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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Unfulfilled pledges: Rushenyi voters hold mock electricity connection protest

Ahead of elections, tensions have escalated in Rushenyi Constituency in the Western Uganda district of Ntungamo after locals in Murambi trading centre in Katungamo Parish, Rugarama Sub County erected banana stems as electric poles in a mock celebration of the alleged unfulfilled promises by area MP Mwesigwa Rukutana.

The locals said they were making “mockery of the empty political promises by their MP who had promised them electricity connections” in response to his calls for their support for another elective term of office.

In a symbolic move, the locals on Wednesday dug up holes and erected banana stems and wired them with Music Cassette reels.

Banana stems erected as electric poles in Murambi trading centre in katungamo, Rushenyi in Ntungamo District.
Banana stems erected as electric poles in Murambi trading centre in katungamo, Rushenyi in Ntungamo District. Courtesy Photo

Others wore safety helmets and erected the ‘poles,’ citing they were delivering the junior labour minister’s electricity to the townships he promised to help connect 15 years ago.

Youth conduct a mock installation of electricity in protest of the failure of Rushenyi MP Mwesigwa Rukutana, to fulfill his pledge of extending power to Murambi. Courtesy Photo

In the protest, the locals hung Minister Rukutana’s election posters upside down.

“Hon Mwesigwa Rukutana announced here in the previous elections that by the time he returns in Murambi seeking votes, there would be electricity.  He told us that if power is not there, he would never come back to ask for votes,” said one of the locals.

“So, now is the time, Rukutana is about to come back to ask for votes, this is the electricity he has given us. So, we are waiting for him as Murambi and Rushenyi people.”

 But Rukutana’s apologists criticized the move by the residents saying the people were simply ‘idle’. However, others say they are not idle but rather a very smarter peaceful demonstration done in a dramedy, a genre of dramatic works in which plot elements are a combination of comedy and drama.

Locals gather to connect electricity in a mock exercise
Locals gather to connect electricity in a mock exercise

This development comes shortly after Umeme, Uganda’s leading electricity distribution company suspended some of its services, including new connections under the Electricity Connection Policy (ECP) Programme.

On July 29, Umeme publicist Peter Kaujju issued a statement where the electricity distribution firm regretted the inconvenience to the customers who were ready for connection.

According to Kaujju, the suspension of the new connections arose out of the realignment of priorities and financial resources by the government, in part brought by the unexpected Covid19 pandemic.

The ECP programme was started in 2019 aimed at achieving an average of at least 300,000 connections per year. It is funded and managed by the government of Uganda through Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the project covers the cost of the last mile connection.

“Customers therefore receive a 100 per cent subsidy [free connection] for no pole or one pole connections and are only required to pay UShs.20,000 to aid inspection of the customer premises for appropriate wiring and readiness for connection to the electricity grid,” Kaujju said.

Through the subsidy approach, Umeme says it had completed a total of 245,310 connections under this arrangement by the time the programme was suspended.

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