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One Injured, Three Arrested in Gulu Power Protest

The municipality has been experiencing intermittent power supply for the past five years. According to residents, supply is often disconnected for as long as 12-hours, a trend which has destabilized businesses and forced some factories to relocate.
The Demonstrators Face Off With Police At Bank Lane

Audio 5

Anti-riot police have fired tear gas and bullets to disperse angry protesters in Gulu Town on Monday morning. The protesters took to the streets at 9 a.m. to call on President Yoweri Museveni to rein over power utility firm Umeme to stabilize electricity supply to the Northern Uganda town.

The municipality has been experiencing intermittent power supply for the past five years. According to residents, supply is often disconnected for as long as 12-hours, a trend which has destabilized businesses and forced some factories to relocate.

Today, residents and traders marched through the streets of Gulu, holding placards denouncing UMEME, which they described as incompetent, arrogant and corrupt. The protestors also carried gadgets and equipment which they claim were destroyed by power outages.

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John Bosco Uhuru, a social change campaigner who organized the march said it was a supposed to be a peaceful march planned to end with a petition to the Resident District Commissioner Major Santos Okot Lapolo and another to the UMEME area Manager Tom Awuzu.

Tony Kitara, the Proprietor of De Covenant Hotel in Gulu explains that although the march was peaceful, police used teargas to frustrate the mass action against Umeme.

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But Aswa Region Police Spokesperson Patrick Jimmy Okema said the demonstration was illegal and that the organizers were not cleared to have a procession in town. It's on the basis of the declaration that police fired tear gas at the protesters in front of Independence Square on Olya Road moments after the march began.

One person identified as Denis Kilama; a resident of Labour Line Ward in Pece Division, Gulu Municipality was injured in the scuffle while three others, Daniel Ocan and Charles Odong and Nathan Opiyo, were arrested.

At Bank Lane, some ten meters away from Umeme offices, anti-riot police blocked the road asking the protestors to abort their plans. They were joined by Aruu South Member of Parliament Odonga Otto and Kilak South Member of Parliament Gilbert Olanya, who boosted their momentum and continued with the plan to deliver the petition.

Kitara says they demand that power supply is stabilized for the economy to grow.

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David Birungi, the Umeme Stakeholder Relations Manager told the press that they are working to find a lasting solution to the outages.

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Moments later, Major Santos Okot Lapolo attempted to negotiate an end to the protests for traffic and businesses which had been disrupted to resume. He unsuccessfully tried to lead the protesters to his office located about 3,000 meters away in vain.

Major Santos Lapolo then addressed the petitioners saying he will deliver it to the office of the president for attention. He said consolidating power supply in the country is the second priority area for the government after roads infrastructure.

The current demand of Gulu Town is 6.3 Megawatts of electricity but Umeme says it suffers 22 percent power loss with just 9,000 customers connected to electricity in the town.

The Power Line from Tororo-Opuyo-Lira to Gulu has 60,000 connections, yet, according to the government, it is an old line, set up in the 60's and needs routine. Umeme blames the outage on the increasing number T- offs on the high voltage line.

Last week, the government blamed the power outage on the old wooden electric poles on the line.