At nightfall Mbarara town, the business hub of western Uganda, which has been approved for city status, is expected to be well lit on streets and adjoining lanes.
However, this proposed city is as dark at night as a cinema hall.
The town is consumed by darkness, with the only lighting coming from vehicles and security lights hung on private buildings. On the major streets: Mbarara High Street, Mbaguta Street, Buremba Road, Markhan Singh Street, Garage Street and Bananuka Drive, there is no single security light.
There are only a few and scattered dim bulbs lighting traders’ shops and stores. The other lighting that flashes on the streets is from lumps of motorcycles and vehicles racing around in the night.
Mr Fred Sirimbi, a shoe trader on Markhan Singh Street, said they have spent more than five years in darkness. He said around 2009, the municipal council installed a few street security lights which later went off due to lack of maintenance.
According to Mr Sirimbi, the local government leaders say security lights are too expensive to maintain. From 7pm upward are prime hours for most businesses to make money because it is the time people returning home from work go for shopping. In Mbarara Town, it is the time for traders to close shop and head home quickly.
The Mbarara Taxi Owners and Operators Association chairman, Mr Robert Beyagira, urges Mbarara Municipal Council to install lights up to 3km of all roads leading to and out of the town to curb increasing murders and thefts.
Mr Senate Agaba, a proprietor of a printing and ICT firm, says he appreciates that security lights are expensive but blames the municipal leaders for not exploring other cheaper options such as solar lights.
Mbarara District police commander Jaffar Magyezi, says they had talked to the town clerk, Mr Baryantuma Munono, about the impact of absence of street lighting on security of the town at night.
He says the town clerk promised to light the town soon but did not give a date.
“We have a challenge in Mbarara central business area. It is comfort zone for criminals because of darkness. People have been robbed of property and even lost lives,” he says.
Mr Baryantuma says Mbarara Municipal Council passed a resolution to beautify the town and the work has commenced. He says Shs618m has been earmarked for installing street lights. “In three weeks’ time lights will be on. We are beginning with the High Street,’’ he says.