12 high voltage power lines   vandalised in just a month  

Government, about two weeks ago, shared photos of the Karuma-Kawanda high voltage power line that it said had been vandalised by unknown people. Photo / Courtesy 

What you need to know:

  • There are about 2,989.2 kilometres of high voltage lines. However, UETCL doesn't not indicate how the 12 towers impact the supply network

Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) has said 12 high voltage electricity towers have been vandalised in just one month. 

Speaking during a sensitisation workshop on vandalism of electricity infrastructure organised for Police criminal investigations officers, Mr Ronald Bogere, the UETCL head of security, said vandals recently disabled three other high voltage power transmission lines evacuating electricity from the hydro power stations, following an increase in attacks on electricity infrastructure. 

“We have lost over 12 towers in one month in Mukono Kasana, Lugazi and Mukono. The impact is huge. Repairing the five towers, which were vandalised in Luwero Kasana, will cost not less than $2.5m,” he said, noting that vandals are indiscriminate targeting high voltage power lines, which has led to blackout in northern Uganda.

UETCL currently has a transmission network of 2,989.2 kilometres of high voltage lines with 1,008 kilometres of 220 kilovolts, 1,946 kilometres of 132 kilovolts and 35 kilometres of 66 kilovolts. 

However, it did not indicate the real extent of damage caused by the vandalism. 

During the meeting, Mr Bogere said since November 12, they have registered attacks on the 132 kilovolts Owen Falls-Lugogo line, Nalubale-Kampala North (132 kilovolts), Bujagali-Kawanda line and Karuma-Kawanda (400 kilovolts), which were attacked between November 12 and 15.  

In February, a report from the Auditor General’s Office indicated that suspected vandals had vandalised a security system that UETCL had installed on transmission lines in a pilot project to curb theft of electricity equipment. 

The report also indicated that vandalism and theft of electricity equipment had become a nationwide problem costing UETCL billions of shillings in replacement and repair of various equipment. 

For instance, according to the report, during the period ended June 2021, UETCL had spent Shs1.6b to replace and repair vandalised equipment with at least Shs500m used to purchase galvanised angle bars to “replace vandalised tower members” while another Shs1.5b was spent on replacing assorted transmission line items vandalised between 2017 and 2021. 

UETCL has previously blamed vandalism and theft of electricity equipment on the growing demand for scrap. 

However, recently government and security officials have suggested that the current vandalism has ingredients of terrorism.  Monitor could not verify the claims. 

Mr Stephen Okurut the Umeme security officer, said vandals had also, on May 2, vandalised a line supplying Kawumu-Kapeeka while on April 2, 10 electricity poles supplying Kakiri Police Barracks were cut down. 

Before this, Umeme said, on January 30, they had registered an attempt to burn down Mutundwe substation, while on January 31, an underground cable supplying power to Kyambogo was cut. 

Mr Okurut also indicated that in January, charcoal had been poured near a transformer at Shell Jinja Road, suggesting that this had been calculated to cause an explosion to trigger a black out across Kampala. 

Umeme also indicated that it had lost 41,000 litres of transformer oil, some of which has been intercepted in restaurants across the country. 

Alarming levels of vandalism

In February, Umeme noted that vandalism of electricity infrastructure in western Uganda had hit alarming levels with vandals stealing more than 133 kilometres of cable in just 12 months. 

Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme’s managing director, said then than in 2021 alone, the electricity subsector had lost more than Shs26b in stolen copper wires, vandalised transformers and poles, among others.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the most accurate information contrary to what we had indicated earlier.