ACHOLI – Residents and leaders in Acholi sub-region have tasked electricity utility body Umeme, to provide improved high-capacity and reliable electricity to help spur industrialization in the region.
Umeme has in the past three years come under intense pressure from Gulu residents and other districts in Acholi and Lango sub-region.
Thomas Raymond Opira, the LCI Chairperson of Pabo Quarters in Bar dege-Layibi division in Gulu City says, as a result of low capacity and unreliable electricity, many youths who were employed in factories were rendered jobless because the factories opted to close and move to other areas where there’s stable and high-capacity electricity.
According to Opira, unreliable electricity has also led to the increase in petty crimes by the youths because and the City is dark in the night making it easy to avoid being detected, worse still when it rains.
“As local leaders, we are having a lot of security challenges because most of our youths are redundant and jobless because there are no industries to engage them in work. The few that we had left because of inadequate power capacity to run their machines. So Umeme should do us a favor and improve on the capacity of electricity so that we have industries and our youths get employed,” said Opira.
George Ovola Ebola, a resident of Gulu City claims that on several occasions, Umeme has promised to improve on its connectivity especially in the outskirts of Gulu City but in vain.
“If we already have a dam in Aswa supplying us, why should we wait for Karuma? Which power are we using for production? If just a maize mill is failing, then which other productive power will help our city become industrialized?” argued Ovola.
Francis Ocakacon, a resident of Kitgum Municipality claims that Umeme is operating only at 30% and in the town center only. Ocakacon says, that in the peri urban centers such as, Atanga East, Lemu ward, Pandwong ward among others, there is no electricity connection.
According to Ocakacon, the capacity of the electricity they receive, besides being unreliable, is very low.
Andrew Onyuk, the Omoro Resident District Commissioner (RDC) says, that in the trading centers of Palenga and Opit, the transformers in the area have broken down and have not been repaired for more than 2 months.
According to Onyuk, the electricity challenges in the region have heavily impacted on the implementation of industrialization of the region which is in the NRM government`s manifesto.
“Power is the engine of social economic transformation and we don’t have adequate power, yet we know that the generation of power in the country have increased. The dream of rural electrification will not have meaning if there’s no adequate supply of power. So let the people have power so that we have change and socio-economic transformation in our community,” notes Onyuk.
Jillian Akulu, the Oyam Resident District Commissioner (RDC) says, the whole district has only one transformer which is being shared with Iceme ginnery and most times when the ginnery is operating, the district is cut off from electricity because of the low capacity.
According to Akulu, most of the time the district staff are forced to use generators which are unreliable and very costly hence affecting work output.
Alfred Okwonga, the Mayor, Gulu City says, the current electricity connection is at 21.7% leaving several villages without electricity. Okwonga further says, even before Gulu was elevated to a city status, the coverage was not to 100% besides being just 54 square kilometers; now it has expanded to 225 square kilometers currently with the annexation of other parishes.
Okwonga says that areas such as Cubu, Vanguard, Rom, Aywee, Kanyagoga A and B, Lacor among others are not connected.
“The city needs at least 20 transformers to improve the connectivity of electricity for industrial and household use,” says Okwonga.
“This community in Gulu City really has been missing services from Umeme for quite a long time and it has disadvantaged our community. This is eminent with the recent UBOS report which says, the Acholi community is the poorest community in the country,” notes Okwonga.
Celestine Babungi, the Managing Director, Umeme Uganda Limited says, they invested more than Shs.17 billion to improve the capacity and reliability of electricity in the region. He says, they have doubled the load capacity of electricity in the Gulu substation to 10 MVA from 5 MVA some three years ago, and 40 MVA in Lira from 20 MVA in the same period of time.
“Those investments we have made in the interim have greatly improved supply capacity and reliability in the area. We committed to strategic interventions, among them is linking Aswa dam to Gulu such that even if the Lira line goes off, we have power supply from within the region, the upgrade of the power substations, have all been done and are very visible,” says Babungi
Babungi, who was responding to concerns during a stakeholder meeting at Bomah Hotel in Gulu City says, they have completed the upgrade of the Gulu power sub-station in Layibi, connected to the Aswa Dam as they wait for the completion of the Karuma power dam which will see the entire greater northern Uganda connected to a reliable high grid electricity by end of next year.
He however blames the recent power outages on vandalism of transformers, theft of conductors and support wires, fire outbreaks and rotting of poles especially during rainy seasons.
According to Babungi, they will install 25 transformers for Gulu City with 10 to be installed before the end of this year.
In the recently concluded investors forum, Acholi leaders and investors demanded that the sub-region be included in the Karuma transmission line on grounds that the region has been suffering with the challenges of low capacity and unreliable power supply for years.
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