The people of Gulu, Northern Uganda, have taken to the streets to protest Umeme’s failure to maintain reasonable supply of electricity in the district.
The demonstration comes against backdrop of dozens of petitions to Umeme to stop the increased load shedding in vain.
A concerned resident in Gulu Town recently wrote to Umeme, saying most businesses and institutions in the area rely on electricity for their operations.
“It is however sad that the supply of power most especially in Gulu is unstable with constant power outages,” said David Ochwo.
“Most small business which wholly depend on power for their operation are ideally being technically driven out of business because of constant blackouts,” said Ochwo, adding, “Those dealing in perishable goods like fresh fish among others are making losses in millions of shillings.”
Police have since deployed heavily in the town to prevent possible chaos.
The residents said the transmission lines remain in a horrible shape as just a drizzle of dark clouds lead to power outages. Restoration of electricity usually takes days, fuelling anger in the community.
“We have the poorest electricity stability in Uganda,” said Shaffi Amuru.
ChimpReports understands that Umeme top officials have been on radio stations to explain the cause of the incessant outages.
Residents said despite sending warnings to Umeme, the company remained aloof to their situation hence planning for riots.
They are also concerned that poor electricity supply will undermine the district’s economic growth hence undermining efforts to create jobs and stimulate trade with neighbours.
Umeme took over power distribution from the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (UEDCL) in a concession on March 1st 2005.
The 20-year concession, which was condemned by whistle blowers and investigated by Parliament – with recommendations for its termination – is due for renewal in March 2025.
Museveni, in a letter dated March 13th, tasked Minister Irene Muloni to explain to him how Umeme’s technical losses still remain as high as 17% yet the company claims to have invested up to $500million in distribution infrastructure to address this problem.
In the run up to the concession signing in 2005, the Auditor General had calculated that Umeme’s losses, both technical (dilapidated infrastructure) and commercial (power theft) would be at 28%.
But according to President Museveni, this figure was hiked to 38% following a meeting between the Umeme investors and a delegation from the Energy Ministry in the US.
In 2009, government instituted the Interim Review of Electricity Tariffs Committee, which was chaired by Gen Salim Saleh.
The committee, among others called for the re-nationalization of EDCL, terming the Umeme deal as “not well thought after.”