While progress is being made by government towards construction of some key roads in the country, some upcountry roads remain in a sorry state.
The poor condition of upcountry roads is holding back the country’s economic growth and is hampering regional trade.
Ideally, good roads would, create more job opportunities and improve access to markets and health services of the rural poor.
However, traders and farmers are paying a high price as they count losses in perishable products.
A case in point is the Mbale-Nkokonjeru Road where residents in Mbale District have on numerous occasions closed the road in protest over its poor state.
The 15 kilometre road, which is under Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) connects to Wanale Sub-county, a food basket for Bugisu Sub-region and neighbouring districts.
“We have challenges of transporting our farm produce including carrots, tomatoes, coffee, and potatoes to the market due to the poor state of the road,” Mr Yasin Naswagi, a resident of Bukhatoko village, Bubetsye Parish in Wanale Sub-county, said.
The speaker of Mbale District, Mr Muhammad Masaba, said five years ago the government had secured a contractor to tarmac the road.
“The government advertised and even got a contractor but we were told the contractor was later abandoned. Since then, UNRA says nothing,” he said.
In Masaka, the Nyendo-Masaka Road, a 7.7 kilometre stretch that connects Nyendo suburb to Masaka City and Kijjabwemi roundabout up to Masaka-Mbarara bypass has been in a sorry state for more than two decades.
The Unra spokesperson, Mr Mark Ssali, said they are in the process of identifying a contractor to fix the road.
“The construction works are expected to commence this financial year,” he said.
In Kalungu, residents say the 52 kilometre Villa-Kifamba-Kabulasoke Road has been on the government to-do list since 2001, but remains in poor state.
“In every campaign period, President Museveni has been promising to tarmac that road and when the campaigns end, no one talks about it again,” Mr Sula Mutazindwa, a resident of Nunda Village, Lwabenge Sub-county, said.
Another road in poor state is the 95 kilometre Lumbugu –Lyantonde-Nyabitanga-Ntuusi Road, which connects the districts of Rakai, Lyantonde and Sembabule.
Recently, angry residents of Bulongo, Kayayumbe and Kirundamarigga villages in Rakai District staged a protest over the poor state of the road.
Mr Amos Mandela, the MP Buyamba county said the government has already contacted Azu Property Limited to carry out routine maintenance on a badly damaged section of the road between Lumbugu and Lyantonde.
“The government has already completed the designs to upgrade it to bitumen standard,” he said.
In Kalangala, the 66 kilometre Luuku–Mulabana- Kalangala Road, which connects Masaka to Bugala Island on Lake Victoria, has also developed potholes, less than four years after it was constructed in 2015.
In West Nile, Nebbi-Goli-Paidha Road has been in a poor state for decades despite President Museveni’s pledge to tarmac it.
“We are tired of the poor state of the road. It is a death trap. It is like we are not paying taxes,” Ms Grace Acikane, a resident of Nebbi town, said.
In Amuru, the LC5 chairperson, Mr Michael Lakony, said most roads under Unra are in bad shape.
"UNRA roads like Awer - Rhino camp, Pabbo via Pogo to Adjumani and Atiak-Lamwo to Kitgum are in bad shape at the moment due to delays in the maintenance and shoddy work every time they are rehabilitated,” Mr Lakony, said.
The interim city mayor of Gulu District, Mr George Labeja, said they are waiting for the commencement of works on Patiko Road, which connects to Lamwo District and South Sudan.
In Fort Portal City, the interim city mayor, Rev Willy Muhanga, said: “In the last financial year 2019/20, we constructed two roads that are Rukidi III and Mugunu Lorry Park. The one that is pending is the Rwengoma, which is also under the same project (USMID).”
Kyenjojo Road was also completed in the last financial year and awaits commissioning. It was constructed by the M/s China Wu Yi construction company.
In Kasese, for the last two financial years, Kasese municipality has been stuck with Shs12 billion USMID funds which has been blamed on delayed designs.
In Sironko District, the LC5 chairperson, Mr Herbert Mulekwe, said Namagumba-Nalugugu Road, which has been earmarked for tarmacking several times in the National Budget, and Namugumba-Butesa Road should be tarmarcked.
In Tororo District, the residents are still waiting for President Museveni’s pledge to tarmack Tororo-Ngongera-Busolwe-Namutumba Road.
The district speaker Mr John Okeya, said the district has the poorest road network in the country.
“The Malaba-Kwapa-Tuba and Iyolwa- Mulanda-Nagongera Busolwe roads are in bad state,” he said.
However, Tororo municipality, has drastically improved on its roads due support from World Bank under USMID project.
In Kigezi sub-region, many tourism roads which connect to major tourism sites including include Lake Bunyonyi, Mt Muhavura, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks are dilapidated.
The Kanungu District LC5 vice chairman, Mr Gad Byomuhangi, said only Rukungiri-Kihiihi-Ishasha-Kanungu road (about 78 kilometres) is being tarmacked.
“The national roads are vital in transporting tourists but they are dilapidated. Unra should work on them to ease access,” Mr Byomuhangi, said.
In Pallisa, local leaders said the construction of Tirinyi-Pallisa-Kumi and Pallisa-Kamonkoli roads will spur economic development.
“The completion of the 111 kilometre road will definitely boost business and lift people out of poverty,” Mr John Micheal Okurut, the Pallisa LC5 chairman, said.
Mr Mark Ssali, the Unra spokesperson said some roads remain untarmacked despite appearing in the budget due a long road development cycle.
“The Road Development Cycle is long. It starts with feasibility study, preliminary design and detailed design before procurement for works to commence,” he said.
Mr Ssali said the preparatory phase of the project can take between two to five years before actual works commence, ”So when you see a road in the Budget, that process is part of it,” he said.
He said in this financial year, the roads that are supposed to be upgraded include Muyembe- Nakapiripirit, Rwenkunye-Apac-Puranga, Kira-Kasangati, Najjanankumbi-Busabala,Moroto-Lokitanyala, Nebbi-Alwi reconstruction and Mityana-Mubende.
Compiled by Fred Wambede, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Joseph Omollo, Wilson Kutamba, Mudagha Kolyangha, Sylvester Ssemugenyi, Fred Muzaale, Felix Warom, Robert Elema, Patrick Okaba, Scovin Iceta, Rashul Adidi, Polycap Kalokwera, Stephen Okello, Robert Muhereza, Scovia Atuhaire & Enid Ninsiima.