Umeme Blames Gulu Power Outage On Vandalism

In the hot seat: UMEME Gulu Manager Tom Awuzu shortly after a meeting with the Gulu Chairman Ojara Martin Mapenduzi. Mr Awuzu later had a chat with a group of Gulu residents threatening to demonstrate power outages in Gulu(Photo by James Owich)

Officials of Umeme Uganda Limited have blamed power outage affecting Gulu and districts in northern Uganda on vandalism.

The utility company says the main power lines from Soroti through Lira have been tempered with by unknown individuals who destroy it for financial motive.

These installations, according to Umeme are very expensive to replace once they are stolen.

Gulu district with 70,000 connections to the national grid has been experiencing major power shutdowns over the past three months with blackouts lasting up to 8 hours a day.

On Tuesday morning, a section of politicians and Gulu town residents began calling for demonstration against the power company.

Tom Awuzu, the Manager Umeme Gulu blamed hunters, fishermen and farmers in Lango and Acholi sub regions for destroying electric installations in their respective areas.

Awuzu explained that during dry season hunters dig out electric poles in search for edible rats and fish. Awuzu notes that this weakens the base of the electric poles making them vulnerable to storms and strong wind.

The UMEME Gulu Manager further explained that sometimes hunters deliberately set fire on poles to get wild game and use poles for making ox ploughs.

The Umeme Customer Services Engineer, Jocelyn Rwabogo in a phone call exchange with Gulu Chairman Ojara apologised for the power outage which has affected business in Gulu and said plans are underway to replace up to 60 electric poles along the main northern distribution line.

Angry Gulu town residents threatened to mobilise Tuesday morning to demonstrate power outages in Gulu.

Gulu district police commander Martin Okoyo however called for calm among residents.

Gulu Chairman Ojara Martin Mapenduzi while meeting Mr Awuzu, the Umeme Gulu area Manager on Tuesday in his [Mapenduzi’s office] said the power outage affected government institutions including hospitals, schools and private businesses.

Mapenduzi expressed frustration with the utility company and said Umeme is quick in disconnecting its customers over failure to clear bills not in addressing concerns of power consumers.

The Chairperson Gulu District Business Operators, George Aligech Lapir said 90 percent local businesses that rely on electricity to preserve their stocks from getting spoilt have been affected by the irregular power supplies.

Mr Lapir observed that the majority of the companies are counting losses due to the erratic power supply.