Promoting Development through Improved Infrastructure (Road)
Presented By: Francis Ojok, LLB, Dip. LP, MA, (LLM Candidate). Francis is a Ugandan-trained lawyer, experienced researcher, and peacebuilder. He earned a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence from The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and is currently pursuing an LLM in International Commercial Arbitration at the Caruso School of Law, Pepperdine University.
This Article examines the importance of infrastructural development, i.e., roads in promoting economic development of Uganda. To do justice to this topic, I examined: 1) the importance of Road to the economic development of Uganda starting from the colonial period, to now; 2) the current evolution of the Road project in Uganda, i.e., massive investment in Road projects by the government; 3) At the end, I made some recommendations. I suggested them concurrent to a particular challenge of infrastructural development, i.e., the Road sector.
The content of this article is from both lived experience and desk research. I examined statutes as well as other scholarly materials. Please note, this article is not complete. While reading, I invite you to fill in the gap where necessary. If you so wish, I will be humbled to connect with you on: firstname.lastname@example.org or LinkedIn / https://www.linkedin.com/in/francisojok/.
1.1 Introduction Section
Uganda is a landlocked country, located in the heart of East Africa is a country blessed with natural beauty. Laying directly on the Equator it is lush, with thick tropical rainforest that provide a habitat for Mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. Uganda’s forest is the primate capital of the world. The country has mountains with permanent snow and ice as well as valleys that blossom with multitudes of wildlife. It is covered by lakes, rivers, and swamps that provide a habitat for numerous spectacular bird species. It is said that half of Africa’s bird species can be found in Uganda. All year round, it receives enough rainfall and a warm climate which makes Uganda’s soil very fertile. This makes it possible for Ugandans to eat fresh and organic foods, fruits, and vegetables all year round (Sights & Sounds of Africa Safaris, 2019).
The beauty of Uganda extends beyond her natural resources to the beauty found in its people and culture. Ugandans are of diverse origin with 56 ethnic groups. Each group speaks a different ethnic language (Third schedule, Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995). However, It’s Strategic location in the pearl of Africa, and its abundance of natural resources would mean nothing if there is no proper road network system linking different parts of the country with its neighboring countries (Trivedi, 1971).
2.1 Discussion Section.
The discussion in this section shall begin from colonial period, up to the current day Uganda. It will cover the following: 1) the need and attempt to construct a better road network in Uganda, so as to promote economic development; 2) challenges poor road network post to economic development of Uganda; and 3) contribution of improved road network to the economic development of Uganda.
2.1.1 During colonial period
Even though there exist other means of transport, such as, air and water, they account for a small percentage (Ministry of Works & Transportation, 2019). Since Uganda is a landlocked country, the most reliable means of transport is by road (Hoyle, 1982). Thus, the need for better roads. It was seen first by colonial masters and that is why in 1900, they entered into an agreement with Buganda Kingdom under the kingship of Kabaka Mutesa II. It was known as the Buganda Agreement. Buganda is one of the tribes in Uganda. The agreement makes it mandatory for every able-bodied man to provide free service in maintaining and upkeeping roads in the administrative center of Kampala, current capital city of Uganda, and other urban centers where there was active trading (Mugambwa, 1987).
The traders and settlers in Kampala and other urban centers were mainly British and Indians. Indians came to the country to construct Railways and after, they settled and continued to carry on trade (Dr. Kalenge). In 1902, British colonizers formalized their rules in Uganda through the enactment of the 1902 Order in Council. It was in exercise of power granted to His Majesty’s government under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 1890, to legislate with regards to foreign territories of the protectorates (Kanyeihamba, 2010).
Because of this law, i.e., The 1902 order in Council, the Legislative Council, was established. Its purpose was to legislate laws for: 1) the protectorate; and 2) representation in the legislative council. As a result, in 1926 for the first time a non-British legislator was appointed in the legislative council. His name was Chinubhai Jethabai Amin.
