Parliament’s Call for Action Amidst Karuma Bridge Crisis

Members of Parliament have called upon the government to elucidate the probable ramifications of the restricted access to the Karuma bridge, which has been identified as compromised.

The bridge spanning the River Nile, linking the North and West Nile regions to the rest of the country, has developed fissures, prompting the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), the government body responsible for road maintenance, to limit passage to only passenger vehicles with a maximum capacity of 28 passengers.

In response to Speaker Anita Among’s address, members expressed concern that the traffic restrictions and diversions would significantly impact trade, livelihoods, and various other aspects, urging the Minister for Works and Transport to provide clarification.

Presiding over the plenary sitting on Monday, May 6, 2024, Speaker Among urged the Uganda National Roads Authority to expedite the construction works at the bridge.

Members voiced worries about the alternative routes, such as the road through Murchison National Park, which also poses restrictions on trade due to its operational hours from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) remarked, “Traveling through the park entails a longer route and incurs charges, escalating the cost of doing business, particularly for those engaged in cross-border trade.”

Hon. George Bhoka (NRM, Obongi County) expressed concern about the proposed bus fare from Obongi to Kampala, which would double from Shs50,000 to Shs100,000, imposing financial strain on the people of West Nile.

Jesca Ababiku, the Adjumani District Woman MP, recounted experiencing delays at the bridge and urged the Works Ministry to provide users with necessary information regarding the situation.

“I encountered delays at the bridge over the weekend, with wait times exceeding an hour. Additionally, the last time I used the alternative route through the park, passengers were subjected to charges per person. This information is vital, yet no one seems forthcoming,” Ababiku highlighted.

Hon. Jonathan Odur, the MP for Erute County South, expressed apprehension over the reliability of the alternative route through Port Masindi due to ferry breakdowns, urging the government to procure an additional ferry and increase its navigational frequency.

Several MPs raised concerns that the Karuma bridge is one of many bridges in urgent need of repair, particularly in anticipation of predicted floods and landslides that have already ravaged numerous constituencies.

Hon. Paulson Luttamaguzi (DP, Nakaseke South County) reported two collapsed bridges in his constituency, while Hon. Richard Lumu (DP, Mityana County South) recounted the devastation caused by heavy rains washing away a bridge in one of his communities.

Parliament requested a comprehensive disaster management plan for the country.

“Before allocating separate funds for disaster preparedness, as requested, the Constitution establishes the Disaster Preparedness and Management Commission to address natural and man-made disasters. Where is the commission?” queried Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, also inquiring about the status of the Disaster Management Bill proposed by the government in 2018.

The Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Relief, and Refugees, Hon. Lillian Aber, acknowledged the ministry’s disaster risk management plan but cited financial constraints in responding to all disasters.

“To date, I have received requests from 30 districts. I appeal to this House for financial assistance to enable adequate response,” Aber appealed, cautioning about potential hazards posed by heavy rains, including transport disruptions and infrastructure damage.