MASAKA. Gunfire and teargas have rocked Nyendo town in Masaka this morning as police battled residents who had staged a demonstration protesting the bad state of the main road in the area.
The demonstration that was led by the Nyendo Block A councillor, Apollo Ssansa, was expected to be peaceful, but turned violent as residents pelted stones at riot police, which prompted them to retaliate by firing teargas and live bullets to disperse the rioters.
“We had planned to start the demonstration at 7am, but unfortunately police arrived at 6pm to foil all our plans, something that angered residents,” Ssansa said.
He added that despite their plan to stage a peaceful demonstration being ruined, they went ahead and lit car tyres to express their disillusionment with the bad state of the road.
Southern regional police spokesman, Lameck Kigozi said they arrested 18 people who will be charged with staging unlawful assembly when investigations are complete.
Mr Kayita Sserubiri, a councillor representing Kitovu-Nume Ward to Nyendo–Ssenyange Division said the demonstration was intended to remind government about its role to fix roads in bad condition.
According to him, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has failed to fix the road for many years despite receiving a huge budget every financial year.
“If UNRA fails to work on this road in two weeks, we shall mobilise all people who use this road including taxi drivers, motorcyclists and leaders to go and camp at UNRA offices until the road is worked upon,” Mr Sserubiri threatened.
The road which is about 13km, start from Total Highway filling station through Masaka Town and connect to Kijjabwemi trading centre on the Masaka–Mbarara Bypass .
Last month, Masaka Municipal council authorities announced that government had given them a green light to divert some funds under the World Bank funded Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development Program Project (USMID) to fix part of the potholed 13.43km road.
In a letter dated May 4, 2018 the Minister of Works and Transport, Eng Monica Azuba Ntege, also admitted the poor state of the road, saying its reconstruction was long overdue.
“I note with concern the poor state of the three Masaka Municipality roads and they are the busiest and commend your efforts on having them worked on including considering the use of USMID additional financing on the 13.43km of the road,” the minister said.
The poor state of Nyendo-Masaka-Kijjabwemi road has in the past led to demonstrations by angry residents protesting its delayed rehabilitation.
The latest demonstration occurred on April 27 where residents blocked the road with logs and car tyres and later set them on fire thus paralyzing traffic on the road for several hours .
The situation only normalised after police and army officers from Armoured Brigade, Kasijjagirwa clobbered the demonstrators who were hurling stones at them and consequently arrested 11 of their leaders.