Two police officers and a Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) soldier have been arrested in connection with vandalising and stealing railway materials.
It is reported that the suspects stole railway materials in Mbale, Manafwa and Pakwach districts last month before they were arrested at the weekend by a joint security team comprising the army and police.
The Elgon region police spokesperson, Mr Rogers Taitika, said the two police officers work with Jinja Central Police Station. The soldier is at the rank of lieutenant corporal.
Police said five civilians have also been arrested over the same allegations.
"The suspects stole and vandalised railway materials. After getting reports we started our investigations, which has enabled us to arrest all of them," Mr Taitika said.
He said the suspects stole properties of Uganda Railways Corporation, which include 97 steel railway slippers, 18 railway bars and 18 fish plates, on March 13.
"After stealing these railway materials, the suspects disappeared. Getting them was to track them using one of their phones which had fallen at the scene of crime," Mr Taitika said.
He added that the suspects are currently detained at Mbale Central Police Station and will be charged with theft and malicious damage to property contrary to the Penal Code Act.
Mr Stanley Sendegeya, the managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation, decried rampant cases of vandalism of railway materials.
"We have been losing railway materials for a long time. We have lost about $200 million dollars due to vandalism over the last five years," he said in an interview at the weekend.
Mr Sendegeya thanked the army and police for coordinating the arrests.
"We got a report where the suspects had stolen some railway materials in both Mbale and Pakwach and we started a joint operation. We started arresting the suspects one by one until the suspects took us to a factory in Mbalala, Mukono, where they have been selling these materials and found the stolen materials in the factory," he said.
Mr Sendegeya said some of the areas of the railway line most affected by vandalism include Mukono, Iganga, Jinja and also the railway line from Kampala to Kasese.
The vice, he said, is the main cause of accidents on the railway line. "Most of the accidents are caused by bad assets, a bad line vandalised by people and effect on locomotives and wagons," he said. Mr Hussein Kyazze, an enforcement officer at URC, said they recorded three train accidents last year and one this year.
Theft of rail, road and other construction materials on public facilities is on the rise. On the night of January 10, guards manning Karuma hydropower plant in Kiryandongo District shot dead a suspected thief as he attempted to break into the facility.
Mr Joseph Bakaleke, the district police commander, said the suspects were part of a bigger group that tried to break into the plant to steal building materials and later sell them to metal scrap dealers.