He became the first Asian to be appointed in the legislative council. The presence of Amin in the legislative council is an important history in the economic trajectory of Uganda. He
advocated for complete monopolization of trade in urban centers, i.e., only British and Indian. His advocacy resulted in the passing of The Trading Ordinance of 1930. The ordnance prohibited Africans from trading within a radius of 10 miles of an urban center or township. The law pushed most, if not all native Ugandans out of the urban centers into rural areas with no roads, if any then very poor road networks (Hoyle, 1982).
2.1.2 During the Post-Colonial period of 1962- 1986
The period of 1962 marked a very important historical event in the calendar year for most native Ugandans. Some of whom were the victims of the Trading Ordinance of 1930. That year, Uganda was declared an independent nation (Tripp, 2008). At this time, the only fair roads in the country were to be found in Kampala and other urban centers where: 1) the dominant settlers were British and Asian; 2) all powerful businesses were situated; 3) Hospitals, Schools, and good markets were also located there.
Native Ugandans welcomed Independence with joy and celebration. They believed: 1) the independent government shall construct roads that expand beyond urban centers. That will relieve them from the challenges associated with poor or bad road network systems.(Kanyeihamba, 2010). Some of those challenges include the following:
2.1.3 The Post Independent Economic Development challenges due to poor road network In explaining challenges, the researcher will use an active voice. Because even though a lot of things have been done to improve road infrastructure, and hence minimize challenges which shall be discussed later. Those challenges exist up to date. With that being said, the following are few challenges.
Uncertainty, and High cost of transportation.
The bad state of roads in post-colonial Uganda paused a lot of uncertainty during transit from point “A” to point “B”. Some of the common uncertainties were in regard to how long it would take to travel from one region to another(Hardon et al., 2007). Due to bad roads, sometimes motor vehicles would get stuck for days. Especially during rainy seasons.
Furthermore, transport vehicle owners charged travelers a very high amount of money. To justify the high cost of traveling, vehicle owners argued that due to the poor state of the roads, it shortens their vehicles’ lifespan. Therefore, to cover for that factor, and other uncertainties during transit, it’s only fair to charge more than they would do if the road was good.
These, and other factors discouraged a lot of Ugandans from traveling hence isolating different regions and districts from opportunities such as: 1) schools; 2) markets; 3) hospitals that were to be found in Kampala and other urban centers.
Poverty and Unemployment.
Uganda is an agricultural nation. Most Ugandans derive sustenance from agriculture (Hardon et al., 2007). However, it should be noted that most Ugandan farmers if not all are to be found in the rural areas. This is due to many factors, among which include: 1) being pushed out of urban centers as a result of Trading Ordinance; 2) availability of open and fertile land for farming in the rural areas, etcetera.
However due to bad roads, farmers are unable to get their produce to the market. But in case they risk transporting their goods to the market, sometimes perishable goods get rotten along the journey. As a result, most farmers were discouraged from investing in cash crops and most of the people in the villages resorted to growing food crops to sustain themselves and their families. Thus, resulting in the escalation of poverty and unemployment (Makosa & Takayanagi, 2014).
High death rate due to lack of access to: 1) hospitals & medical care; 2) road accidents. Uganda is among the countries with the lowest life expectancy rate in the world. The most affected victims are those in the villages (Kisa, 2017). Studies have shown that peasants, especially those in the villages are most likely to die from disease that can easily be treated. This is so because: 1) some people end up dying on the way to the hospital because of poor states of the road; 2) due to horrible states of the road they end up taking so long to reach hospital and by the time they get to the hospital, the condition has already deteriorated beyond treatment.
Also, Uganda is among countries with the highest cases of death due to road accidents. A report published in 2017 indicates that over 9,572 people died in road accidents in that year. The reason for it was among others included bad roads(Kisa, 2017).
According to a report from the Ministry of Works and Transport, in 2012, Uganda recorded a serious number of road crashes of about 13,137. However, there is steady progress. In 2014, recorded numbers of serious road crashes reduced to 9,259. Also, in 2011, Uganda recorded 3,343 total cases of fatalities resulting from road accidents. However, in 2014, the number was reduced to 2,845. This represented a 15% reduction.
