Special Reports

SPOTLIGHT: Sugarcane companies in the Albertine cause concerns over negligence by their truck drivers

MPs from Kikuube district have raised concerns over the increasing traffic accidents caused by trucks belonging to Hoima Sugar Limited. These remarks were made by Hon. Francis Kazini, the Buhaguzi area MP, and Hon. Florence Natumanya, the Kikuubu district Woman MP.

HOIMA —Members of Parliament (MPs) from Kikuube district have raised concerns over the increasing traffic accidents caused by trucks belonging to Hoima Sugar Limited, which they said have claimed several lives over the last couple of years.

These remarks were made by Francis Kazini, the Buhaguzi area MP, and Florence Natumanya, the Kikuube district Woman MP, during a special council sitting organized to pay tribute to the fallen male district councilor for Kikuube Town Council.

It was reported that Councillor Nyakoojo Biraali died in an accident after his vehicle rammed into a stationary numberless tractor that was parked by the road side loaded with sugarcane.

The incident is said to have occurred in Mairirwe village, Buhimba sub-county, along the Hoima – Fort Portal road as the deceased was moving from Hoima town heading to Kikuube district.

According to eyewitnesses, the said tractor was heading to the sugar factory in Kiswaza village Kiziranfumbi sub-county when it got a mechanical problem and the driver was forced to park it along the roadside.

The councilor is likely to have been heading to his home on the same route when his vehicle rammed into this tractor and he died instantly.

The Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report for 2020 published by the Uganda Police Force shows there was a 4.7% reduction in the number of traffic accidents reported decreasing from 12,858 accidents reported in 2019 to 12,249 accidents reported in 2020.

During the period under review, 3,269 crashes were fatal, 5,803 were serious and 3,177 were minor. Fatal crashes reduced by 4.1%, serious crashes reduced by 3.2%, and minor crashes reduced by 8.2%.

The number of casualties/victims from crashes in 2020 was 13,012 compared to 14,690 casualties in 2019, representing a reduction of 11%. Overall, the casualties/victims killed were 3,663, those seriously injured were 8,370, and those who sustained minor injuries were 979.

Out of the 27 police regions, the distribution of road accidents shows that while the highest number of crashes was found in Kampala Metropolitan Area (Kampala South, Kampala North, and Kampala East), the majority of the fatal crashes (79%) occurred in other policing areas across the country.

Outside the Kampala Metropolitan Area, the highest number of crashes was registered in Aswa, Wamala, Rwizi, North Kyoga, Busoga East, Greater Masaka, Albertine region, Rwenzori West, Bukedi, and East Kyoga each having over 400 incidents.

In the Albertine region, it is reported that 193 cases (5.9%) were fatal compared to 3,269 at national level while 185 cases (3.2%) were serious compared to 5,803 at national level and 69 cases (2.2%) were minor compared to 3,177 at national level.

The death of Councilor Nyakoojo follows several other accidents reportedly caused by drivers of Hoima Sugar Limited.

In one of them the LCI Chairperson of Ikoba village in Kabwoya sub-county, Julius Byenkya, lost his life while in another, Joab, a staff of Kikuube district local government was the casualty.

On that note, Hon. Francis Kazini demanded for the enactment of a bylaw to guide in the regulation of all trucks carrying sugarcane in the area.

The Executive Director of the Landcode Initiative, Richard Muganzi, observed that while private investors may contribute to socioeconomic development of the country they ought to ensure that the impact of their business operations do not undermine the human rights and freedoms of the local people in the host communities.

He said that the Landcode Initiative is now conducting a community-based human rights impact assessment on large scale business projects in the area so as to identify such issues, propose responses, and engage government and/or corporate actors towards eliciting commitment to take necessary remedial action.

He further explained that many communities affected by private investments around the world are often times disempowered by governments and companies to the extent that their concerns are worryingly underrepresented or even misconstrued.

He warned that reliance on existing company-led impact assessments can also leave the company exposed to a number of hidden and nascent human rights issues that may develop into significant business related risks (including legal, financial and reputational) for the government, company, its investors and shareholders in the future.

