In the run up to the 2011 general elections, the ruling NRM party released a campaign manifesto in which it promised to undertake numerous projects in the roads sector if Ugandans handed it a fresh mandate to lead them between 2011 and 2015.
Lined up for renovation were 10 roads, 17 for upgrade from gravel to tarmac and three for redesigning and expansion. The Kampala City to Mpigi, also known as the Busega-Mpigi expressway, was among the three.
“In the next five years, the NRM government shall … complete the design and commence works for capacity improvement on multiple lanes of the following roads; Kampala Northern Bypass (17km), Kampala-Jinja (80km) and Kibuye-Mpigi (30km),” the manifesto reads in parts.
The 30-kilometre road starts at Busega and takes a south-westerly direction to Mpigi Town through Kyengera, Nabbingo and Nsangi townships.
It connects to the Kampala–Masaka highway and leads to the common border with Rwanda via Mirama hills and Kagitumba.
As part of the Northern Corridor, it is part of a transport network that links Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi to the Indian Ocean Kenya port of Mombasa.
It is a two-lane single carriageway and although it is in good condition, its narrowness has been the cause of jams and congestion. It is against this background that government put in place plans to redesign and expand it to a four-lane dual carriageway.
The design also provides for four major interchanges to enable connection to both the Northern bypass and the Entebbe–Kampala Expressway.
Interconnection points on those roads are expected at Nabbingo, Nsangi, Maya and Lugala.
Work on this road, along with that on the Jinja-Kampala Expressway, the Kampala Southern Bypass and the Kampala-Bombo Expressway, had initially been planned to be undertaken under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. All the four projects were by the first half of 2013 valued at $1.5b.
The tagline for what was to later be known as the “Peace, Unity and Transformation Manifesto” was accelerating prosperity for all through better service delivery and job creation”.
The expectation had, therefore, been that work would kick off almost immediately the NRM earned the mandate that it had sought, but that did not happen.
The only developments that was registered between 2011 and 2015 included the Ministry of Finance’s approval early in April 2013 of a plan by the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), to take on the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, as its transaction advisor for the four planned expressways and completion of the road designs.
In April 2013, the then Director for Planning at Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), Eng David Luyimbazi, announced that designs would be finalised by the end of the Financial Year 2012/2013, which was achieved.
Nothing much changed on the road in the promised period, but some things did in the board and planning rooms of Unra and the Ministry of Finance.
On July 20, 2017 while presenting a paper on National Infrastructure Development Programme at the fifth ACP Conference in Kampala, the executive director of Unra, Ms Allen Kagina, indicated that the project was due to be implemented with funding from both the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Exim Bank of China.
Ms Kagina, said AfDB would fund work on the 23Km stretch between Busega and Mpigi, which is expected to cost $91m (Shs322b) while the 9.5km stretch between Kibuye and Busega is to be funded by Exim Bank.
Work on the latter along with interchange with the Kampala Mpigi highway at Busega is to be undertaken by the China Communications Construction Company, which is constructing the Entebbe-Kampala Expressway.
The loan agreements for the said road were signed on December 2016 by Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and the African Development Bank’s Director General for East Africa, Mr Gabriel Negatu. However, despite the fact that funding was secured more than one year ago, work is yet to commence.
Mr Allan Ssempebwa Kyobe, the Media Relations Manager in the office of the executive director of Unra, says financial issues have since been resolved and that Unra is currently sorting out issues around who will do the work.
He says work is sure to begin sooner than later.
“We secured funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and we are at procurement. That process is in very highly advanced stages and with the ongoing developments, work should commence during the course of this calendar year,” he told Daily Monitor last week.
The area that has been marked out to be fixed is perhaps the worst nightmare for anyone making the journey towards parts of the south and south west of the country.
Travelling along the stretch, which would have ordinarily taken less than 30 minutes, is a nightmare, with traffic often slowing down to a crawl right from Kibuye roundabout through Busega and Kyengera.
The traffic jams often mean that one takes between one and one and half hours to cover the 30-minute stretch.
This is worsened by the fact that the stretch is narrow and laden with trading centres and numerous roads leading into the villages.
In the absence of a route designated for heavy trucks, mostly cargo carriers bound for western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the road becomes laden with heavy and conflicting traffic flows.
Public transport along the route is mostly provided by taxis; most of them operating without fixed stages, often stopping as and when they see passengers. This is one of the causes of traffic jams along this road.
The existing road was designed and constructed without taking pedestrians and users of non-motorised transport into consideration. This too causes other problems.
The endless traffic jams also mean an increase in the amounts of fuel that motorists are consuming.
With the prices having increased from around Shs3,600 to between Shs3,750 and Shs3,800 per litre of petrol, it means that users of the road now have to dig much deeper into their pockets.
Matters are further complicated by the fact that other than the use of bicycle and motorcycle boda bodas, there is no other way of moving between Kibuye and Mpigi. Railway transport is not available to either the traders or passengers plying the route.
This is proving costly in terms of time and money. It makes doing business areas along the stretch either cumbersome or more expensive than it is in other areas.
Daily Monitor position
The difficulties experienced by those who travel along the Kibuye-Mpigi route should serve as another reminder to policy makers to sort out the transport mess in and around the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA).
One of the biggest strengths of technocrats and planners in government ministries and the National Planning Authority is their ability to come up with good plans, at least on paper. The only problem though is that they often fall short when it comes to implementation of some of the great plans they come up with. Most of these documents end up gathering dust on the shelves in the offices of government ministries.
One document that is gathering dust is the Transport Master Plan for the (GKMA), which was launched by the Ministry of Works and Transport in August 2008 and was meant to be implemented between then and the end of 2028 with the aim of easing the burden of movement on the 96 km of roads within the GKMA.
It had been planned that slightly under $1.2 billion would be spent on infrastructural projects in the Kampala area with $156.91 billion spent in the period between 2008 and 2013, $413.66 billion between 2013 and 2018 and $610.07 billion between 2018 and 2023.
Some of the planned projects included the redesigning and construction of dual carriageways on main arteries, inner parts of the city centre and the Southern By-pass at a cost of approximately $300.7 million and also improve dual carriageways by upgrading them to have at least two motor vehicle lanes, adequate shoulders and proper drainages.
Other funds had been planned to meet some of the costs around creation of a Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area rail network with three main routes, namely the Kampala-Natete/ Busega, Kampala-Mukono and Kampala-Port-Bell routes, which it suggested would be developed alongside existing railway links and introduction of a rapid bus transport proposal which was meant to come on stream in 2010.
“It is envisaged that dedicated bus ways will be introduced to provide more rapid high-capacity public transport along major arteries. A feasibility study for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network will be carried out during 2009. Initial projections under this project make provision for construction of four BRT corridors by 2023, at a total cost of US$ 431.0 million,” the plan reads in parts.
The clock is ticking. 2023 is only a few years away, but none of the major projects that had been lined up has been implemented.
It is high time the Transport Master Plan for the GKMA was picked up, dusted and the projects actualised. Government owes it to the country.