Uganda’s rural electrification and poor project management

Author: Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Dorothy requested me to allow the transmission line to pass through my land in Kiburara. I objected. 

With a very high level of riparian drainage, Kasese is disposed to have more mini hydro electric dams than any other district in Uganda. So, rural electrification is actually a Kasese thing.

There are two dams in Bukonzo County (one in Bukonzo East Constituency and the other in Bukonzo West). The Rural Electrification Department (formerly Rural Electrification Agency) of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development is supposed to secure land on which transmission lines for these two dams will run. But in a typical case of poor project management and implementation now endemic in Uganda, it seems REA is killing a very good idea. They trade in lies and threats. And worse: the emotional blackmail framing our community as being hostile to the government and state.

The transmission line for the dam in Bukonzo West will pass through Kiburara. The company responsible for constructing the transmission line is Sinotec. I have had run-ins with Sinotec staff or their sub contractors.


Before Rural Electrification Agency was transferred to the Ministry of Energy, Ms Dorothy Orishaba called me for a meeting at the Rural Electrification Agency in Kamwokya. I obliged.

Dorothy requested me to allow the transmission line to pass through my land in Kiburara. I objected. Dorothy and her team later met me on location in Kiburara. I objected to the use of my land, I asked them to delineate the ‘possible’ route the transmission line on my land would take.

After delineating the route path, Dorothy suggested I write to the PS Ministry of Energy and make my demands known. I objected. I have worked in government bureaucracy long enough to know it would look awkward for me to originate an untriggered correspondence with the PS. I advised Dorothy to advise her PS to write to me making a formal request for the use of my land.

The letter from the PS came and I responded. I made some demands; the main one being that the ministry (or whoever was responsible) installs a three phase transformer in Kiburara Town. A few days later, Dorothy sent me an email with an attachment note where I would sign as having allowed the transmission line to pass through my land; oh yes, even before I knew the fate of our transformer demand! I just found this attitude discourteous.

Later on, Dorothy assured me that there would be no compensation and no three phase transformer for Kiburara Town. I closed my file with the Ministry of Energy (I was after all not keen on giving away my land). I said: let them have their transformer and I have my land.

Last weekend, I learnt that some unknown people had dug two-metre deep holes in my land. I ordered my boys to fill the said holes with soil as I ran to Kiburara; but not before I sent an angry WhatsApp message to Dorothy. I copied it to Ms Irene Batebe, (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy).

Now as I write this on Thursday evening, we have a scheduled meeting with Ministry of Energy staff. If it were up to me, I would advise Ms Batebe to look deeper into rural electrification projects management and implementation.

Madam PS, rural electrification is the backbone of the country’s (or Mr Museveni’s) social and economic transformation; the rest is support stuff. And needless to say Madam PS, you have a higher call than your contractor Sinotec Ltd field staff whose standard response to inquiries is: please contact you LCI chairperson. Or even saying the enquirer is an opposition supporter. Madam PS, sorry for REA confusion to dock at your sandy coast.

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