Uganda: Black market in aluminium and copper fuels cable theft

Telecoms

A thriving black market for copper and aluminium is fuelling rampant cable-theft from electricity distribution and telecommunication networks in Uganda. Uganda Telecom, one of the leading telecommunications service providers in Uganda has lost up to 50 kilometres of cable for fixed-line network worth US$1.5m in the last one and a half years.

Over 7000 customers of Uganda Telecom henceforth have no access to telecommunication services. "The last one and a half years have been a headache," Mark Kaheru, Uganda Telecom public relations manager told East African Business Week last week.

The companies are losing millions of dollars in disrupted service and replacement costs. Kaheru cited an incident, where thieves stole two kilometres of cable under Owen Falls Dam bridge cutting off the Jinja district. "This was major cable connecting Jinja. It had to be replaced immediately," Kaheru said.

According to the Corporate Communications Manager of Uganda's power distribution company, Umeme, Robert Kisubi, the utility company has in the last two and half years lost wires (both copper and aluminium wires) worth U.S $ 2.5 million to thefts and vandalism of their network.

He said this action has "caused extensive damage to their power distribution network and affected service delivery." Kisubi told East African Business Week that the thieves target the 100 mm aluminium bare conductors and the 50 mm copper conductors which he said are on high demand especially in Kenya where are melted.

Kaheru said that the company has put up sh5m reward to anybody with information leading to arrest of cable thieves. Police last week arrested suspected cable thieves in a Kampala suburb with a truckful of cables. Police spokesman Simeo Nsubuga said the men Haruna Mubiru 27, Muhammad Lujja 23, and Yunus Mawejje 40, were arrested with their loot aboard a Fuso truck registration number UAH 368P reportedly en route to Kenya after a tip off from a concerned citizen.

Nsubuga said that they packed the wires in nylon sacks and the covered them with shoe soles all-around as a disguise. Nsubuga said the men would be charged with being in possession of stolen property, but added that since the suspects had sabotaged government programmes like investment the charges would be upgraded to a more serious crime.

East African Business Week