MPs demand statement on Karuma Bridge

Members of Parliament have asked government to provide the likely implications of restricted access to Karuma bridge, which has been found to be compromised.

MPs demand statement on Karuma Bridge
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Members of Parliament have asked government to provide the likely implications of restricted access to Karuma bridge, which has been found to be compromised.

The bridge over River Nile, which connects the North and West Nile to the rest of the country, was found to have developed cracks, forcing Uganda National Roads Authority, the government agency charged with maintaining roads, to restrict its crossing to only passenger vehicles and a 28 passengers limits.  

The members, who were reacting to Speaker Anita Among’s communication said that the traffic restriction and diversion will significantly affect trade, livelihood and several other aspects which they want the Minister for Works and Transport to explain.

Speaker Among, who was presiding over the plenary sitting on Monday, 6 May 2024 urged Uganda National Roads Authority to accelerate the constructions works at the bridge.

Members were concerned that the alternative routes such as the road through the Murchison National Park is also restrictive to trade since it requires users to travel between 7:00am-7:00pm.

“Going through the park is a long route, and there is a charge.  This will increase the cost of doing business especially for those exporting goods across the border,” said Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality).

Hon. George Bhoka (NRM, Obongi County) said, “The proposed bus fare from Obongi to Kampala will double the cost from Shs50,000 to Shs100,000; this is prohibitive to the people of West Nile.” 

The Adjumani District Woman MP, Jesca Ababiku, said she had suffered delays at the bridge and asked the Works Ministry to furnish users with the necessary information.

“I used the bridge over the weekend where we were made to wait for more than an hour and the last time I used the alternative route through the park, it attracted a charge per passenger. This information is required and no one is giving it,” Ababiku said.

Erute County South MP, Hon. Jonathan Odur, expressed concern that the alternative route provided for passengers through Port Masindi is unreliable due to the breakdown of the ferry. He asked government to provide an additional ferry and increase frequency of its navigations.

There was an outcry from a number of MPs that Karuma bridge was one of the many bridges that require urgent repair, cognizant of the predicted floods and landslides that have already washed away many in some constituencies.

Hon. Paulson Luttamaguzi (DP, Nakaseke South County) said that two bridges in his constituency had broken down, while Hon. Richard Lumu (DP, Mityana County South) narrated the ordeal in one of his communities where a bridge has been washed away by heavy rains.

Parliament requested for a clear plan for disaster management in the country.

“Before we find a separate budget for disaster preparedness as requested, the Constitution provides for the Disaster Preparedness and Management Commission to deal with natural and manmade disasters. Where is the commission?” asked the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, who also inquired about the Disaster Management Bill that government contemplated to introduce in 2018. 

The Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Refugees, Hon. Lillian Aber, said the ministry has disaster risk management plan but is financially restrained to respond to all disasters.

“So far I have received requests from 30 districts. I request this House for financial support to be able to respond adequately,” said Aber adding that, “The heavy rains are expected to cause potential hazards, there will be disruption of transport, some bridges might be washed away, the rains are likely to destroy some institutions such as schools”. 

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