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SGR: Uganda lags behind, blames land conflicts

By Jackie Nambogga

Added 31st March 2018 05:10 PM

Much as the two sister countries have made significant strides in the project, Uganda has failed to realise its earlier plan of starting in June 2015.

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Much as the two sister countries have made significant strides in the project, Uganda has failed to realise its earlier plan of starting in June 2015.

PIC: Diana Apio, an SGR official during a press briefing recently. (Credit: Jackie Nambogga)

INFRASTRUCTURE


JINJA - The kickoff for the construction of the $12.8b Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has hit a snag due to land conflicts in some areas, where the railway line is meant to pass.

In 2014, East Africa presidents launched a multibillion SGR project meant to modernise the traditional railway transport system to boost economic growth by facilitating a faster movement of goods across borders.

In March 2017, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the maiden passenger train on the newly completed Mombasa-Nairobi SGR.

Meanwhile, in April 2017, Tanzania began the building of the 300km SGR from the Indian Ocean Port of Dar es Salaam to Morogoro.

It is expected to be extended to Port Mwanza on Lake Victoria to link Uganda.

Much as the two sister countries have made significant strides in the project, Uganda has failed to realise its earlier plan of starting in June 2015.

According to SGR’s head of public relations and corporate affairs, Diana Apio, the Malaba-Kampala 273km section of the project has partly been delayed due to scores of challenges.

She cited the multiple allocations of land titles, especially in Jinja district and Kampala, saying this had undermined the process of land acquisition in places where the railway line is to pass.

Speaking to journalists recently, Apio said such practices resulted in multiple claimants of land, leading to fights.

Apio said in Jinja, such practices were evident in Mafubira sub-county and Mpumudde/Kimaka division, Jinja municipality.

Such anomalies, Apio argues, are said to have occurred during the two years when Jinja district did not have a land board.

She said the Government would consider proceeding with the project and later clear such residents once they resolve their conflicts.

Apio said the move is not aimed at taking land without compensation basing on the pending Land Amendment Bill.

Instead, she clarified that the Bill is geared at creating a way of making land acquisition for significance public investments more efficient since they benefit all Ugandans in terms of economic transformation, job creation, attraction of investors and local content.

Apio also attributed the project’s failure to takeoff to the delay by the finance ministry to release funds for compensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs).

Of the 273km needed, Apio said they had so far secured 100.1km for the eastern Route.

According to the audit report that was released in December last year, 3,481 PAPs to be compensated in the five districts of Tororo, Butaleja, Namutumba, Iganga and Luuka, only 2,053 were cleared.

However, Apio said majority of residents in the said areas had been paid off, apart from those in Iganga and parts of Mayuge.

Of the 1,000 PAPs from the 23 villages in Iganga meant for compensation, Apio said 520 had so far been paid.

The SGR is part of the Northern Corridor Integration Project, which runs from Mombasa through Nairobi in Kenya to Kampala in Uganda, Kigali in Rwanda and Juba in South Sudan.

Once completed, it will reduce the 14 days trains have been spending transporting goods from Mombasa to Kampala to two days.

Also, it is estimated that transporting of an 18-tonne container from the port of Mombasa to Kampala that costs $4,000 (sh14.5m) will come to $2,300 (sh8.5m).

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