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Uganda Government to compensate 100billion to displaced families on new Entebbe Highway

The government has earmarked Shs 100 billion to compensate people who will be displaced by the new Entebbe Highway but fears are emerging that the controversies that delayed the northern by pass could also derail the project off schedule.

Among those to be affected by the 51 km dual carriageway are schools, a University and homes. It is not clear when the construction will commence, but controversy over the compensation could delay it for several more months with many property owners still waiting for communication from the government.

The project was originally scheduled to commence in the middle of last year, but was delayed by disputes over compensation for land and resettlement of the local population.

However, Dan Alinange, the head of corporate communications at the Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA), said the construction will start within six months after the compensating the property owners.

“Compensation in urban areas is expensive but we estimate that Shs 100 bn will be enough for all of them,” he said.

Some of the affected properties include part of Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), schools, homes, as well as brick manufacturers.

The project is to be undertaken by China Communication Construction Company at a cost of about $476 million (Sh1.19 trillion), which includes a $350 million (Shs 875 bn) 2010 loan secured from China’s EXIM Bank, while $126 million (Shs 315 bn) counter funding will be from the government of Uganda. The loan will be paid back after 20 - 40 years at 2% interest.

According to the map of the new road, more than 15 villages will be affected by the Highway, which will start on Masaka Road at the Busega – Mityana roundabout on the Northern bypass and pass through Kabojja, Kasanje, Kinaawa and Kazinga among other villages on its way to join Entebbe Highway at Mpala. Another 14 km spur will connect Munyonyo to the Kampala - Entebbe Highway at Lweza as part of the project.

Members of various consultation committees on compensation in various villages said they were not getting sufficient communication from the authorities about their fate.

But Medard Lubega Sseggona, the Busiro East Member of Parliament, whose constituents are some of those to be displaced, said he was aware of an exercise to identify properties that would be affected, but warned that any attempt to evict people without “prior and adequate compensation” would be resisted with all the force it deserves.

“I will fight any such attempts politically and legally because it is unconstitutional,” he said.

But the cost of $9.3 million (Shs 23 bn) per kilometer appears to be high for the Ugandan tax payer compared to similar projects in the region. Comparatively, building a six-lane motorway of 78 km cost Ethiopia $612 million ($7.8 million per kilometer), while the Nairobi Southern By-pass, a four lane 30 km dual carriageway cost $210 million ($7 million per kilometer).

Bypass ghosts

But apart from the astronomical cost, it is the delay associated with such projects that will worry Ugandans more. For example, the 21-km Northern Bypass, which was funded by the European Union turned into a never-ending story as it dragged on and went three years behind schedule. The Bypass Highway, which aimed at relieving traffic congestion within the city center by allowing cross-country traffic to bypass the city’s busy downtown area, eventually opened to traffic on 1 October, 2009 - three years after its due date.

Also for various reasons, the overall cost of construction jumped from Shs 89 billion to Shs 107 billion with quality issues and budget overruns being characteristics of the project. The delays were mainly attributed to controversies involving the identity of and the amount of money the property owners were supposed to be paid, to the utter chagrin of the European Union.

Yet, the Kampala Northern Bypass was comparatively a smaller project. It involved the construction of the 21-km road (17.5 km of single carriageway and 3.5 km of dual carriageway), together with the construction of 10 road bridges, one pedestrian footbridge and a few side access roads.

Now, will a 51 km project be completed within 36 months when a relatively smaller project took twice as much time more?

Alinange was adamant that the mistakes of the Northern By pass would not be repeated.He ruled out any delays due to disagreements over compensation though UNRA is yet to get the full list of victims and the value of their properties as the consultation process is still ongoing.

“We learnt a lot from the bypass and we will not repeat from the same mistakes,” he said. But skeptics will bide their time to believe him.

However, the private sector hopes that the highway will be completed as soon as possible as it will greatly ease transport and access to the airport, which they say will boost trade and the economy. The highway is expected to slash the travel time between Entebbe Airport and Kampala from about two hours to less than 30 minutes.

“It will boost investment and exports because of easy transport in and out of the country as it will minimize time and ease the work of those who bring in merchandise,” said Sebaggala Kigozi, the executive director of the Uganda Manufacturers Association.

Alinange said the highway would also relieve Jinja Rd and Entebbe Rd, spur real estate development in Mpigi and Wakiso districts and also improve the image of the country.

The project is expected to directly employ over 1,000 people while the business community is also set to benefit from providing construction materials such as cement, steel and diesel.

The Independent Newspaper

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