Increase in criminal activities
In the villages, cases of lawlessness and rates of crime ranging from robbery, theft, assault among others are on a very dramatic rise (Musisi et al., 2018). The arguments for the rise in crime and criminal activities are to the effect that: 1) there are no police posts in the villages to monitor law and order; 2) if the victim decides to report any criminal cases to police, the journey would normally take at least 6 hours to get to the nearest police post (Goitom, 2018); 3) due to poor state of the road, police are reluctant to travel to the village in pursuit of justice and if they decide to take action, the journey may take so long to get to the scene of crime and by the time they reach
the scene, the suspect has already long gone and there cannot be trace due to lack of road connectivity.
2.1.4 The Road infrastructure revolution period by National Resistance Movement government from 1986- to date
Considering the aforementioned problems due to poor road infrastructure, the National Resistance Movement when they took power in 1986, they came up with a 10-points program agenda(Karugire,1980). It included poverty eradication through improvement of roads infrastructure as primary driver to economic growth. With an aim to attain the country’s National Development Plan II objectives, which include: 1) improved accessibility to markets and social services; 2) reduced transport costs to stimulate production and competitiveness; 3) improved trade and industrial growth; and 4) job creation (Mugoya, 2017).
Since 1986, the Uganda government has prioritized road development. During the 15th joint transport sector review, the Ministry of works and transport reported that in the financial year 2018/2018, the government approved an overall budget of (UGX Bn) 4,860.215. Out of which, Uganda National Road Authority received 60.8% of the approved budget for external financing, i.e., UGX 863.0bn out of UGX 1,419.10bn(Ministry of Works & Transport, 2019). By June of 2019, the actual paved road was 6,242.19 km.
A lot of money is being injected into the building road network. In fact, in the financial year 2018/2019, the government was paying 3.1 billion, Uganda shilling to upgrade 1 kilometer road to paved standard with bituminous surface treatment. And 1.8 billion to reconstruct or rehabilitate one kilometer of paved roads. The road maintenance needs for the FY 2018/19 were
UGX 1,807.2 billion. But UGX 512.24 Bn was allocated to road maintenance. This represented 28.3% of the annual road maintenance needs funded (Ministry of Works & Transport, 2019). The amount of money that is being put into the transport sector, specifically roads, has raised arguments from both sides, i.e., those for and against. In that regard, I find it appropriate to state that 95% of cargo freight in Uganda is moved by road network. As of 2018, Uganda’s estimated road network is above 129,469 Km long. Of this, the community access roads constitute 50%, District roads 26%, urban roads 7% and national roads 17 %. Also, between 2010/11- 2014/15, the stock of paved road networks increased by 19.7% from 4,364 to 5,224 Km, and the national paved roads increased by 21.7 % in the last 5 financial years (from 3264.1 to 3981 Km).
2.1.4 Contribution of improved road infrastructure network to Uganda’s economic growth and development.
With all the aforementioned heavy investment on road infrastructure, it’s not surprising that now there are beautiful roads coming up that justify the conclusion that there are dramatic changes taking place in Uganda’s road infrastructure network that are worth noticing for its contribution to economic growth/ development in the following ways.
Market Access and reduction in the cost of transport.
Before these serious road construction projects began, farmers in the villages didn’t have any opportunities to bring their produce to the market due to bad roads (Mukiibi, 2010). Since the beginning of these Roads construction projects, all different regions of Uganda have been brought closer or one may say has been brought together because: 1) the journey from one region to another that used to take days now takes hours; 2) the double charges by transport owners has
reduced; 3) uncertainties has be reduced hance farmers now have assurance of their produce reaching the market when it is still fresh.
Further, farmers also now have access to trade: 1) in any parts of the country; 2) in the neighboring countries depending on their convenience and differences in price structures. This access and variety of market options has motivated more Ugandans to invest in cash crops hence increasing farmers level of income.
