22 February 2018

Uganda: Broken Bridge Blocks Access to Services in Kibaale for 35 Years

Residents and leaders in Kakumiro and Kagadi districts have asked government to build the broken Kisaigi Bridge on River Nguse, which has blocked access to services for more than 35 years.

In early 1980, a Catholic Church priest at Kakindo Catholic Parish, Fr Gabriel Baptist, had started construction of the bridge, a major link between Kakumiro and Kagadi districts on River Nguse in Kakindo and Kiryanga sub-counties for the purposes of coordinating church work.

However, the dream of the people and Fr Baptist who were eagerly waiting for completion of the project was shattered when the Milton Obote government started questioning the source of funding of the White priest, forcing him to drop his mission.

At the time of terminating the project, Fr Baptist who was single-handedly constructing the bridge had just completed four wall pillars, which are still visibly strong.

It is on these four wall pillars that desperate residents and traders have improvised by placing logs to cross from one end of the river to another, in a risky way.

Mr Charlse Matovu, a resident of Kiryanga Sub-county, Kagadi District still remembers how his expectant wife died while crossing the bridge as he rushed her to Kakindo Health Centre IV for an operation in 2012.

He says when medical doctors referred his wife for an operation to Kakindo Health Centre IV, which is less than 20kms from Kiryanga, he quickly opted for Kiryanga-Kakindo via Kisaigi Bridge, which has become a death trap.

"On reaching at the makeshift bridge, I found that it had been submerged by water but I remember my wife was in a bad condition. There was no boat or any other means of crossing and finally my wife's condition went out of hand and I eventually lost her because we failed to cross," he says.

Mr Matovu is now among the several residents who are putting government on pressure to construct the bridge.

"We thank Minister Baltazar Kasirivu Atwooki (State minister for Economic Monitoring) for bringing with engineers and other officials to check on this bridge. We have suffered and many people have died during their desperate attempt to cross this bridge," he says.

"Many pregnant women are dying here while they are being transported to Kakindo Health Centre IV for surgical operations. We will be happy if government works on it," Mr Matovu adds.

Mr Richard Mugume, a produce dealer in Kiryanga and Kakindo sub-counties, says the condition of the bridge has seen them make losses in agriculture produce because of difficulties in accessing farmers and the market.

Government's response

Following the peoples' continued outcry, Dr Kasirivu who is also the Bugangaizi West MP, recently led a team of technocrats from the Works ministry to carry out a feasibility study.

"We have, as a district tried to look for money and logistical support to construct the bridge but in vain," he said.

He added, "After several attempts, I tried to lobby for the takeover of the bridge project funding by the government in 2012/2013 but the construction was halted due to change in design, which resulted from a massive flooding of River Nguse."

During the visit, the minister said government has made the redesigning of the bridge plan.

"I came here with engineers to do a feasibility study in preparation of constructing a standard bridge expected to start in April. The government will soon bring the companies, which will be engaged in the bidding process of constructing the bridge," he said.

He added that the government has already secured funds, which he did not specify due to fear of jeopardising the bidding process expected later. He admitted that the delayed construction of the bridge has cost people in many ways.

Bridges

There are several dilapidated bridges across major swamps and rivers in greater Kibaale districts.

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