He underscored the need for large scale investments to safeguard the right to a clean and healthy environment, a dignified life, cultural identity, basic public amenities, land, personal safety, and freedom of expression.

These obligations ought to be understood from the perspective of the very affected persons whose own interpretation of issues is critical so as to create grounds for transparency and accountability.

An inquiry into the cause of road accidents in Kikuube indicates that most of the trucks and tractors carrying sugarcane are in dangerous mechanical conditions. It is also reported by many people in the community that some of the drivers of these heavy vehicles are complacent and their hard-hearted conduct while driving on public roads is not expected of their profession.

They also fault the law enforcement agencies since many of these vehicles have no reflectors or lights yet they also move at night which makes it easy for them to cause accidents. Hon. Francis Kazini lamented during the special council sitting that “if you go and inspect the tractor that killed our fellow councilor where it is parked, you notice it did not have any lights, reflectors, or number plate.

How can such a tractor be allowed on our public roads? I often find these tractors moving at night without any lights and the drivers instead use small torches for lighting their way.”

In January 2017, one person died on the spot and 20 others were injured on when a Tata lorry registration number UAN 706R they were travelling in overturned within the compound of Kinyara Sugar Works factory in Masindi district.

The deceased was identified as Echoku, a resident of Kinyara village in Bwijanga Sub County, Masindi district. Moses Batumbya, the chairperson of the sugar cane loaders, says that the vehicle was carrying over 40 people when it overturned and some of the accident survivors largely blame the driver for reckless driving.

In July 2017, again two people died after a motorcycle on which they were travelling lost control and rammed into a stationary lorry at Rwomubazi village in Buhimba Sub County along the Hoima – Fort Portal road. The dead were identified as Ronald Mutebi, 28, a resident of Kitoole village in Buhimba Sub County and Peter Bigirwa, 56, a resident of Musaijamukuru in Buhimba Sub-County.

They sustained deep cuts and were rushed to Hoima Regional Referral Hospital but unfortunately did not recover from the injuries.

The lorry registration number UAT 061J was transporting sugarcanes to Hoima Sugar factory in Kiswaza village, Kiziranfumbi Sub County.

In October 2018, another 3 people also died and ten others sustained injuries in an accident that occurred along the Hoima – Fort Portal road in the night.

According to eye witnesses, a taxi registration number UAV 087Y from Kibaale rammed into a tractor belonging to Hoima Sugar Limited which was loaded with sugarcanes.

The deceased were identified as Isaka Ayesiga Tonny, 32 a driver of the taxi, Bagonza Mathias, 45 and Naiga Immaculate, 28 a resident of Kijungu cell in Hoima town who died on arrival at Hoima regional referral hospital.

It is alleged that several other acidents happened in 2019 and 2020 but they were concealed from public scrutiny.

However, in August 2021, still 6 people died after a vehicle reg. no. UAT 096V lost control and nearly plucked at Waaki river which borders Masindi and Hoima districts.

The eye witnesses reported that truch was carrying sugarcane cutters to Masindi from Kisebegwa village, Kyabigambire Sub County in Hoima district.

Kinyara Sugar Limited made a press release on dated 16th August 2021 stating that the truck belongs to their service provider.

An analysis made in the Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report by the Uganda Police Force for the year 2020 shows that 44% of all crashes during the period were due to careless driving followed by reckless driving at 36%, careless pedestrians at 6%, dangerous mechanical condition of the vehicles at 3.8%, other causes at 3.5%, and over speeding at 2.9%.

A total of 293,543 traffic offenders were arrested for various traffic offences they committed during the year 2020.

Of these, 55,679 persons were arrested for careless driving, 54,329 were arrested for using a motor vehicle which is not in a good mechanical condition, 27,370 drivers were arrested for driving a vehicle without third party insurance, and 21,308 were arrested for not wearing safety belts while 20,388 were arrested for driving without a valid driving permit.

But is police arrest and express penalty enough to curb road accidents caused by the political elite, bourgeoisie class, security organs, as well as drivers of large companies and government agencies?

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