KYOTERA, Uganda: Over 200 residents in villages of Nabigasa Sub County in Kyotera district are crying foul after a number of their properties and crops have been oppressively destroyed as government extends electricity to rural areas.
Although they would like to embrace development, the frustrated residents say the method and approach used is rude and so costly while placing the high power voltage poles.
In 2001 the government, through the Rural Electrification Agency embarked on a project to extend electricity to all rural communities as a way of improving people’s standards of living.
Among the policies set by the agency, the process runs in the community without any compensation done. The government through REA contracted Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited to carry out the exercise which also sub contracted City harvest (U) limited to perform this duty on its behalf in the rural areas of Kyotera.
Emmanuel Ssenkubuge, the LC 1 Chairperson of Kilembwe village says in his area, the program is conducted in a complicated way. None of the authorities was notified apart from seeing men surveying and destroying people’s properties.
“Looking at the nature, size and shape of people’s land, a thorough sensitization and negotiations were supposed to be done before clearing across the middle of gardens without their consent,” Ssenkubuge argues.
He adds that in Kilembwe village alone, more than four residents are complaining about their pit-latrines to have been completely beaten down by trees that were cut without any sense of design.
In the efforts of visiting some of the affected residents, The Investigator also realized that some electric poles were placed just a few centimeters from home verandas and others crossing over people’s burial grounds.
Margret Namulema, a casual laborer at Biikira says she has worked so hard in the last two years to purchase a plot of land at Kilembwe village but her hope of building a house was frustrated after a big tree was cut and fell on her newly constructed pit-latrine, reducing it to debris.
She further explains that the power line cuts across the same plot where the house was planned to be constructed.
“When I tried to talk to the company supervisor, he promised to compensate me with only 70, 000 shillings upon their return to connect wires on the poles. Unfortunately, when I consulted my construction engineer, he said it can cost at least 500, 000 shillings to come up with a new pit-latrine similar to the former.” Namulema reveals.
A 77 year old Francis Ssekayiba also says that he will not stop crying for his avocado and jackfruit trees that have been feeding him over time. “Had they passed their power lines at the fore front of my house, the important trees to my life would be spared.”
“2017 is one of the tragedy years I will live to remember. My land is no longer productive and my survival was depending on those fruit trees that were cut down, unfortunately also the small garden of peas I had given time was also destroyed together with my two pig sties I had just set up.” Mzee Ssekayiba exclaimed.
Another old woman Noeline Namagembe, 80 express worries over the power lines going through the family burial grave yard and one pole placed near the biggest coffee tree which she says has always supported her with buying paraffin and sugar for years.
She asks what will happen to her ancestors’ graves and where to bury the grand children after they were told that every cleared power ground now belongs to the government.
“I only call for a re-consideration because even if you compensate me, shall I be able to invest the received money to cater for my survival at this age. They say wires are dangerous once they are near to the road but they were extended to our houses, then what are they planning for us.” Namagembe asks.
In a village meeting held on Saturday 30th December last year chaired by the LCI Chairperson of Kilembwe, over 80 residents that attended vowed to protest connections of the HV wires before the contractors rectify errors and sufferings they caused.
“Power brings development, we don’t desist but what shall we use to meet the electricity monthly dues when our sources of income are destroyed in the process; authorities at both the sub county and the district have ignored the matter. They instead pose threats on us after forwarding our complaints.” Ssenkubuge obsereved.
Vicent Kibandi, the LC3 Chairperson of Nabigasa acknowledged receiving the resident’s complaints though delayed to take action. “I have received several complaints concerning the power lines but due to the festive seasons, that is one of the issues left pending but we are going to follow it up and ensure order in our community.”
Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the LC5 Chairperson of Kyotera district says that he is aware of the electrification program in the area but his office has not yet received any complaints from residents about destruction of properties.
He further wondered why residents are still failing to embrace development in their communities and instead concentrate on minor issues that will keep them backward.
“Locals should avoid being misled by opportunists over issues of development and confuse them with politics; it is not only the sub county of Nabigasa that is going to benefit from this power project. They should also be considerate to their fellows where the project is destined and treat such simple losses as by gone,” said Kisekulo.