The operationalization of the Gulu Logistics Hub will be delayed until the construction of access roads and the railway line is completed.
The 107 billion shilling facility that will reduce trade barriers and lower transport costs is located in Layibi Division, Gulu City. The first phase of the Hub was completed in April, despite its initial expected opening by the end of 2021, which was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Construction of the hub is jointly funded by the government through Uganda Railway Corporation (URC), the European Union (EU) together with UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) through Trade Mark East Africa.
It is a designated area for transportation, organization, and distribution of goods for national and international transit serving the trade corridors of Kampala-Gulu-Elegu-Juba in South Sudan and Gulu-Pakwach-Pader-Lira-Vurra in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It consists of storage and warehousing facilities; distribution of freight; customs clearance; trucking and shipping; and offices for logistics, among others. The project’s first phase will handle 20,000 metric tonnes of cargo from Kenya, and it will be able to handle more than 500,000 containers at a time.
The contractor, Ambitious Construction Ltd, has already demobilised from the site and it is now only occupied by a few security officers from the URC, who declined to comment on the facility. The facility has since started gathering dust, and some open spaces are covered with overgrown grass.
Christopher Opio Ateker, the LCV Chairperson in Gulu, says that revamping the railway line and construction of the required access roads to the completed hub are key to ensuring that it is utilized.
“Production is going to go up and we appeal to the authorities to connect the Hub to the people.” We still have bad roads connecting to sub-counties and districts. “It is very important that we have a smooth flow of goods inside and outside this facility,” Opio says.
He adds that the train was last in Gulu ten years ago and it would be important for the railway line to resume operation soon.
Opio appealed that the compensation of the land owners along the access roads should be expedited. He says that some landowners have not yet received payment despite vacating the land.
Samuel Nyeko, the Gulu District Engineer, says that for the project to function well, it has other infrastructure that should be operational, like roads in the catchment areas of the Hub that require rehabilitation.
“The roads should be working well, especially the ones going to West Nile into Congo, going to Kitgum and Karamoja.” Then the railway line should be operational. So, completing this project within Gulu City is not a guarantee that it will start flying, “said Nyeko.
In regard to the delayed compensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs), Nyeko says that a record of the PAPs indicates that 50 percent were already compensated while the remaining 50 percent are yet to be compensated. He attributed the delay to financial constraints.
Our reporter observed that the access road to the main entrance of the Hub is blocked by idle construction trucks. A few metres from this gate was a lone tractor grading the road in the community. A drive around the facility reveals a garbage dumping site as one accesses the Hub.
In December 2021, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) asked landowners in Wii Layibi village, Bardege-Layibi division, Gulu municipality to allow a Chinese contractor to start construction of a 2.2-kilometer access road.
Construction of the road linking to the Gulu Logistics Hub had stalled for close to two weeks after landowners blocked the roadworks over the government’s failure to compensate them. They also claimed that the boundary surveyed and pegged for the road works doesn’t clearly define the road reserve.
The road works undertaken by Zhongmei Engineering Group Ltd affected 135 landowners in two villages, but by early December 2021, only 85 project-affected people had been fully compensated.
Annet Gloria Nambusi, UNRA’s Environment and Social Officer for the Road Project, then said that compensation for the last group of the project-affected persons was slated for the third quarter of January 2022 when the government releases cash for the compensation.