Suspected stolen Umeme items

Mbarara: Vandalism of electricity infrastructure in Western Uganda has hit alarming levels with vandals stealing over 133 km of cable in just 12 months and causing unprecedented disruption of electricity supply. The theft, according to experts in the region now stands at 72% followed by East and Northern Uganda.

Briefing security experts in Mbarara on the emerging worrying trend in the sector, Umeme’s Managing Director Selestino Babungi said in 2021, the sector lost over Shs 26 billion in stolen copper wires, vandalised transformers and poles amongst others.

“I am requesting for your support, the security apparatus, which you have actually always provided. I know you have the entire infrastructure, all the way from the LC1 to the national level, you have all the intelligence,” Babungi said.

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Mr Babungi said while Umeme is committed to furthering the Government’s agenda to increase the proportion of households accessing electricity, resources that would have been spent on expanding the grid are being diverted to replace assets the vandals steal.

He added, “Such vices, where we continue replacing assets, wasting resources, unfortunately affects the pricing of electricity through increasing the cost of our operations. The same vices do not enable people to use electricity and the more people use electricity the lower the cost.”

Umeme’s Head of Regional Operations in Western Uganda, Isaac Katewanga, said the West accounts for 72% of the cases vandalising electricity conductors.

“In 2021, 133 kilometres, equivalent to the distance between Mbarara and Kabale, of conductors were stolen. There has also been an astronomical growth in the theft of aerial bound conductors. They have found a market; from just 950 meters in 2020 to over 18 kilometres being stolen in 2021,” said Katewanga.

There was a need for concerted effort from all the stakeholders to curb the vice.

The Mbarara Resident District Commissioner Godfrey Mbetegyerize pledged their support towards Umeme and said the security personnel would be at hand to offer support to end the vandalism vice once and for all.

“This continued act not only damages government infrastructure but also leads to wastage of resources used to replace the installations. The taxpayer’s money can be used for other development issues and increasing access to electricity,” he said.

These vandals compromise the reliability, continuity and stability of power supply that sometimes compromises National Security.

The public needs to be aware that interference with the electricity supply network causes power blackouts, threatens the security of our homes, increases the cost of doing business and electricity tariffs, and disrupts vital health and education services as well as our lifestyles. Other effects include increased project development costs, extended project delivery timelines and overall, affects the economy and national development.

The assets targeted normally include; Pylons, wires/conductors, transmission infrastructure parts made of steel, aluminum wires, copper wires, transformers and transformer oils, poles, underground cables and related accessories.