Increase in employment opportunities
Some scholars argue that road construction projects have provided employment opportunities to Ugandans (Mugoya, 2017). Whereas they are right to some extent, I think clarity should be given to this point considering the fact that technically most Ugandans employed in these projects are 1) unspecialized; 2) casual workers. Employed on a temporary and adhoc basis to perform petty tasks such as: 1) help dig holes for drainage; 2) carry logs; in some instances, drive trucks used in the road construction.
At the end of the day, those casual workers get a little over 3 dollars a day without any form of employment benefit, i.e., insurances, paid leave, etcetera. To me that is exploitation and it’s not a sustainable employment which leads me to questioning whether Uganda is rising at the pace she ought to rise at? Assuming the answer is yes, the next question is for whom is she rising? How is she rising? And I can only arrive at one main answer, NO. This is so because of the following negative implication associated with these road construction projects, some of which I mentioned above and others I will address in the policy recommendation below.
3.1 Recommendations Section.
Moving forward, we need to ask questions that have been ignored by: 1) policy and loan negotiators; 2) project implementation committee and other agencies concerned with Roads Construction Projects in Uganda. The questions are, 1) how much more loans should be borrowed for road construction; 2) who is going to pay for these loans; 2) how will it be paid; and 3) how shall Uganda move to self-sustenance without foreign funds and foreign contractors?
To answer these questions, there is need to go back to the drawing table and put into consideration the following policy recommendations.
1. There should be an established effective team of technical personnel from the Ministry of works and transport to perform regular and frequent supervision of road construction work to ensure effective and efficient work.
It is argued by multiple concerned Ugandans, that Uganda National Roads Authorities either don’t have technical teams or they are just very reluctant to monitor and ensure road construction work is being done with the highest degree of professionality required of the contractors (Pomfret, 2006). Because of rampant and continuous negligence of contractors while performing their duties. For Example, in 2012, residents of Mafubira Village on the Jinja-Kamuli highway went on streets demonstrating over an impassable potholes and dusty road under construction. They argued road constructors are doing nothing to: 1) cover those potholes; 2) spray water to reduce dust; 3) work hard to complete construction within reasonable time.
They say the road had spent many years dogged with potholes, and when the government contracted a company known as “Dott Services” to work on the road, the company dug the road and left it unattended for close to a year. That prompted the fury from those trading near the road, and hence prompted residents that had to close their business due to dust to demonstrate. Uganda
National Road Authority noted that the 70km Jinja-Kamuli highway is just one of the many roads under construction where they have received similar complaints from the locals (Imaka, 2014.). That in mind, if there existed a supervisory committee that frequently monitors these construction projects, constructors shall be compelled to exercise the level of professionality required of them which shall reduce unnecessary delay in construction, digging of holes and leaving it unattended on the road for almost years.
To make this recommendation a reality, there are some implication that come with it such as: 1) lack of enough manpower; 2) lack of enough financial resources to facilitate smooth work of the supervisory committee; 3) poor road network that might hinder easy movement of personnel from the committee from one construction site to other.
However, these implications can be addressed. It starts with internal restructuring within either the Ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda National Road Authority and all other stakeholders working in the road construction sector. This will cut down on additional expenses associated with bringing new people to perform this task. Also, the government could outsource technical personnel to perform this task and pay them on a case-by-case basis.
2. Local Engineering firms should be given priority, if not; be included in the road construction projects.
The biggest funders of road construction projects in Uganda are: 1) China Development Bank; and 2) World Bank. These funds are coming in under the guise of international tendering. Wherein the World Bank has allocated more than $ 7 billion in the Sub- Saharan Africa with almost $ 1.5 billion in road construction (World Bank, 1994; World Bank, 2009.1; Pomfret, 2006). However, recently, Uganda has had a greater affinity to China because of Chinese technology and
money to fund road infrastructure projects. Studies have shown that each kilometer of the four lane expressway cost $9.3 million dollars (Namubiru, 2018).
Aside from the foreign burden of debts Uganda is incurring on these roads’ projects, most if not all actual road construction projects in Uganda are being done by foreign companies. Studies revealed that on 48 national road contracts issued in the past decade, 70% of the funding went to Chinese contractors and only 4% to locally incorporated firms (Namubiru, 2018). Yet, Ugandan taxpayers are expected and obligated to pay these debts.
