BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI
ARUA. After showering the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECO) with praises, Alfred Okuonzi, the Arua district chairperson has made a shocking U-turn following social media criticism about his remarks.
Okuonzi went ahead to seek forgiveness from the locals who spent the night attacking him for allegedly betraying them.
This was on ‘WENRECO MUST GO!’, a WhatsApp group created by activists to mobilize locals to kick WENRECO and ElectroMaxx out of West Nile for failing to supply stable and reliable power to the people in the region.
The locals got angered after our story in which Okuonzi praised WENRECO went viral across all social media platforms in the region.
In the story, Okuonzi said during the launch of the partnership between WENRECO and Airtel Uganda on Tuesday that: “As the district chairman who holds the cultural heritage of the region, I want to say we are proud of WENRECO for bringing services nearer to us.”
He added that: “We are proud of you for partnering with Airtel Uganda to make sure that the services are accessed at convenience. This is going to lead us to economic growth and save family income because the money that has been used for hiring Boda Boda and putting fuel to reach the unit centers has been sorted, so we will do it within our convenience on the phone.”
But when locals mounted pressure on him over the remarks, the LC5 boss later begged for forgiveness, saying he doesn’t support WENRECO.
“I would like to clear the air that I do not support WENRECO. The statement I made was in the context of giving us the alternative of Airtel, for buying power units besides MTN. Forgive me!” Okuonzi pleaded on WENRECO MUST GO! WhatsApp platform on Wednesday morning.
“You may not know the confrontation that has been between me and WENRECO. I even do not know where they got the conviction to invite me for the function. What I know very well is that WENRECO CAN NOT meet the demand for power in West Nile now because the demand has outweighed the supply! This one they confessed in our meeting with them late last year when we squeezed them in a corner. This is my stand!” Okuonzi stressed.
He noted that as the district leadership, they held several meetings with WENRECO officials before and disagreed on the power being supplied by the company to the people of West Nile.
“We disagreed on power with them before and urged this to be brought to the attention of the government. They confessed before us in a formal meeting,” Okuonzi said.
However, most of the aggrieved locals demanded for the evidence of the said meetings, arguing that Okuonzi might be covering up something.
“I share the same feeling because Okuonzi Alfred’s disagreement with WENRECO needs proof. You very well know Airtel doesn’t sell power but airtime. How can you praise WENRECO for adding Airtel as if Airtel is an alternative source of power? What units of power will you buy with your Airtel money well knowing there is either little or in most cases, no power?” Gadafi Muhammad asked.
Another local said: “Okuonzi! But why betray your own people like this? You have been in West Nile for the rest of your life, in whatever case it is, your people will always be by your side……Then why???”
“Can’t you join your people and fight for the rights of your children’s generation. Such statements are not good. Please rethink and join your people for the fight for National Grid. We don’t want this issue of the so-called WENRECO and Electromaxx here,” the local added.
The situation worsened when Okuonzi again urged the aggrieved residents to sit down with WENRECO officials to get reasons as to why they have failed to supply stable and reliable power.
“My input in this is that you could sit WENRECO down and let them tell you why they have failed to meet the demand for power in West Nile. Their PRO is good and can cause this meeting to take place and from there you would take an informed decision. I tell you the truth, their capacity is not enough, even the Electromaxx they are given is not helpful. Issues there are many, we have talked and requested our MPs to take up the matter,” Okuonzi advised.
But Mercy Munduru, one of the lead activists outrightly told Okuonzi that sitting down with WENRECO has not been helpful at all.
“We have done this over and over again! Sitting them down has happened every year for the past four years but unfortunately, it has not led to stable electricity! We can’t tell a woman dying in hospital that we are going to have a meeting with WENRECO so that you don’t risk dying. We can’t tell the families of those who were murdered last week that we want to hear the challenges of WENRECO. They told us that they don’t have fuel and so what will sitting down do?” Munduru wondered.
Meanwhile during the partnership with Airtel, Eng. Kenneth Kiggundu, the WENRECO General Manager said: “We want to exceptionally thank the management of Airtel Money for having such a good product and solution for us. Indeed, the solution is extremely and directly in line with our aggressive strategy to satisfy customers in this region.”