In 2001, when President Museveni first promised that government will tarmac the Jinja-Mbulamuti-Kamuli-Bukungu road (simply known as the amber court road), the Kyabazinga, HRH William Nadiope was still in primary school, Bujjagali Falls were alive and the biggest falls along the River Nile, Joseph Kony war was still raging in Northern Uganda, the East African Community had just been revived, Jose Chameleon’s Mama Mia was the hit song and this writer, now 23, was only two years old.
“We are looking at tarmacking the Iganga-Bulopa-Kamuli, Kamuli-Namwendwa-Kaliro, Jinja-Budondo-Mbulamuti-Kamuli roads and another 22 kilometers for roads with in Kamuli town,” President Museveni promised, while campaigning in Namasanda village, Bugabula south constituency in Kamuli district in 2001.
The 22 Kilometers of Kamuli were delivered; yet, every year that followed and every election since then, the works on that road have remained a pipe dream.
When residents demonstrated in 2013, after twelve years of waiting, they were shot at.
The message from government about the road has been one: “a contractor has been procured and works are set to begin soon”. Letters to prove that message are usually shared around during presidential election campaigns and months after, including a budget line in the national budget and that is where it has always ended.
The road has featured in successive budget speeches from 2001 to 2021 and in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) manifestos of 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 and the recent manifesto of 2021.
Right now, the road is hardly navigable. The sugarcane ferrying trucks have dug gullies in most parts of the road and the rainy season has not helped matters. If one does not have four wheel raised car, one has to be able to foot a garage bill after one round trip on the road.
“I think the road has been set aside to be used for campaign gimmicks because whenever campaigns approach, the promises are renewed only to be abandoned once the political season subsides,” says Jafari Mulondo a resident of Bukungu in Buyende district adding that he no longer buys into what he called the usual rhetoric of politicians concerning the road and will only believe when the actual road works start.
The road connects the districts of Jinja and Kamuli via Budondo sub-county and stretches through Mbulamuti, a village and sub-county on the banks of River Nile to Bukungu in Buyende district. Budondo and Butagaya Sub Counties where the road passes are the food basket of not only Jinja city but even Kampala.
This means that the road has a big economic importance. It is also the main access route to Kyabirwa and Itanda falls on the River Nile. The only remaining big falls in the region attracting tourists who come for water sports.
“The Jinja-Mbulamuti-Kamuli-Bukungu road is one of the projects that have been prioritized for implementation under the National Development Programme III (NDPIII),” said Mr Allan Ssempebwa, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) spokesperson, in a text message to Busoga Today.
He added that he is optimistic the deal will be sealed this year, “The procurement of a civil works contractor for the road and Jinja city roads (10km) is in advanced stages.”
Ms Suzan Kataike, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Works promised the same.
“The construction process has been divided into two parts; the 65km Jinja-Mbulamuti-Kamuli road and the 64km Kamuli-Bukungu road in Buyende District and that each part will be handled by a different contractor.
“The road works will commence immediately after securing contractors and it will be completed within three years,” she said.
The residents and users of the road hope government will come through this time.
“Let government fulfill its side of the bargain and develop the road. We get goods from Budondo but the road is unfavorable and many of our colleagues have got accidents and some have lost life,” said Ms Kisakye Mariam, a vendor operating from Ambarcort market.
Isaac Musobya, a taxi driver who plies the route on a daily says working on the road will cut the time he spends navigating the road by almost a half.
The Kamuli district Chairperson. Mr Maxwell Kuwembula agrees with him.
“The volume of traffic will improve business in the area and the value of land will also shoot up,” he said.
Mr Moses Batwala, the Jinja District chairperson, said once constructed, the road will attract more investors to the area who will set up more petrol stations and hotels because of easy accessibility, adding that the area had lagged behind because of poor road network.