90% of Kampala City streets in darkness

Vandalised street lights on Nile Avenue in Kampala on November 5, 2022. Several lighting infrastructure lies vandalised and formerly lit areas are plunged in darkness  PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Officials at KCCA have on multiple occasions attributed the lighting snag to budget constraints, compounded by thieves who make off with the infrastructure put in place to provide lighting.

A night tour through parts of Kampala ushers in the reality that despite efforts spanning years to light up and transform Kampala into a smart city, darkness still persists—creating a haven for criminals and dealing the night economy a negative hand.

On closer observation, it is apparent that the one step forward, two steps backward adage is actualised on the streets of Uganda’s capital. There, lighting infrastructure lies vandalised.

Our on-site observations are confirmed by records from the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the body that superintends the city. They indicate that slightly over 10 percent of the more than 2,000km road network in the city have functional street lighting.

“The capital city has currently a 12 percent street lighting coverage of the required street lighting. These are along roads in communal areas such as markets, parks and segregated walkways. The gap is 88 percent,” Ms Dorothy Kisaka, the KCCA executive director, told Sunday Monitor.

Several streets are decorated with mostly faulty LED and solar powered street lights.
In 2018, this publication reported that at least 900 solar lights, costing up to Shs400m, were procured and installed on several roads or streets in the city. 

Whereas KCCA replaced most of the LED bulbs with solar lights, a spot check carried out by this publication discovered that the majority of the solar lights are already faulty and cannot provide light.

The once well-lit roads like Makerere Hill, Kampala, City Square, Jinja, Entebbe, Bombo, Kiira, Namirembe, Buganda and Old Kampala roads, are halfway lit.  Others are completely dark as solar lights mounted on these streets went off months or years ago.

Other dark areas in the city include Mapeera junction, Mulago roundabout, Wandegeya junction, Makerere junction and city streets William, Johnson, John Ssebaana, Ham, Kafumbe Mukasa, Ben Kiwanuka; Kisekka area, Marckay Road, Rubaga Road, Eighth and Seventh streets, among others.
Roads with majority of the faulty solar street lights in the city include Kampala Road, Makerere Hill, Namirembe, City Square, Bombo, Entebbe, Buganda, and Kyaggwe roads.

The few well-lit roads in the city centre include, Parliamentary Avenue, Kimathi Avenue, Colville Street, Portal Avenue, as well as New and Old taxi parks. All well-lit roads and public places depend on LED bulbs, making it unsustainable in case of power shortage.

Some lights at various CCTV camera points like Makerere Hill and Namirembe roads have since gone off.

Government agencies, ministries and institutions on dark roads include Central Police Station and High Court on Buganda Road, new prime minister’s office and Ministry of Finance on Apollo Kaggwa Road, UBC and Uganda Media Centre on Nile Avenue, Makerere University, National Water and Sewerage Corporation—Kampala offices on Sixth Street, Uganda Police Fire Brigade Station on Queen’s Way, and police stations on Nkrumah, Namirembe, Jinja, Kibuli, Burton and Buganda roads.

Officials at KCCA have on multiple occasions attributed the lighting snag to budget constraints, compounded by thieves who make off with the infrastructure put in place to provide lighting.
In a social media engagement on October 26, KCCA spokesperson Simon Kasyate, in response to a complaint raised by a user over the poorly lit capital, said while the authority recognises the gap, citizens have worsened the situation by stealing the lights, solar panels and batteries.

Robberies, muggings, and in the most unfortunate cases fatal attacks are often reported in the city. Mr Simon Kayiwa, a taxi driver who plies Namirembe Road, said the dark corners on the city streets have attracted criminals. These, he added, take advantage of the darkness to rob, injure and sometimes kill the road users, especially pedestrians and boda boda riders.

Ms Hanifah Kalembe, a business operator on William Street, said: “We would like to operate up to 9pm, but we are forced to close a few minutes past 7pm because we are scared of being attacked by criminals who might be hiding in the dark corners around the street.”

Ms Loreen Katusiime, a pedestrian we found on Marckay Road, said KCCA should make a routine check on the installed street lights since many of them are malfunctioning.

“Most of the people operating businesses in Kampala are at the mercy of criminals because there are several dark spots that are used by these criminals to execute their filthy activities,” she said.

Mr Luke Owoyesigire, the Kampala Metropolitan Area police spokesperson, admitted that well-lit streets would be an enabler for a safer city. The police, he added, has noted that “if you do not have light, you become a target to criminals.”

Mr Owoyesigire also revealed that improved lighting on roads like the Northern Bypass and the Southern Bypass helped stamp out the thugs who were terrorising the area.
“We believe darkness accommodates criminality,” he said.

So what’s the way forward? Ms Kisaka intimated that the city requires 42,000 street lights in line with the master plan. She further revealed that the Authority acquired a loan, which will provide 20,000 street lights and increase the coverage to more than 50 percent. This publication could not establish why the Shs32 billion loan acquired in 2021 has not yet been put to use.