UNRA pleads with locals to allow construction of access road in Gulu

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Bardege-Layibi Legislator engages with UNRA officials and project affected persons in Wii Layibi Village on Sunday. URN photo

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Officials from the Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA have pleaded with landowners in Wii Layibi village, Bardege-Layibi division, Gulu municipality to allow a Chinese contractor to start construction of a 2.2 kilometer access road.

Construction of the road linking to Gulu Logistics Hub has stalled for close to two weeks now after landowners in Wii Layibi village blocked the road works over the government’s failure to compensate them. They also claim that the boundary surveyed and pegged for the road works doesn’t clearly define the road reserve.

The road works to be undertaken by Zhongmei Engineering Group Ltd have affected a total of 135 landowners in the two villages but by early this month, only 85 project-affected persons had been fully compensated.

However, during a meeting with the project-affected persons on Sunday afternoon, UNRA officials requested that the landowners allow the contractor to kick off road works to beat the project dateline of July 18, 2022.

Annet Gloria Nambusi, UNRA’s Environment and Social officer for the road project says the protest has delayed road construction by two months. She asked the aggrieved residents to allow the contractor to kick off bush clearing on one side of the road where the project-affected persons had already been compensated to beat the project dateline.

Nambusi noted that compensation for the last group of the project-affected persons is slated for the third quarter in January 2022 when the government has released cash for the compensation. Uganda Radio Network-URN understands that a total of shillings 3 billion is expected to be paid out to the affected landowners.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi division legislator in Gulu city, however, says there is a need by UNRA surveyors to conduct boundary opening along the contested lands to ensure transparency. He says there are conflicting reports from both the project-affected persons and UNRA officials on the exact size of land pegged for both road reserve and the tarmacking.

Mapenduzi also requested the locals who have already been compensated to allow the contractor to commence road works to save the government’s money from going to waste.

He notes that the contractor should however work strictly on areas that have been fully compensated minus crossing into boundaries where the landowners haven’t yet been paid.

Alfred Otong, one of the project-affected persons says as residents of the area, they aren’t against the project but their concerns have been on the non-transparent mode of operation of UNRA and the contractor.

He says they were earlier deceived that their money for compensation would be delivered before road works commence but they were surprised to see the contractor already on the ground even before payment.

Otong has asked the government to honor their promises of delivering compensation to the project-affected persons by January next year.

Following resolutions from the Sunday meeting, UNRA officials have agreed to conduct a fresh boundary opening on Tuesday along with the affected persons and concurrently embark on bush clearing on lands that the government has already made compensation.



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