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Who messed up Uganda Railways?

Uganda has finally repossessed Uganda Railways after Rift Valley Railways (RVR) ran it down for 12 years.

The 120-year-old railway line was concessioned out in 2006 to what the revolutionary NRM government told us was a rich and experienced South African government railway company.

But like the case has been with many transactions under this government, the investors procured for the railway business were just a bunch of fortune-hunters who simply sniffed at an opportunity.

In the concession, Rift Valley Railways was supposed to rehabilitate wagons, procure new locomotives and rehabilitate existing ones.

It was also supposed to repair the track between Jinja and Kampala. It was supposed to increase freight volumes up to 217.3 million tonnes as a baseline and to reach a level of 275 million tonnes within a period of two years after the signing of the concession (2006).

As a country, we were also entitled to 11.1 per cent of revenue of the railway business. How this figure was worked out, I don’t know!

I had an opportunity to chair the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) for two and a half years (from December 2014 to May 2016) and Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) was one of the companies that appeared before us.

The managers of URC, which was supposed to oversee the concession, told us (Cosase) that RVR breached the terms of agreement right from the start and was incapable of managing a business of this magnitude.

The country must know that two things happened immediately after RVR took over our railways. The investors took away all the brand new vehicles (4WD) to Kenya, where they had also entered into a concession to manage Kenya Railways. 

As the investors were feasting on new vehicles and other assets, the revolutionary government was feasting on prime land. Most of Uganda Railways land was categorized as non-core assets and, therefore, not handed over to RVR.

The scavengers in government descended on it and by the time sale of Uganda Railways land was halted, the corporation had been stripped of all its residential houses in Kololo near the airstrip, in Nsambya and Kabuusu on Masaka road.

And this has happened to all corporations. Land belonging to Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) in Kololo, Bugolobi and in Industrial Area was robbed in broad daylight by the revolutionaries or their agents. Remember what happened to National Social Security Fund (NSSF) houses in Muyenga and elsewhere? What about the cotton houses in Nakasero?

Most of the buildings in Nakasero, Kololo, Bugolobi and part of Kamwokya belonged to the public. I fear to use the word government because Mr Museveni thinks government is his private company. These fellows have looted this country!

Therefore, what was supposed to be sold in the second phase was railway land in Jinja, Tororo, Gulu and Masindi. Phase one was for Kampala.

This is the condition under which Uganda Railways is being repossessed. And you didn’t have to be an engineer to know that RVR was a circus. First, even as a parliamentary committee chairman, I failed to know who these RVR fellows were.

In truth, they were not the South African government company that we had been promised. Maybe one of the original concession owners was a South African and, I think, another a British. Something like that!

Eventually, these ones sold their stake to a Cairo-based company called Qalaa Holdings, or something like that...

After failing to reap big in the railway business, the concessionaires, I am told, wanted to sell the line to the Chinese before running away.

That is how they rushed to evict poor people who had settled around the non-functional rail line. The intention was to sell the line to Chinese companies that want to construct the standard gauge railway. This didn’t work out, hence halting the eviction. That was the last business opportunity that RVR wanted to exploit before running away with their bounty.

If you want to know how poor and unprepared RVR was, even the $64 million they wanted to use to revitalize the business was borrowed from International Finance Corporation (World Bank) and German Development Bank (KfW). These fellows came in without money or, if they had, they never wanted to invest it.

And I think that is what the Umeme concession is all about. The investors came in with very little and are collecting billions which they repatriate and just reinvest a small portion of it. It is the reason parliament recommended termination of this concession as well.

One of our biggest problems in the electricity sector today is generation of excess power. We are generating about 685MW and consuming 550MW, according to Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA). And to pay off the excess power generated, we are spending Shs 68 billion on thermo generators and about Shs 11.57 billion on what is called deemed energy purchases.

The concessionaire (Umeme) has no obligation to expand the transmission lines. That is why only about 20 per cent of Ugandans are using electricity, which explains the excess. We should never have sold this business because it is capable of growing by itself if only managed properly by nationals (patriots).

That is where we are. Wait when these agreements with Chinese companies begin to run.


The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.


0 #21 Akot 2018-02-02 17:39
...UN & EU have joined dictator museveni in making a tribalistically ruled Uganda, under the most inhuman rule ever, e.g of democracy & say it's peaceful & prosperous!

Ugandans have no right to oppose museveni, not even tribally in a country tribalistically ruled: but this does not concern EU & UN as long as Ugandans have not taken to arms & refugees are in peaceful Uganda while Ugandans are slaves!

EU has completely failed to make Europe a decent place: Europeans live in fear of calling a spade a spade bcause EU imprisons them saying they are racist!

Yet, EU has made religious extremists so bold & comfortable in Europe & when arrested, these terrorists are given the best lawyers, payed for by tax money!

Now EU member states don't want to take in refugees-asylum seekers-migrants, so EU is inciting/attracting them to Uganda while ignoring Ugandans' enslavement!
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0 #22 Akot 2018-02-02 17:42
Quoting Remase:
...what do we need to do? Because, nothing will ever change with M7 in power.

Apparently, it looks like his is not going anywhere soon. We, Ugandans, have to make a decision that M7, his family and/or govt must go. We need to work out how and when it should be realized.

M7, his family and cronies will continue to loot our country naked under the disguise of investors.

The country's resources and land are being looted by M7, his family and cronies in daylight and we have let then get away with it. We have ourselves to blame because we have failed to exercise people power. Power belongs to us and we have let M7 and his family dictate to us that Uganda belongs to them.


Now UN-EU joined him in making us homeless!
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0 #23 rubangakene 2018-02-05 19:11
Only in Uganda can this "free for all" grab mentality occur; why, because everyone thinks Uganda is a "low hanging fruit tree" where you can just pick a fruit as you pass along.

Even diplomats who have served here retire and come back to enjoy the loot!

You can see every Tom, Dick and Harry/Mary prancing around the country with a "briefcase". Shaitani hawa, wataona moto siku moja.
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