17 May 2019

Uganda: Parliament Passes Roads Bill, Rejects Reserve Expansion

Kampala — Parliament Thursday passed the Roads Bill 2018 but rejected the proposal by government to expand a road reserve from the current 30 metres to 80 metres.

In the Bill, the government had proposed to extend the current road reserve of 15 metres on either side of middle of road to 40 metres.

The government also sought to give the Minister of Works and Transport powers for compulsory acquisition of people's land to create a road reserve without prior compensation.

However, Parliament rejected the proposals and amended Clause 14(1) of the Bill which provided that government shall only declare a person's land a road reserve after due compensation has been paid in accordance with Article 26 of the Constitution.

The Roads Bill 2018 was introduced to repeal and replace the Roads Act Cap 358 and the Access to Roads Act Cap 350 of 1959 to improve management of roads in the country.

During the debate on the Bill on Tuesday, government proposed introduction of a new schedule to specify the width of road reserve depending on different classes of roads.

However, when the Bill was called to the floor of Parliament yesterday, there was no government official to present the proposal to introduce the schedule.

In the end, the Deputy Speaker, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, ruled that the Bill be passed without the introduction of the schedule specifying the proposed different widths of road reserves.

"A new schedule was proposed by the Chair (of the Committee) immediately after schedule two. If there is nobody to propose it, then there is no new schedule," Mr Oulanyah ruled.

This means government lost out on the plan to extend the road reserve.

This was one of the contentious parts of the Bill because some of the members during the debate had feared that if the road reserve width on both sides of middle of road take a total of 80 metres, the people have developments along the existing roads would be affected. The movers of the minority report Works Minister Monica Azuba Ntege, Mr Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko (Nakifuma County), the committee chair, Mr Jonathan Odur (Erute South) and Mr Richard Othieno Okoth (West Budama North), and Shadow Works minister William Nzoghu surfaced about 10 minutes after the House had passed the Bill.

Mr Ssekitoleko told Daily Monitor after the plenary session that at the time the Bill was passed, they were finalising harmonisation of the specification for the road reserve width as ordered by Mr Oulanyah on Tuesday.

"The minister, myself, the engineer in chief (Mr Samson Bagonza) and four other members, we were in a harmonisation meeting in my office and we had made proposals of win-win to reduce but the Speaker did not give us time. But we have no problem," he said.

Impact

Mr Ssekitoleko said government is now free to construct smaller roads passing through urban centres, rocky and mountainous places where it cannot manage to acquire enough land for a road reserve since the law has maintained the original measurements of 15 metres from centre of the road to either side.

Mr Odur welcomed the new Act, saying the Ugandans are the winners because their land remains safe from forceful takeover by government through declaration of road reserve by the minister before full acquisition.

"It is a score on our side because our proposal in Clause 14(1) was to give government powers to declare a road reserve on a piece of land it has fully acquired not the other way round where the minister was supposed to be given powers to do so prior to acquisition," he said.

Mr Nzoghu said the two sides had also failed to agree on the 30 metres that government side had come up with to reduce from the proposed 40 metres.

"For our side, we insisted on at least 20 metres for highways, which are national roads and 15 metres for local government roads. But we were bringing these proposals to the House," he said.

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