Residents on URC land refuse to make way for railway line repairs

Residents who encroached into the land that belongs to Uganda Railway Corporation (URC) have declined to  give room for the rehabilitation of the railway line.

In 2020, before the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) was undertaken, URC signed a contract with the Spanish contractor Imathia Construction to construct a concrete sleeper railway line from Kampala to Mukono.

In February this year, the China Road and Bridge Corporation completed the line from Mukono to Malaba.

The work included supply and installation of new railway track materials, ballasting, culvert construction and upgrading the level crossings.

The second phase is supposed to commence on April 3 this year but the Spanish contractor who will rehabilitate the line from Mukono to Kampala is stuck after the residents refused to leave.

The contractor requested residents to move 10 metres away from the railway reserve to allow for smooth construction.

However, some of the residents with permanent houses and business in the reserve have since refused to evacuate, saying they will be affected.

At least 9,000 people will be affected by project in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono. However, most of these won't be affected by the 10 meter requirement, according to the officials. 

Akram Bazirwana, the chairperson of the affected persons, has however told the Nile Post that this 10-metre requirement is too much, adding that they can not just leave the land like that.

“Let us consider the number of people who will be affected by the project. Officials don’t want to use the word eviction but let us not pretend, this is going to be eviction,” said Bazirwana.

Naume Tumuhairwe, councillor Kireka Railway Kira Municipality told this reporter that many people who will be affected by this project are now living in fear that any time they might be evicted. 

“As one of their leaders. We should be given something little(compensation) so that we don’t continue suffering in our own country.URC wants development but this cannot happen without people,” she said.

The acting manager managing director of URC, David Musoke Bulega told the Nile Post that the refusal of the locals to leave is affecting the progress of the project.

He said in 2022, the government undertook a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) aimed at registering all settlers and their property on URC land with the aim of compensating them to facilitate their exit from the reserves.

“As we speak, the government has not yet secured funds to compensate all those registered. However, this does not mean that the compensation will not happen. It will as soon as these funds are available,” he said.

He made the remarks shortly after URC held stakeholders’ engagement meeting to pave the way for the construction of the railway line. The meeting which was held in Bweyogerere consisted of the local leaders from Kampala, Buikwe, Mukono and Wakiso districts.

Bulega said delays on the project implementation will affect the fund lending agreement, hence the risk of losing the funding.

“The project will achieve a more stable track that supports increased train operating speeds, passenger comfort, efficient and effective freight and passenger transportation services offered by URC,” he said.

The refusal of encroachers to leave angered many leaders including Wakiso district chairperson, Matia Lwang Bwanika who said the locals should stop pretending that they own any land on the railway reserves.

‘Sometime we tend to become problematic and yet in the back of our mind we are aware that we don’t own anything. Let's not claim ownership which we don’t have,” he advised.

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