The National Taskforce on combating rampant vandalism of electricity infrastructure has recommended that the National Security Council takes over the matter.
The government recently formed a taskforce to probe into the rampant cases of electricity infrastructure vandalism and also make recommendations. The taskforce comprised of security agencies, State House, Electricity Regulatory Authority and ministry for Energy and Mineral development whose permanent secretary Eng. Irene Bateebe chairs the taskforce.
Now, we have understood from credible sources in UEDCL that the taskforce has recommended that the National Security Council deals with the matter.
“One of the recommendations the taskforce has made is to forward the matter to NSC because we realized it wasn’t a simple matter” says a senior security official in UEDCL.
It has also been discovered that currently, there’s a disjoint between utility companies and security organs and sometimes the organs clash when for example police undertakes an operation against vandalism without involving senior officers in the UPDF. There are also reports of some vandals impersonating CMI claiming that some of its officers are behind them.
This information came to light yesterday during a training workshop for security personnel including CIDs on the new Electricity Act 2022 with a view of popularizing it’s stringent provisions against vandalism. The meeting was organised by Electricity Regulatory Authority in Kampala.
The meeting aimed to also bring the magnitude of vandalism to the attention of security officers in addition to reminding them of their cardinal role of detecting crime.
“98%of the activities done in Uganda are driven by electricity. That’s why we’re here to make you aware of the magnitude of vandalism. These are unique cases. They are not common and a big number of us have not handled a case involving electricity vandalism. This vice is as old as electricity itself although now it’s very high” says a senior officer in UEDCL.
SABOTAGE ON PRESIDENT’S UPCOUNTRY TRIPS
The vandals are so daring that, their actions have not spared the lines supplying the president. Security at first thought it was a random act by the criminals but somehow, a close analysis of the events, raised another line of investigation.
These acts have according to intelligence systematically happened whenever the president makes upcountry trips to his presidential farms.
For example, on March 12 2022, Museveni travelled to his farm in Kisozi but the power line supplying his farm was vandalized leaving five poles cut down and the farm went into total darkness.
Four days before, on March 9, Museveni was supposed to be in Kyankwanzi for a big meeting, and eight poles were cut down leaving two villages in darkness including Kyankwanzi. Here, the lines were cut and the conductors were taken.
Again on May 2 2022, Museveni hosted a visiting president and took him to his presidential farm at Kawumu-Luweero, and a cable was vandalized.
And yet, earlier in May 2021 before he took his oath for another term of office, Museveni was again at his farm in Kisozi and eight poles were cut.
“What is shocking in all these cases, we don’t have a single suspect ever been arrested. These cases are happening on the person of the president. Do you (CIDs) think we will have jobs soon when the president decides to roar? Remember, whenever a case happens, the technical people (Umeme) report to police” the officer said.
Not only has CiC Museveni been targeted by vandals, but also critical military installations like the UPDF 1st Division in Kakiri.
Here, the vandals struck on April 2 2021, a month before Museveni took oath on May 12.
They cut 10 poles in Kakiri taking off the 1st division headquarters.
“What does that mean to a security officer? It means national security has been compromised. When there’s no electricity, radio communication don’t work. When there’s no electricity, there’s insecurity. In darkness, you cannot provide security. Therefore, when you take out 1st Division…. deployment will be very difficult because you will not be able to mobilize men in darkness” the officer says.
In January on 31 2021, there was an alleged attempt to vandalize Mutundwe Substation which supplies Western Uganda and some parts of Kampala. If this mission had been accomplished, it would have taken government 6months to reinstate the substation only if the materials were locally available or 2years if imported.
The saboteurs also allegedly went and vandalized the network serving police CCTV cameras in Mbarara.
So daring these men and women are that, as the Electoral Commission headed by Justice Simon Byabakama carried on with counting of presidential votes at Kyambogo national tally center, the cable supplying the tally center was vandalized.
“The cable was burried deep underground that even when a farmer was digging, he couldn’t see it. But it was vandalized during tallying of presidential votes. It (incident) took off the national tally center. Now, who’s duty is it to protect that installation? Is it Umeme or you?” He asked the officers as he mentioned many other incidents.
He said oftentimes, when suspects are got, they are given police ponds and will not be seen again and the case is shelved after three months. He said the officers also have a tendency of sitting in their offices to wait for Umeme, UETCL to give evidence. When the utility companies don’t show up after five days, they abandon the case instead of reaching out to utility companies to get their statements.
He said in total, the country has lost over Shs16bn in Energy not served.
Meanwhile, Kampala Central deputy RCC Yasin Ndidde, noted that the incidents of vandalism became rampant towards elections and after elections.
“At the time there was a slogan ‘Tajja Kulayira, Teli Kulayira’. I think we had a planned cut down of electricity infrastructure countrywide by some people opposed to government. This is not merely vandalism as you put it. I can see most of the cases targeting where Museveni was. I think let’s not take this as a simple crime. They are not very many people who are doing this. It is this sector that controls everything. It controls health, security etc and if we sleep on it, we shall not survive Ugandans throwing us out (of power)” he said. The meeting heard that the Terrorism Act may soon be invoked on those vandalizing electricity and its infrastructure.