The Government of Uganda has in the past three years intensified investments in the electricity sector including its generation, transmission and distribution operations.
Despite these investments, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development continues to grapple with rampant cases of vandalism of power transmission and distribution infrastructure. The vandals are deliberately sabotaging the electricity access agenda that Government embarked on to ensure electricity for all by 2030. These vandals compromise the reliability, continuity and stability of power supply that sometimes compromises National Security.
Recently, the nation has experienced power outages because of vandalism of the power infrastructure. There have been cases where segments of the network are destroyed out of malice including syphoning of transformer oils causing transformers to burn, removing copper wires within transformers and at times theft of the entire transformer.
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.
It has also come to our realization that vandalizing electricity assets has a relationship with the unregulated scrap business in the country, and there is therefore need to work with Uganda Manufacturer Association to ensure regulation of the scrap industry.
In the last two years alone, the government has lost over 260 billion shillings due to vandalism. Notable cases include;
- The collapse of five towers in Mbalala, Mukono district on the 132kV Owen falls – Lugogo transmission line on 20th of September 2018 that led to a national power blackout lasting over three hours. There was further load shedding for a week in some parts of Kampala as the affected towers were being replaced.
- 29 towers were badly vandalized in Tororo district on the 132kV Tororo – Lira transmission line under construction leading to thirteen towers collapsing on the ground. This has delayed delivery of the project and subsequently increased project costs noting that one tower for 132kV transmission line costs about USD10,000.
- 156 metric tons of steel equivalent to about 20 towers have been vandalized on the 220kV Bujagali – Tororo transmission line leading to collapse of various towers. In some instances, the thick metallic tower parts that are fixed in concrete to support the towers above the ground have also been dug out using jack hammers and this illustrates the determination of vandals.
- The 400kV Karuma – Kawanda transmission line (under commissioning) and Karuma – Lira transmission line (under construction) have experienced heavy vandalism. On the Karuma – Kawanda line alone, 9.5km of aluminum conductor (wire) were cut and stolen together with other tower parts and accessories estimated to be 100 metric tons equivalent to about 7 towers.
- UETCL spends on average over Shs 600 million (Six hundred million) per annum to repair vandalized towers on the existing lines across the country. Given the current rate of vandalism and the growing size of the transmission lines, these costs are expected to increase tremendously unless this vice is contained.
- Electricity distribution lines are also not spared. Over 26 billion Uganda shillings has been lost due to vandalism of distribution electricity networks across the country with hot spots being Kyotera, Masaka, Greater Mbarara and Hoima region .
Vandalism is currently more prevalent in the districts of Mukono, Kayunga, Buikwe, Jinja, Kamuli, Iganga, Mayuge, Bugiri, Busia, Tororo, Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Oyam, Kole, Kyirwandongo, Nakasongola, Luwero, Mpigi, Masaka, Kyotera, Mbarara, Bushenyi, Kiruhura, Kazo, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Kasese and Bulisa.
Kampala and Wakiso are believed to provide one of the biggest markets for the stolen electricity infrastructure assets. The vandalized electricity infrastructure assets are believed to be sold to scrap (steel and aluminum) smelters, some Service Providers of the energy sector who source materials locally, traders of electrical materials and metal welding workshops who use transformer oil in their welding machines.
In some cases, electricity distribution lines have been cut down without vandalizing anything and such acts can only be categorized as economic sabotage.
Government has therefore set up an inter-agency operation to ensure the security and safety of the electricity infrastructure across the country. The partners include the following;
Electricity Supply Industry players: MEMD, ERA, UEGCL, UETCL, UEDCL, REP and UMEME.
Security Forces: Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), Uganda Police Force (UPF), inter intelligence services like CID, CMI, ISO and ESO
The Ministry will also work with other partners including; Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Ministry for Presidency, Ministry of Local Government (MoLG), The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Courts of Judicature, Parliament and Uganda Manufacturers Association, (UMA) Local Communities (Wanainchi).
In addition, we are revising the Electricty Act to have stringent measures for anyone convicted of vandalizing electricity infrastructure among others. The Amendment Bill was approved by Cabinet on 2nd August 2021, published in the National Gazette on 24th September and we are now preparing to table it before Parliament.
At the community level we would like to engage more with the local leadership and affected communities to promote community policing.
In addition to the above measures, Government is in the process of amending the Electricity Act which will among others criminalize vandalism and provide for punitive measures for the vandals.
The general public is called upon to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior on a power network near them to the nearest police station or the electricity utility company serving you.
I would like to encourage you, the media fraternity, to disseminate this information and create awareness regarding vandalism of electricity infrastructure and how it negatively affects all of us.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to a successful partnership in ridding the country of the vandalism vice.
For God and My Country!
Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa Sentamu
MINISTER OF ENERGY AND MINERAL DEVELOPMENT