A dozen factories dot the five-kilometre stretch from Dunlop to Steel Rolling Mills in Jinja City on the Jinja-Iganga Highway.
Despite Tobacco Road leading to factories such as Nile Agro, Ngaano Millers (Tip Top), as well as Nuvita Poultry and Animal Feeds, it remains one of the worst, according to residents.
Capt David Buyagala, a motorist and resident of Mpumudde in Jinja North Division, has used the road since 1995. He is convinced the road will soon lose all its asphalt and become murram.
“What really torments me is given the number of factories in that place, estates, including Danida and Walukuba, high-rise residences, and the presence of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) offices; that should be one of the smartest roads in Jinja Municipality,” he said in a recent interview.
He added: “When you look at the road, you will not think all those factories are on that side; it is surprising that nothing has been done despite seeing trucks being levied on several occasions.”
Mr Paul Wagalanga Masaba, a driver, who previously worked for Ngaano Millers, said: “The road has taken ages without being repaired.”
Mr Stephen Barasa, a boda boda rider, told Sunday Monitor that when it rains, the road becomes impassable—particularly at Nuvita and at Keshwala Group.
In 2013, residents of Walukuba-Masese Division protested the appalling state of the road. They accused the leadership of then Mayor Mohammed Baswari Kezaala of allegedly failing to maintain roads in Jinja Industrial Area. The residents claimed Walukuba, Scott, Factory and Tobacco Roads were budgeted for in the 2011/2012 budget, but were not maintained that whole year.
Mr Kezaala shifted the blame to the leadership of Walukuba-Masese Division. According to him, at least 18 roads were under repair after they were included in the 2012/2013 financial year budget.
The continued failure to fix the road has proven catastrophic in the recent past. In November 2018, two bodies were retrieved from a trench in Masese Village after being reportedly swept away by flash floods following a downpour.
Asked why fixing the road is never prioritised despite being a cash cow for the city in terms of revenue, Mr David Ereemye, the city engineer, declined to comment.
What went wrong?
Earlier, in May, while meeting Mr Martin Onyach Olaa, the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) programme task team leader at the World Bank, Mr Ereemye said Jinja City would have at least four new roads constructed. Tobacco Road was conspicuously missing. Clive Road East, which interconnects with Eng Dhikusooka Road; Clark Road, which proceeds to Kirinya Government Prison; Bell Avenue East; and West, made the grade.
Mr Ereemye told Sunday Monitor that Jinja City currently has about 505kms of roads. Of this, 205km are in the Southern Division and about 300km in the Northern Division. The vast bulk of the roads are either in a state of earth or murram.
Mr Moses Morrison Bizitu, the former speaker of the then Jinja Municipal Council, told Sunday Monitor in a telephone interview that Tobacco Road was taken over by the government.
“It is one of the 25 kilometre roads in Jinja City, including the Budondo stretch, which President Museveni promised would be worked on using the Road Fund and Uganda National Roads Authority [Unra],” he revealed, adding that “it has kept rolling over to different budgets.”
Mr Bizitu dismissed as “corridor talk” reports that Bidco Uganda Ltd wanted to work on the road and give it a 50-year life span.
“Bidco had no capacity to work on that road; if from Igar [fuel station] on Main Street to the Police roundabout, which is less than a kilometre, took Shs15 billion to fix, Bidco would need a tax waiver of 10 years to do Tobacco Road, which is about five kilometres long,” he said, adding, “Tobacco Road is under Unra and it is equated to a highway because it carries heavy trucks and most industries are located on that road.”
Mr Allan Ssempebwa, the Unra spekesperson, promised to get back after Sunday Monitor brought it to his knowledge that Tobacco Road falls under Unra’s jurisdiction. He was, however, yet to get back to us by press time.