Just three months after streetlights were installed in Masaka town, they have been disconnected by Umeme for the non-payment of electricity bills.
Three months after streetlights were installed in Masaka Municipality, they have been disconnected.
The streetlights were installed after traders in the town center complained or a rise in nighttime robberies because of the numerous dark corners in Masaka. There were also growing reports of assaults, rape and burglaries in the area.
The respite that Masaka residents had from the crime is now over. Power distribution company, Umeme, says the municipal council has not paid its electricity bill for the streetlights.
Kirunda Magoola, the Umeme Masaka manager, refuses to disclose the exact amount owed, but Uganda Radio Network has learned that it is just over 11 million shillings.
The outgoing Mayor of Masaka, Kasibante Kibabilire, says the council failed to agree on a payment plan with Umeme. He says he explained to the company that the municipality is facing a financial crisis and needs a grace period to clear the debt, but the request was turned down.
Kibabilire says money budgeted for the power supply to the streetlights was diverted at the last minute for the procurement of land for a new taxi park and to expand a market in Nyendo.
The land will cost 300 million shillings. So far the municipality has paid 40 million shillings for the purchase.
The disconnection of the streetlights and the excuse given for the electricity debt has angered many people in Masaka who are questioning whether the cost of building a market is worth the loss of their property and lives.
The Masaka Mayor says his council approved the re-channeling of the money in order to complete the Nyendo market expansion project.
Christopher Drambele, assistant manager at Tuwereza Bakery, says that since the lights were switched off his factory has been robbed and vandalized. In the most recent robbery, thieves made off with five million shillings and several loaves of bread.
He says street lighting is a necessity in Masaka.
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Anthony Lubuuka, a Masaka resident, doesn’t believe that the municipal leaders had the best interests of the people to begin with. He says they installed indoor fluorescent lights instead of incandescent bulbs or mercury vapor lamps.
Lubuuka says this shows they weren’t interested in the project from the start.
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The newly elected Masaka Mayor, Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, in his acceptance speech, promised to replace and restore the streetlights as a matter of priority.