A recent trip down Bukoto-Kisasi road made me think that finally Uganda's road network which has puzzled Ugandans for a long time could finally be getting to a point where it is manageable. A few years ago, driving through Kampala roads was a total nightmare. Yet, of recent, I have noted that there are fewer potholes.
A drive through most Kampala city roads is quite an enjoyable experience, especially over the weekends, when there is less traffic-jam.
Just to mention a few roads offhand, Ntinda-Kiwatule, Bugolobi-Kinawataka-Bweyogerere and Nsambya-Makindye, Didi's world-Konge road, all these and more which were previously a sight for sore eyes, are now well-tarmacked with good drainage channels that ensure no road-silting takes place.
Another rather small indicator on the state of Kampala roads was that a few years ago, the sale of shock-absorbers in Kissekka market was brisk business. A recent chat with a second-hand car spare-parts dealer indicated that his shock-absorber sales have plummeted of late to the point that he is actually considering stopping importing them! This, indeed, must be attributed to the improved state of city roads.
When the NRM government came into power in 1986, the roads were impassable. However, a recent trip to North-Eastern Uganda as well as Western Uganda tells a totally different story concerning our road infrastructure.
With increased funding and the establishment of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) in 2008 to directly take charge of the road sub-sector, a lot of work has been accomplished on all the eight major road corridors in Uganda.
In Corridor One (Kampala-Jinja-Malaba), for instance, Kampala-Mukono section was rehabilitated, the reconstruction of Jinja-Malaba was completed, while the contracts to rehabilitate Mukono-Jinja and convert it into a dual carriageway are underway. Currently, reconstruction of Bugiri-Malaba-Busia is ongoing.
Travelers on Corridor Two (Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale-Katuna-Kisoro) will have noted that the reconstruction of Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara road is ongoing while the upgrading of Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana road from gravel to tarmac has been completed.
The rehabilitation of the road from Mbarara through Ntungamo to Kabale and finally to Katuna, on the border with Rwanda going up to Kigali is ongoing. The Ntungamo-Rukungiri road was upgraded from murram to tarmac and the good news is that the tarmacking of Rukungiri-Ishasha, Ntungamo-Mirama Hills, Ishaka-Kagamba, Mbarara-Kikagate and Nyakahita-Ibanda-Kamwenge roads all started about two years ago and will soon be completed.
Corridor Three (Busega-Mityana-Mubende-Fort Portal-Kasese-Mpondwe) has Mityana-Mubende-Fort Portal in very good condition, Fort Portal-Kasese-Mpondwe is fine, Busega-Mityana was completed almost a year ago. Anyone who, in the past, travelled on the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo-Lamia road would tell you it was one of the deadliest road trips to be undertaken with cars hanging off road cliffs and narrowly surviving to crash down the valleys only by the mercy of God! Therefore, the upgrade to bitumen and widening of the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo-Lamia must have been a big relief to travellers!
Corridor Four (Kampala-Karuma-Nebbi-Arua-Oraba) shows that the Kampala-Kafu section has been rehabilitated, Karuma-Arua was completed long ago, Kafu-Masindi was upgraded to tarmac while the upgrading of the Vurra-Arua-Koboko-Oraba road commenced last year.
Work on Corridor Five (Tororo-Mbale-Soroti-Lira-Gulu-Nimule) saw the completion, on time, of the upgrading of the Soroti-Dokolo-Lira road that has made travel in northern Uganda and southern Sudan become easier. This section of the road is one of the best in the country.
The rehabilitation of Lira-Kamdini has been completed and now Gulu is underway while the rehabilitation of Tororo-Mbale and Mbale-Soroti roads is ongoing. The contracts to upgrade Gulu-Atiak-Nimule and Atiak-Moyo sections from gravel to tarmac are currently ongoing, having been launched by President Museveni last year.
In Corridor Six (Mbale-Sironko-Moroto), Mbale-Sironko road has been under rehabilitation while the contract for upgrading Moroto-Nakapiripirit from gravel to tarmac is about to start followed closely by the upgrading of Nakapiripirit to Muyembe Corner.
There are also ready plans for Corridor Seven (Muyembe Corner-Kapchorwa-Suam) which will see the road from Muyembe Corner to Kapchorwa upgraded from murram to tarmac. The contract for upgrading Kapchorwa-Suam road is also under consideration.
Efforts on Corridor Eight (Kampala-Busunju-Kiboga-Hoima-Kaisotonya) have seen Kampala-Busunju and Busunju-Hoima upgraded to tarmac, while the contract for upgrading Hoima-Kaisotonya commenced last year and is currently under construction.
Effectively, Uganda's road network now connects the country to almost 80% of our border posts. This means that 80% of Uganda's border towns have now been opened to regional markets for trade. These include among others Bibia, Malaba, Mpondwe, Katuna, Lamya-Busunga, Ishasha, Mirama Hills, Amudat, Lwakhakha, Suam, Vura and Oraba, Busia, Lumino, Ngomoromo and Madi Opei and Kikagati.
Now with all the borders networked with tarmac road surfaces, development of state-of-the-art satellite cross-border trade markets will be enhanced to among others increase Uganda's competitiveness in and penetration of, regional markets. Well, if this is not a significant improvement in Uganda's road network, then I don't know what is.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre