It is more than ten years since the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) officials degazatted vast land belonging to peasants to pave way for the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway and the Kampala – Jinja Express High way.
Buikwe District peasants along the affected areas were urged to avoid planting perennial crops and putting up new structures because they had completed assessing and computing the compensation values ahead of constructional of the new mega projects.
However, the Minister of works and Transport Gen, Edward Katumba Wamala recently (Feb 11) while presiding at a graduation ceremony of Buikwe district graduates, told the residents that there were some road diversions to avoid destruction of Mehta sugarcane plantations.
‘’ Government made some diversions to minimise the high cost of compensation in case we were to destroy Mehta sugar canes. Despite the diversion, Kampala- Jinja Express high way will go on as planned by the government”, he said.
The minister’s statement means that peasants who adhered to government’s requests of not utilising their land for over ten years now, will not be compensated following these diversions.
Much as we highly appreciate government’s proposed East African commercial highway that will uplift the standard of the people in the affected areas through road construction, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) should sensitize affected residents on the actual plans while also pay them for the loss due to land being rendered unproductive.
For example, there is a proposed fly-over and a giant round about opposite my village in Lugazi municipality, Buikwe district.
In the area, about twenty houses and a huge piece of land belonging to peasants will be destroyed to give way for the road beautification.
UNRA officials have also advised residents in the area against planting crops like Bananas and coffee. Though the residents here are purely dependent on agriculture for survival, they were advised to plant only beans and maize.
Road demarcation in the area started way back in early 2011.
UNRA should come up with a clear and documented work plan and also pay locals early enough in order to look for alternative land elsewhere and continue with their agriculture uninterrupted.
Affected residents are not sure when the construction will resume or where exactly the road diversions will take. To make matters worse, they are scared by the UNRA officials’ demarcation style.
Sometime back, maybe due to lack of demarcating sticks, these officials sometimes veered into gazetted areas by painting crops or stones giving an impression that the construction is resuming any time.
To avoid unnecessary demonstration in future, the affected people should be paid in advance or be allowed to continue with their economic activities, without conditions.