Government has defended its decision to construct 223 kilometres of road network inside the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Cabinet recently approved the construction and upgrading of the national road from Kasindi section at the border to Beni(80km) and the integration of the Beni-Butembo axis(54km) to the national road and the Bunagana(border) to Ruchuru- Goma road (89km) but the move has since attracted condemnation from members of the public.
Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre on Tuesday, the Minister for Works and Transport, Gen.Edward Katumba Wamala said there was misinterpretation in the rationale behind the move.
“It does not mean we are not cognizant of the fact that we still have infrastructure to develop in our country so that we divert resources. As a country, we don’t operate or exist in isolation but with other countries. We have national obligations, bilateral obligations, regional obligations and international obligations. The improvement of this infrastructure is both bilateral and regional obligations,”Katumba Wamala said.
The Works minister explained that since Uganda has been on the growth path, a number of industries have been set up adding that the latest move will see Uganda get a bigger market as the volume of exports to DRC goes up, unlike before.
The minister said when President Museveni and Tshisekedi met last year, they realized one of the biggest impediments to smooth trade between Uganda and DRC is impassable road and decided to work on a joint infrastructural development project.
“By 2018 trade between us and DRC $ 532 million and has the potential to grow twice if the infrastructure is improved. However, it can take you about five days to move from Beni to Kasindi which is about 54kms yet it would take less than a day if the roads are good. This (construction of roads network) was a strategic decision between the two heads of trade that will promote both trade and relations.”
He cited the Standard Gauge Railway as another joint project between different countries in the region, noting that the road network in the DRC is also another project between the two countries.
“There is always a start. It may not have been there before but we are developing infrastructure together as regional states like it is done with the Standard Gauge Railway,” Gen. Katumba said.
Asked about funds to the project, the Works minister said they are soon asking for a supplementary budget from the Ministry of Finance over the same.
The joint infrastructural development project underscores the stable relations between Uganda and DR Congo which have been enjoyed over the last decades, albeit complicated by security tensions in the eastern Congo.