure development in Uganda,” Eng. Byandala said.
He expressed concern over the theft of road signs including some of the signs that were put at the newly constructed Awoja bridge.
“I understand that on this bridge, reflectors on the guardrails were fixed but some were removed by unknown people. I call upon you to desist from this practice,” the minister advised.
The acting Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) Eng. Ssebbugga Kimeze assured the road users that the bridge is strong and will last for years before if it’s maintained well.
“We thank EU for their contribution to this critical bridge that will contribute to the movement of goods from the East to the North and enhance movement in the greater East African Community,” Eng. Ssebbugga said.
Eng. Patrick Amurit Kumi county MP and shadow minister of roads and works urged the people of Teso especially the neighboring people to guard the bridge from being destroyed.
“This is our facility built with our money, we need to protect it so that it will last for years,” MP Amuriat noted.
The traders from Kapir in Ngora district said that when the bridge was closed following the floods that submerged it in 2012, the business was affected.
“It’s easy for me to bring my milk to sale in Soroti but without this bridge it means i will not manage to educate my children,” said James Otim a trader of milk to Soroti town.
LC3 of Gweri sub-county in Soroti district where the bridge is situated Tom Julius Ekudo said that he will allocate police officers to guard the bridge from those who aim at stealing reflectors.
Also related to this story
Cheptui, Awoja bridges closed
Awoja Bridge reopens Thursday