Considering how much Uganda is indebted with loans, it is expected that Ugandans shall pay the debts, their children and their grandchildren shall also be on the hook for a growing pile of debt being used to build roads. But the local construction industry is neither getting a piece of the action nor is it developing the capacity to maintain these roads (Namubiru, 2018).
The engagement of local engineering firms will promote sustainability. The reality of the matter remains that Chinese and Japanese firm constructors eventually when the project is over, they are going to have to leave. But the question is does local firms have the experience to continue the journey of fulfilling the pledge by the government to provide better roads throughout Uganda? Or even to provide maintenance for these already constructed roads? As of now, the answer is No. But I strongly believe when these local firms are involved in these projects, they shall acquire more practical skills and experience that will position them to carry on the task effectively even after these foreign contractors left.
Even though this might seem to be an ideal and necessary move, it is important to realize that: 1) At time local firms might lack the required advanced technologies and equipment necessary for the work; 2) some local firms lack enough skilled and experience personnel, i.e., engineers and technicians; 3) restrictions on the borrowed money by lending countries and
institutions. According to a 2019 report from the Ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda National Road Authority received 60.8% of the approved road construction budget in the financial year 2018/2019 from external financing, i.e., loans from mostly the World bank and Chinese government. In most cases, the lender of these monies dictates who should be awarded the contract. Mostly in favor of constructors from the lending countries.
Another important and mostly common implication is corruption. It influences: 1) who gets to be awarded road construction tenure. It is said, government officials award tenure on the understanding that they get a percentage of the construction price. Specific example was evidenced when a Chinese construction firm CICO blacklisted over corruption and fraud by African Development Bank got awarded three contracts in Uganda(Ssebwami, 2020); 2) what, and where road construction material gets purchased from. Investigations have proved that government officials in charge of procuring road construction material, would rather purchase cheaper and low quality materials and equipment even though they have been awarded enough money to purchase expensive and high quality material. Balance of which they pocket it (Mugoya, 2016.). Because of corruption, Uganda is said to be spending more to construct a kilometer road compared to any other country in East Africa.
However, the government can overcome the implication relating to foreign funding restriction. It starts with reducing over reliance on foreign funding. It has been proven time and again that the government generates enough funding from revenue, which they could use to finance road construction without borrowing. Relating to inadequacy of local engineering firms, thus can be addressed by: 1) government awarding funding inform of low interest loans to local firms so that they are able to purchased high quality equipment, necessary to put them in an equal bidding ground for the award of construction tenure; 2) where a construct is awarded to a foreign company,
there should be a clause in the contract that certain percentage of qualified local engineers should be consider by the company for employment in a managerial position. This will provide mentorship, and opportunities to advance their skills necessary for consideration when awarding tenure.
Nobody is born corrupt. It is a learned behavior, influenced by environmental factors. We can therefore unlearn that practice and create an environment hostile to corruption. It starts with: 1) holding accountable corrupt public servants; 2) arrest, prosecuting and imposing harsh penalty on offences of corruption; 3) freezing individual assets acquired fraudulently with public funds; 4) educating the public on corruptions and its implications; and 4) excommunicating corrupt public official from the community. I know the latter is extreme, but I think it is necessary.
3. Uganda National Road Authority should effectively engage into Private Public Partnership (PPP) with private law firms, and accountancy firms for purposes of protecting the individual rights to land ownership and interest over land. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda recognized that land in Uganda belongs to the
people of Uganda. And that no person should be compulsorily deprived of ownership or any interest in or right over land. Except where the taking of possession or acquisition of individual land is necessary for public use.
Based on that exception, many people were forcefully evicted from their land to pave way for the road construction. Road construction projects affected even those that were not evicted. Because they lost value of their land because construction materials were quarried from their land making the land unproductive for agricultural activities.
Even though the constitution recognizes that a person’s land can be taken for public use such as road construction, that same constitution spelt out conditions which MUST be met prior
to compulsorily acquiring an individual’s land. It includes prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation which must be paid prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property (Article 26 of Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995.).
