Everything unfolded like an epic Hollywood movie, this time with a unique setting of rural Uganda. Adrenaline surged even higher as the tractor forklifted the structures down, crumbling what was once a place of abode and livelihood.
For one elderly woman, it was all but a dream. “You have come from Kampala to destroy my house. Where will I sleep? Tell me,” she screamed, staggering and struggling to pick the wreckage of her mud and wattle house, which she hurled at journalists documenting her ordeal. Her house is only part of the 30 permanent and semi-permanent structures in the line for demolition by Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL), which is now set to evict encroachers within the Lugogo-Mutundwe 132KV, Bujagali-Kawanda 220KV and Kawanda-Mutundwe 132 KV transmission line corridors.
“Unlike the ordinary electricity transmission lines, these are high voltage lines which transfer power of up to 220,000 volts (220KV) and once the lines fall to the ground, they will roast people to death. It is our duty to protect people from danger,” said UETCL managing director Eriasi Kiyemba. Depending on the voltage levels (calculated by UETCL), the transmitter recommends a distance of at least 15-40 metres from the transmission line, (technically called a way leave.)
What the law says
Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Mr Kiyemba quoted section 87 of the Electricity Act 1999, saying: “The laws of Uganda criminalise encroachment within the high voltage installations way leaves corridors, which is punishable by imprisonment and a fine.”
He added: “UETCL has already procured a contractor to implement the demolition exercise and some property owners have already been issued with notices to vacate. The company will proceed to demarcate all the corridors to avoid further encroachments.”
He said so far, Shs43 billion has been spent on compensation of more than 5,000 property owners since 2007. Asked why they have only ‘woken up’ seven years later, he said, “it takes time to verify and work on compensation issues.”
“The affected persons were compensated during construction of the lines but have refused to vacate and are now illegally and deliberately selling off land to unsuspecting persons,” Safinah Nakanwagi, a resident of Natonko told the Daily Monitor as the demolition exercise went on.
In the field yesterday, no complaints of non-compensation were registered, save for isolated cases of jittery displeasure about the two-weeks’ notice to vacate issued by the private contractor. UETCL, however, argues that a grace period of more than seven years could never have been more sufficient.
Areas to be affected include Nakawa, Bwaise, Mulago, Namungoona, Mutundwe, Ndeeba, Bukoto, Naguru, Kyambogo and Natete. Other areas outside Kampala include Nansana, Busega, Nsavu, Nyenje, Jjogo, Natonko, Nama and Nabusugwe in Wakiso and Mukono districts.