The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) together with the Uganda Police have launched joint investigations into the alleged sexual harassment cases in Kamwenge district that led to the withdraw of funding of the Kamwenge-Fort Portal Road project by the World Bank.
Last year the World Bank cancelled the sh120b funding following reports of Chinese Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) contractors preying on minors on the 66.2km Kamwenge-Fort Portal Road project.
Under the leadership of Commissioner of Police Beata Chelimo, head of the Special Investigations Unit, the team of detectives begun their work last week and so far three people have been arrested and produced in court.
“The funding was suspended because of sexual harassment incidences, as Police and UNRA we have decided not to sit back but come on the ground and have the culprits brought to book,” Chelimo said.
On Friday, three suspects all charged with defilement were arraigned before Fort Portal Grade I magistrate’s court, presided over by Viane Kwizera and remanded to Katojo Prison until May 17th.
Court heard that in February 2015, Jackson Bikoryomuhangi allegedly defiled a 16-year-old girl and impregnated her while Alex Chance defiled a 14-year-old girl and also impregnated her. They were all charged with defilement.
The third suspect, Denis Bright who is a former employee of CSRG in August 2014 defiled a 13-year-old girl and also impregnated her and was charged with aggravated defilement.
The trio hails from Kamwenge district.
Although a report by Joy for Children a local NGO in 2014 found that majority of the men responsible for these ordeals ran away, police say they will get them.
“We are committed that justice is seen. We are going to make sure that all the cases are investigated and the suspects prosecuted,” Chelimo said.
She promised comprehensive work in Kamwenge.
“We will ensure that all cases are fully investigated. We are not investigating the CRSG but sexual harassment cases involving the company. Even other cases by people not related to the road will be investigated,” she added.
Chelimo revealed that there are very many cases of sexual harassment in Kamwenge but few are reported to police.
“At police there are only 11 cases, but there are very many victims in the community and there cases have never been reported,” Chelimo said
She implored parents and leaders to stand up and fight against early marriages,
Currently the road works at Kamwenge-Fort Portal road are at 51% and would be complete in one year, according to John Byabagambi, the Works Minister.
Although World Bank cancelled it funding, the government has committed sh85b to have the road completed.
Many girls are said to have dropped out of school after being defiled and impregnated by the contractors.
These cases not only affected, Kamwenge Road alone but also the 100km Kyenjojo-Kabwoya Road under the Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project (ARSDP) and the 340km Tororo-Mbale-Soroti-Lira-Kamdini stretch under the North Eastern Road-Corridor Asset Management Project (NERAMP).