Ugandan Villagers Electrocuted

November 5, 2013 9:25 am0 comments by:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKampala-At least three villagers are electrocuted every week in eastern Uganda as a result of illegal power connections.

The police there report that the villagers who are excited about the rural electrification project are tapping power illegally from the national power grid using barbed wires and as a result several have been electrocuted.

The barbed wires which are used as live conductors run dangerously through the banana plantations into farm houses in Mbale, Manafwa, Sironko, Bulambuli and Bududa.

Now the police say as a result of the illegal connections, they are recording at least three cases of death every week.

Diana Nandaula the Eastern Uganda Police Spokesperson says the victims include the elderly and babies.

“The number of those dying per week is more than that reported at police because the victims are usually buried secretly to avoid retribution from the authorities. In most cases when you hear that someone has died from a snake bite just know its electrocution” remarked the eastern Uganda Police Spokesperson.

“In the last three days we have recorded the death of an old man, a baby and woman who was electrocuted as she attempted to hang her wet clothes on a wire outside the family home”  Nandaula said the relatives usually report to police claiming that the victims died as a result of snake bites.

The police however say they are facing a challenge in trying to curb the practice because of resistance from the local communities.

“When the Umeme (power distributors) requests for our protection during operations against illegal power connections, the locals also mobilize themselves with machetes and fight back”. She explains that because of the resistance they are meeting from the community, they have not been able to successfully prosecute the perpetrators.

The police spokesperson says the members of the community usually destroy evidence by removing the connections whenever someone is electrocuted.

Victims React

“I spent a lot of money extending power to this village, but as we speak now when it gets dark everyone has power in his house and you wonder where they get it from because Iam the only recognized power user by umeme-the power distributors” remarks 60 year old John Wamusi, a resident of Bujoloto cell in the outskirts of Mbale town.

Wamusi says the residents tap power from the main grid through a process locally known as hooking where barbed wires are hooked to the main power grid which is then connected to the nearby households.

“I narrowly survived death last week; I was digging in my garden and came across a barbed wire which my neighbor was using for hooking power from the main power grid. I was only lucky that the electricity was off at that time” narrates Charles Wamutu a resident of Busano in Mbale district.

Who is to blame?

“To me I think the problem lies with Umeme, they are too reluctant in curbing out illegal electricity connections, because they are aware of the practice but they are doing nothing to stop it” remarks Emmanuel Opolot who lost a relative as a result of illegal power connection.

According to Opolot the law enforcement officers should arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects to act as a lesson to others who are engaged in the practice.

Umeme respond

“It’s very unfortunate that we are recording these deaths because we are required by law to ensure zero fatality but then people put conditions that bring about those fatalities by hooking power from the main grid into their banana plantations” explains Moses Mutumba the Regional Manager of Umeme-the power distributor.

Mutumba says the situation is so pathetic that in one area, Umeme discovered an illegal connection made out of barbed wires that was running through 28 poles to supply power to households in an entire village.

Challenges in enforcing zero fatalities

“Whenever our safety team moves to destroy these lines made out of barbed wires the members of the community attack them with machetes and attempt to butcher them” Mutumba says despite the challenges Umeme is now trying to carryout sensitization of the communities on the dangers of electricity using the local media.

He says government needs to carryout massive sensitization of the communities that are to benefit from rural electrification before power is extended in an area. He says currently the locals tap power claiming that rural electrification project is intended to provide them with power at no cost.

Uganda is currently carrying out rural electrification project using funding from the World Bank and Japan International Corporation Agency-JICA.






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