uOn 4 February, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni passed out the first batch of 47 pioneer Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) railway engineering students from the National University of Science and Technology at Lugazi. The new engineers subsequently joined the reconstruction project between Mbale and Soroti on the 503km Tororo-Pakwach line, out of service for more than 20 years.
The university, bought from the defunct Lugazi University in 2010, equips soldiers with civil works skills, according to college head Brigadier Timothy Sabiiti Mutebile. He says the institution is to become a fully fledged university of science and technology, specialising in military engineering sciences, development and research. Mutebile says Uganda was chosen by the East African Community to host the military engineering school – the first military engineering school in Africa – which started at Bombo and moved to Lugazi once the premises were acquired. The school, which opened at Magamaga in 2020, will also move to the Lugazi campus, at which point Nakasongola will be left for the air force. The Engineering Brigade has constructed 46 properties for the UPDF and houses for civilians. Passing out the graduands, President Museveni said this was another liberation for Uganda and Africa. “I have been wondering why Africans cannot build their own railway system. I became determined that we will do it, but I was busy with the problem of conflicts on the continent,” Museveni explained. He said the problem with Africans was an inferiority complex, which hinders them from looking at their ability and only look for help from elsewhere. The President said he had been intrigued for years back by former senior officials of the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), who had constructed a line to Port Bell from Kampala passing through a swampy area. “I wondered why they did not build railway s to other places. But I kept it in mind and when I shared it with Rwanda president Paul Kagame, he liked the idea. We decided we could use the army to build the railway and ask Murungi to train the engineers”. Museveni said there is a need to have a railway link with Southern Sudan. He said the government would acquire equipment for the military to help them in the civil works, to be included in the next budget. ”I can see that in future the UPDF Engineering Brigade can be contracted to work in other African countries,” Museveni said. He promised a law to enable the military engineering brigade to bid for contracts along with other contractors.