UGANDA: MAYOR DENIES MALGINALIZATION CLAIM OVER US$150 MILLION WORLD BANK FUNDED ROAD PROJECTS

 “You cannot put tarmac on no-road. Let him open the roads in his Division first, and see if tarmac is not put on those roads. I am not seeing any road in Bardege which has not been catered for”-Mayor Labeja.

GULU-UGANDA: The Mayor of yet to be city, Gulu, in Northern Uganda, Mr. George Labeja, has denied claims that he has been marginalizing Bardege Division from benefitting from a $150 million World Bank funded road projects under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) program.

“You cannot put tarmac on no-road. Let him open the roads in his Division first, and see if tarmac is not put on those roads. I am not seeing any road in Bardege which has not been catered for”, says Mayor Labeja.

Mr. Labeja made this remarks on Thursday, January 19, 2017 while responding to complaints registered by the Bardege Division local council III and IV councilors led by the chairman of the Division, Mr. Oola Patrict Lumumba, to the media at the Northern Uganda media Club (NUMEC), Wednesday.

Mr. Oola Lumumba had alleged that Mayor Labeja had promised during his 2015 campaigns, that eight roads in Bardege was in the work plan for tarmacking using USMID II fund since USMID I phase started with roads in Pece and Layibi Divisions because they are the gateway to attract visitors to the town.

“All of us were very pleased and patiently waiting. However, from February 2015 to date, we are very surprised that the plan has been abandoned. Our hopes were raised up. We did not know it was a false hope”, complains Mr. Oola Lumumba.

Mayor Labeja however assured the complainants that all the eight roads in Bardege Division will be worked on according to the work plan of the Municipality using “Force-On Account” by Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) but not under USMID program.

“All the roads of Bardege are committed in our work plan already and they will be worked on by UNRA using “Force on Account” but not under USMID fund. I have already communicated this to the Ministry of Local Government and the minister wrote to UNRA Executive Director on January 20, 2016 to remind her. Which road in Bardege again is he talking about? We cannot jump and put tarmac in Obiya road”, says Mayor Labeja.

Mayor Labeja explained that two of the roads Mr. Oola Lumumba complained of; Pope and Mican roads, were already is the work plan of UNRA following as a request from Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Archdiocese of Gulu and Bishop Johnson Gakumba of the Anglican Church to President Yoweri Museveni.

A member of the Gulu Municipal Development Forum (GMDF), who preferred anonymity, concurs with Mayor Labeja, saying all roads in the Municipality would be tarmacked, but in phases.

“Leaders of Bardege should not complain at this stage. All roads in the Municipality are in our work plan. It is only that we cannot put all roads under one program”, says the GMDF member.

He says he cannot rule out “politics” out of the claim by Mr. Oola Lumumba and his councilors since he also contested and lost the mayoral race to incumbent Mayor in 2011.

The Gulu Municipal Council chairman of Works and Technical Committee, Mr. Peter Langwen, advised Mr. Oola Lumumba and his councilors to seek for dialogue instead of threatening demonstrating over the matter.

“You should sit together with Municipal authorities and resolve the problem. We need all inclusive development. The problem in Bardege affect all of us”, says Mr. Langwen.

What is USMID program?

The World Bank (WB) and Uganda government signed a $150 million fund project, called Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) in 2013 to support 14 out of 22 Municipalities in Uganda with road infrastructures in order to prepare some of them to become cities. Gulu Municipality is one of the beneficiaries of the USMID fund and has also applied to be upgraded to a city status. Its share is over $12 million.

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