On Museveni’s DR Congo roads, Kasese’s long term interests

Author: Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Mr Asman Bisiika says: I support the effort of the two leaders and I have elsewhere expressed open and personal support for what I call MCR (Museveni’s Congolese Roads). 

On  Wednesday June 16, presidents Museveni of Uganda and Tshisekedi of DR Congo were in my neighbourhood to launch the Mpondwe-Beni Road Bituminisation Project. This road project, like two more in the pipeline, is on Congolese soil and funded by the Government of Uganda.

I support the effort of the two leaders and I have elsewhere expressed open and personal support for what I call MCR (Museveni’s Congolese Roads). In spite of the general disposition by Ugandans to oppose the principle of the construction of Congolese roads, it is easy to calculate Uganda’s mid and long term economic benefits from MCR. In short, Uganda needs the eastern DR Congo market; and investment on such a market is worth it.

But I hold a very strong feeling that there were other options that could lead to the same results: Tapping into the eastern DR Congo market (lessening expenditure on Congolese soil). Whereas these options would serve Uganda’s interests in the eastern DR Congolese market, they would still be on Ugandan soil.

The centre of Uganda’s market interest in the eastern Dr Congo is Butembo (the centre of Congolese Lhukonzo speaking Bandandi Community). Beni is more like a roadside stop over between Bunia and Butembo (it is also more cosmopolitan town than ‘tribal’ town of Butembo and Bunia town).

Whereas the Mpondwe-Beni Road will ease access to Butembo; it is a long road going to no-where. It is actually like connecting Kampala to Jinja via the Gayaza-Kayunga-Jinja axis (leaving the better option of Kampala-Mukono-Lugazi-Njeru).
Whereas we welcome the construction of the Mpondwe-Beni Road, we would like to present an option that would not have spooked Ugandans. This is the construction of the Rwentale Road.

The Rwentale Road is entirely on Ugandan soil. It starts off the Kasese-Mbarara Road (at the junction to Kasenyi Fishing Village), goes through Katwe-Kabatooro Town Council and terminates into the Kikorongo-Mbondwe Road at Katolhu. The construction of this road would give Uganda access to Congolese market via Lake Edward.

Because of the unending rebel activities on the Mponde-Beni Axis, the Mpondwe-Beni route is no longer popular with traders from Butembo. From Butembo, Congolese traders go straight to Karuruma Port on Lake Edward (from where they take a ferry to Kasindi Port and eventually to Mpondwe Border Post). If Katwe-Kabatooro was made a border post (with customs and immigration services), Congolese traders from Butembo would use a ferry from Karuruma Port (in DR Congo) to Katwe Kabatooro Port in Uganda.

With the construction of Rwentale Road in Uganda, then (may be) Uganda would consider constructing the road from Butembo to Karuruma (which could even be shorter than the Mpondwe-Beni road). That way, Uganda would have killed two birds with one stone (and with less costs) With a customs and immigration services at Katwe-Kabatooro, a Ugandan ferry would then be floated to ply between the ports of Karuruma, Kyavinyonge and Kasindi on the Congolese side and those of Kayanzi, Katwe-Kabatooro on the Ugandan side of the lake.

Reader may need to know: the Mpondwe-Beni Road is almost deserted. That a UPDF military official first flies to Kinshasa and then does some kind of return journey to Beni is instructive enough to tell us that the Mpondwe-Beni route is likely to be Elephant Blanc (White Elephant). In Kasese, our long term interests are simple: the projection of Kasese as the entry point into the coveted eastern DR Congo market. To achieve this, these Congolese roads should feed into the construction of Kasese International Airport, Katwe-Kabatooro Port (Uganda) and at Port Karuruma (DR Congo) on Lake Edward. We implore government to consider the Rwentale Road Project. 

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]