MPs divided over expansion of road reserves

A proposal in the Roads Bill, 2018 to expand road reserves by 40 metres has received mixed reactions from members of parliament.

During the plenary sitting on 09 May 2019, some MPs said that the proposal is a ploy by government to grab land from Ugandans, while others pointed out the importance of road expansion.

Hon, Nandala Mafabi, (FDC, Budadiri West) said the proposal violates article 26 of the constitution which gives Ugandans the right to own property.

“Roads pass on land and 40 metres is too much. Is this another way of bringing back the Land Amendment Bill,” Nandala Mafabi said.

Aringa North MP, Hon Onzima Godfrey  said that whilst road expansion is important, consideration should be made to reduce on the metres of a road reserve. 

“Since we now have road reserves at 15 metres, we can increase it by another five meters,” said Onzima.

Hon. Agnes Kunihira (NRM, Workers) called for consultation on the proposed 40 metres before it is passed.

“40 metres is a big piece of land. When you look at Jinja road, expanding to 40 metres means bringing down all the buildings,” said Kunihira.

Hon Joshua Carter Anywarach (Indep. Padyere County) urged government to have a clear compensation plan for those who will be affected by road expansion.

Hon. Richard Othieno Okoth (NRM, West Budama ) who signed  the minority report, accused the committee on Physical Infrastructure for going against a communication made by the minister of Works.

He said that the Minister gave an assurance that the law would affect only future road construction and not apply to existing road networks.

“If passed, this will mean we are passing the law with a retrospective effect; that is where we disagree with the committee,” said Othieno Okoth.

Hon. Robert Kasule Sebunya (NRM, Nansana Municipality) however, said that given the increase of traffic on the roads, there is need to expand the roads.

“The need for bigger road reserves is a safety measure which we need. We need a road to be given enough space with utilities like water, electricity, telecommunications and cameras,” said Sebunya.

Hon. Anthony Ayoo (NRM, Kwania County) said that road expansion will reduce on the increasing road carnage. 

“Expanding roads needs land. We cannot overlook the need to expand roads, we cannot stop developing because of the question of land, we need safer and better roads,” said Ayoo.

The Chairperson of the committee on Physical Infrastructure, Hon Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko allayed fears on compensation of those affected by road expansion.

“We proposed insertion of a new sub clause to take care of prompt payment and adequate compensation prior to government declaring land a road reserve,” said Kafeero Ssekitoleko.

The Minister of State for Works, Gen Katumba Wamala said that the proposed expansion of road reserves by 40 metres will apply to future plans.

“We are not saying that we are going to widen the old roads; where will government find that kind of money, except in cases where it will be extremely necessary. But we are saying in the new roads that we are planning, for example the Jinja express way, why should we not have the right side of the road,” said Katumba Wamala.

The Minister of Lands, Hon Betty Amongi said that the Bill can be subjected to the Land Acquisition Act, 1965 and the constitution in some of the provisions so as to address concerns on land acquisition. 

“The Act clearly stipulates that before you enter land, you make a declaration, examine the land, mark it, survey, value and pay the owner of the land,” said Amongi.

The Roads Bill, 2018 seeks to reform and amend laws relating to development, management and maintenance of public roads.

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