By Isaiah Rwanyekiro
Travelling through many of Uganda’s roads today clearly highlights the commendable work that Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), has, in the last six years of existence, accomplished.
UNRA was established by an Act of Parliament; the Uganda National Roads Authority Act, No. 15 of 2006. It became operational on July 1, 2008 and hence the celebration of six years of existence this July.
The mandate of UNRA is to develop and maintain the national roads network, advise the Government on general roads policy and contribute to addressing of transport concerns, among others. UNRA is one of the products of Road Sector Reforms. In 1996, the Government of Uganda prepared the 10-Year Road Sector Development Programme (RSDP).
This was spearheaded by then Minister of Works Engineer John Mwono Nasasira. The programme was reviewed and updated in 2002 making it a 10 Year Rolling Road Sector Development Programme Phase 2 (RSDP2). One of the objectives of the RSDP was establishing a robust administration for effective and efficient management of the national roads network.
To achieve this objective, the Government committed itself to reform national roads management through the establishment of an autonomous performance-based roads authority to handle road administration and execution function and restructuring the Ministry of Works and Transportation (MoWT) to focus on policy, setting standards, regulation, monitoring and evaluation functions.
Six years down the road, the benefits of this restructuring process are there for everyone to see. Amazingly, every major Ugandan border today is now connected by tarmac.
According to the acting UNRA, Executive Director, Engineer Sebbugga Kimeze, Uganda has about 80,000kms public roads that are divided into four categories. The first category is the national or otherwise known as the trunk roads, which include international highways and main roads. These main roads link Kampala with regional centres, district headquarters and the international highways with neighbouring countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and DR Congo.
Early this year, I travelled along the Gulu-Atiak-Nimule border. Nimule is one of the borders to South Sudan, and construction of this road is now in the final stages. The other road that leads to the border of Uganda and South Sudan, Vurra-Arua-Koboko-Oraba, is now 80% complete. The Arua border with Congo is tarmac, all the way from Kampala-Karuma-Pakwach-Nebbi-Arua-Congo border.
Kampala to Busia and Malaba is first class tarmac. Kampala to Mpondwe either through Mbarara-Kasese or Kampala-Fort Portal-Kasese Mpondwe is also tarmac. Kampala to Mutukula connecting Uganda to Tanzania is tarmac. Kampala-Ntungamo-Mirama hills is also now tarmac, the Ntungamo-Mirama hills stretch being under construction. On the other side Mbarara-Isingiro-Kikagati-Kagera-Tanzania upgrade to bitumen is now complete. Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana border post is complete. Kabale-Katuna is also complete with first class tarmac.
The result of having Uganda today connected from border-to-border by tarmac is that the major economic activities now have easy access to markets in different urban centres across the country and ultimately to Kampala city. The roads upgrade has stimulated tourism, as all roads leading to all the major national parks (with the exception of the one leading to Kidepo Valley National Park) are now paved. As a result, agriculture is benefitting, so is the mushrooming oil and gas industry.
Looking at roads that are being worked on and those that have been lined up, one realizes that the international highways are almost complete. Attention is being paid to the main hinterland district roads; these are the ones that connect different districts and Uganda’s productive hinterland. At this ambitious rate, by 2020, Uganda’s road infrastructure should be fully standardised with paved roads spreading to every corner of this country and hence spurring unprecedented movement of goods and persons.
The writer works with the Uganda Media Centre