But as it stands now, road construction projects have tremendously violated this constitutional right. In October 2016 for example, the Parliament’s committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises recovered UGX 26.3bn meant for compensation of Projects Affected Persons (PAPs) from five (5) Chinese road construction companies working on different road projects across the Uganda (Mugoya, 2017).
When Uganda National Road Authority was confronted with this issue, they did not dispute it. However, they admit the violation occurred because they involved 3rd party (Chinese contractors) to handle compensation.
Foreign contractors are not fit and proper people to handle this matter because not only did these contractors lack both legal and cultural knowledge to handle this matter, but they also speak a very different language which makes communication with peasant, local Ugandans next to impossible.
Therefore, to avoid this form of violation of constitutional rights, Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) should effectively engage private public partnership with law firms that understands both the legal and cultural dimension of things like this. It is also important for accounting firms to be involved in order to calculate a fair amount to be paid in compensation before a person is evicted from his land.
There is already a major argument about high cost of road construction, and limited resources, i.e., finance. Engaging in PPA requires more money. Therefore, lack of adequate funding may hinder this implementation. Furthermore, out of the over 700 law firms in
Uganda(Mulengra, 2020), there are just a few specializing in PPP. This is also true for over 500 licensed accounting firms(The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU), 2019). Therefore, lack of specialized training on PPP laws and regulations could hinder this effort.
However, it does not mean because there are few PPP specialized firms, they should not be considered all together. It is important to award contracts and support the few existing PPP firms. If adequately empowered, they can do magic. Furthermore, the government can consider promoting and advancing training in the area of PPP.
There should be an established committee of inquiry within the constructing governmental institutions that shall administratively investigate irregularities and illegal cases against road constructors.
As it stands now there are a lot of irregularities surrounding foreign contractors, mostly from china. There are two categories of Chinese constructors involved in road construction projects in Uganda. The first categories being those under the Chinese government, and the other categories are private Chinese constructors. These two categories of constructors have different interests which should be put into consideration.
Regarding private Chinese construction, their interest is almost exclusive to making as much profit as possible. To ensure maximization of their interest, some of them went as far as involving in illegal investment, such as sand mining, (Oziga, 2018), and Ivory smuggling. In 2014 for example the allegation was made by the president of Uganda about a Chinese who collaborated with Ugandan officials and smuggled 1.3 metric tons of Ivory out of the country. (Kuo, 2017)
Also, there was an operation conducted by security personnel. It was discovered from that operation that there are between 10,000 and 50,000 Chinese in the country. Dozens were found without any legal documentation. In one Chinese camp, the majority of Chinese there were found
without either work permit or passport (Conor, 2017). I believe if such a committee was formed, these irregularities would have probably: 1) not existed in the first place; or 2) controlled before it was too late; 3) mitigated in a more proficient way.
The parliament of Uganda is carrying out some of these factions already. However, their investigations are limited to the concerned ministries, and it does not extend to the contractors. Even when Parliament finds irregularities and illegalities done by the ministry, there is no adequate and substantial action taken because: 1) Parliament does not have an effective enforcement system; 2) they lack independence from the executive branch of government. As a result, Parliament’s findings are either influenced or buried by the executive.
Furthermore, the concerned ministries lack capacity to implement this recommendation because of: 1) inadequate skilled human resources; 2) inadequate financial resources; 3) lack of continued training on areas of laws that may be a useful tool for implementation; and 4) ambiguities in the language of contract between ministries and contractors.
The aforementioned obstacles could be remedied. It starts with drafting clear terms of contract. If expertise to handle this task is an issue, the ministry can outsource. Furthermore, it might also be necessary to make internal staffing restructuring, i.e., creating a committee within the ministry to take charge of this task, and assigning already qualified persons working in the ministry to perform the task. This will cut on the issue of costs associated with bringing in new
employees to perform this task. Then, the ministry should also emphasize on continued learning for their employees executing this task.
