KITGUM. The improvement of seven roads in Kitgum municipality have been halted after Pader District authorities closed the stone quarry for the roadworks.
The Pader authorities say they “temporarily” shut the stone excavation site in Angagura Sub-county nearly three weeks ago because the Chinese firm mining stones there had violated terms of the deal.
China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co Ltd is building seven roads in Central and Pandwong Divisions in Kitgum municipality, stretching some 2.8 kilometres.
The World Bank through the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) financed the Shs16.6b road construction.
The extensive excavation site on the Gulu-Kitgum highway provides stones for the firm for its ongoing roadworks in both Kitgum municipality and Gulu City.
Pader District leaders say they sealed off the quarry because the Chinese firm had failed to complete paying compensation to the residents affected by quarrying activities.
They also claim that China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co Ltd had not paid the Shs3b royalty and had also declined to sign a memorandum of understanding with the district.
Mr Justin Ocen, the Pader District vice-chairman, said in an interview that the Chinese firm had agreed with the community on a Shs240m compensation, but had advanced only Shs154m.
“They agreed in writing to complete paying the Shs86m one month after commencing the stone-mining, but the sum has not yet been paid to our people of Angagura although they started mining the stones at the beginning of this year,” he said.
Mr Ocen said the Chinese firm first approached Pader in September 2021 for permission to install mining equipment at the quarry.
He said they had agreed not to start mining the stones until agreements were reached between the district, community and China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co Ltd.
“Unfortunately, when they installed the machines, they didn’t return to complete agreements on compensating the communities, paying royalties to sub-county, district and signing an MoU,” Mr Ocen said.
“As a consequence, the district council, district executive, and technical planning committees resolved to temporarily stop the firm’s activities at the quarry,” he said.
In a handwritten letter dated June 6, Col (rtd) Fearless Obwoya, the Pader LC5 chairman, ordered the Chinese firm not to access the quarry until the issues were resolved.
“Police officers have been deployed to reinforce this because the letter was written to the company on 19th May to stop operation until the issues are settled, but they didn’t respect the letter,” he added.
At least three meetings have been held between the Chinese firm, Kitgum District and municipal leaders on the one hand and Pader District authorities on the other in a bid to break the deadlock but not much has been achieved.
Kitgum municipal mayor Richard Ojara Okwera described the meetings he attended as ‘hostile’.
China Railway 18th Bureau Group Co Ltd has now threatened to sue the Pader District over the matter.
Meanwhile, the Kitgum Municipal authorities have not paid for the Chinese firm for the construction work since April.
Mr Ayub Alikwan, the Kitgum Municipal Town Clerk, told LookNorth that the roadworks has stalled because funds for the current financial year have been exhausted.
“The contractor is demanding about Shs4b for the certification that has so far been declared. From April to date, we have not been paying anything so the contractor had to scale down on the staff; which has affected progress of the roadworks,” he said on Friday.
Mr Ayub Alikwan said the Ministry of Finance has promised to release the money in the first quarter of the new financial year that commenced July 1 in order to offset the debt and speed up the roadworks.