In January the World Bank cancelled a road building project in Uganda after “multiple failures … on the part of the World Bank, the government of Uganda, and a government contractor”. There has been sexual abuse and misconduct by construction workers and mistreatment of staff working on the project. Environmental concerns, such as layers of dust on banana plantations, have also been raised. However, the debt from the project remains.
Christine Baryamuzura, local council secretary for women in Bukonderwa, a village in the Ugandan district of Kamwenge, told the Guardian a “tragedy that has come to this village. Everything has been destroyed: our gardens, our homes, even our girls. Of course we want the road, but should it be at the expense of our lives? Our leaders care more about the road than the people’s health.”
On announcing cancellation of its funding for the road, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said “It is our obligation to properly supervise all investment projects to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are protected in our work. In this case, we did not.”
However, $176 million of the $190 million of loans planned by the World Bank for the scheme have been disbursed. This is a debt which the people of Uganda through their government now owe for the disastrous project.
Jubilee Debt Campaign has written to the UK’s representative at the World Bank, Melanie Robinson, to ask if “Whether as part of the review of the project, the World Bank will consider cancelling part of the debt in relation to its failures on the project?” and stating that:
“Loans can be a useful tool when invested well, but if a project has been subject to multiple failures, the people of the country concerned cannot be expected to take on all the costs of debt repayments.”