4. Engagement of all stakeholders in Roads’ construction projects.
The power and authority concerning roads construction projects rest almost exclusively with Uganda National Road Authority. However, the centralization of power has proved to be ineffective when it comes to effective presence on sites.
Therefore, if the power of controlling road project is decentralized to involve all stakeholders such as the local government of the districts where construction is being done both at district, sub county and county level, there shall be more presence of authority on sites that shall improve the productivity of the project and minimize cases of both illegal, negligence and irregularities in the Roads construction projects.
While engaging all stakeholders, i.e., Uganda National Road Authority, Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Local governments, etcetera is an ideal move, one should be conscious of factors that might hinder this move. It includes lack of adequate coordination between stakeholders, weak government policies, i.e., in regard to enforcement and corruptions. It makes individuals in charge to create a system that will make it easier for them to personally steal, misuse, and embezzle public funds meant for road construction.
However, this is a minor challenge which can be overcome. It first starts with discouraging corruption by all means. Then creating an effective coordination system, i.e., digital platform to keep up to date with all stakeholders. Most importantly, road construction projects should be decentralized, with local governments empowered to play an active and direct role in supervision of roads projects in the districts while reporting progress to the central government. This will create an atmosphere of inclusiveness, and responsible sharing.
5. Community education about laws that govern employment of children. Studies revealed that there are a lot of children employed as casual workers in road construction projects throughout Uganda. According to the constitution, anybody below the age of 16 is a child. He or she is entitled to be protected from social or economic exploitation. The Constitution barred children from being employed in or required to perform work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with: 1) their education; 2) to be harmful to their health or physical development; 3) mental or spiritual development; and 4) moral or social development(Article 33(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 ).
For clarity, child labor is defined under section 2 of the Children Act, to mean work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to a child, and the circumstances under which it is performed jeopardizes the health, safety, morals and education of a child(Children Act, 2016). The children working in road construction are doing so contrary to the rights guaranteed under the laws of Uganda( Johnson, 2005). Because those work interfere with their education, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
A lot of children are working in construction because of poverty. They are vulnerable to accept any work to earn enough to survive even though that means being exploited. And at the community/ village levels people actually don’t know that it is illegal to employ or engage a child in any activity that may be harmful or hazardous to his or her health, or his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development(Children Act, 2016). Some children working in construction are below the minimum age of employment of a child, which is 16 years.
Since those construction work exposes children to: 1) physical or psychological torture; 2) manual handling or transportation of heavy loads; 3)work with chemicals and dangerous
substances; 4) work under extreme temperatures; 5) high levels of noise, or working for longer hours, they are by law considered “harmful or hazardous employment”(Children Act, 2016). In order to avoid this from happening, Uganda Road National Authority should make it a policy to educate the community about rights of child workers, procedural requirements for employing children and the information about child rights be made available to community members at all levels with a number they can contact in case they see any form of child exploitation. Also, constructors before awarded projects to construct roads must be educated on those laws as well and have them signed to be bounced by it.
During the early days of the National Resistance Movement, which is the ruling party in Uganda, they preached grassroot democracy. Under this agenda, the governance was to take a bottom-up approach. However, with time, the government departed from this agenda. Which has resulted into poor relationships and lack of trust between central government and local community members. Inadequate mobilization, coupled with lack of trust might hinder effort to implement this recommendation. Also, another problem is associated with lack of commitment by the citizens. This is because most community members are just fighting to survive. Furthermore, inaccessibility is another factor that might hinder implementation. Remote parts of Uganda are classified as hard to reach areas, with no electricity, telecommunication network and poor road network. Thus, affects transport, communication of personal/trainers, and community members, and hence a hindrance to implementation.
However, it is possible to adequately address these challenges. It can be done through: 1) educating community members through FM radio network communication; 2) going back to the grassroot democracy principles, i.e., work on trust building, empowering community leaders, such as local council ones with knowledge and skills so that they can take charge of educating their
communities; 3) community work mobilization. This used to be a thing when I was growing up. I witnessed community members come together and they collectively clean water well, roads, etcetera. So, with proper mobilization, and empowerment, hard to reach community members can take charge of their community.
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