Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Why Kampala needs a National Campaign!

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By Ronnie Mayanja

After enjoying a white Christmas in Boston last winter, I returned home to Uganda only to be greeted by the intense heat that January offers!

As we approached that final leg of our journey, there was that nostalgic feeling that always grips those of us living in the Diaspora but the grim reality of what awaits us is never distant and very soon it was back to reality. Flying over Kampala, during our final descent to Entebbe, the whole city looked dry and dusty. 
Founded years ago Kampala was originally King Muteesa I’s favourite hunting ground! Made up of several hills and wetlands it was ideal for wild game, especially impala. The Baganda were to add ‘akasozi ka’ mpala’… thus creating the name Kampala, which is now known worldwide. Later missionaries, led by Sir Fredrick Lugard, built a Fort at Old Kampala.

Over the years new structures have been added to make Kampala a city of five boroughs overseeing local planning of Kampala Central, Kawempe Division, Nakawa Division, Makindye Division and Lubaga Division.
Driving along Entebbe road to Kampala I couldn’t help but notice the changes that the dry spell was bringing to this once evergreen terrain. Piles of uncollected garbage started to appear, animals grazed in the streets and of endless traffic jams, potholes and parking spaces were extremely limited, thus forcing many to resort to the wheeled ‘boda-bodas’ that unperturbed weave magically through the traffic.

Of course, Uganda Transport Company (UTC) collapsed years ago, forcing those in the private sector to resort to the importation of mini-vans (kamunyes) that now dominate Kampala’s roads, ferrying many of its working population.

Shanty towns and slums dot the city’s suburbs, with a few skyscrapers that sprung up over the last 20 years. With the many developments in and around Kampala, one wonders whether there is a blue print or master plan of the city to help guide these haphazard developments?

Kampala desperately needs a new direction at City Hall and our technocrats should come up with a grand master plan to decongest our city or, as has been recommended by those that see no space for future developments, simply move the capital—Nigeria made such a move, relocating the capital from Lagos to Abuja in Central Nigeria, but some say that which makes Kampala unique or special are those things we all know about the city and for which little, or no change, ever takes place.

Many artists (both young and old) have written songs expressing their love for Kampala’s vibrant social life, whereas others argue that moving the city, or changing its location would kill those aspects that make it unique in East Africa. Hopefully, our few remaining city public parks will survive being allocated to would-be investors that are expanding on Kampala’s ever-growing list of new hotels and shopping malls.

I am reminded of the most abused sign in Kampala City ‘Tofuka wano’ [Don’t urinate here]!  The opposite always happened, so that you were greeted with a heavy stench of urine and the usual biological warfare!

This is one good reason why the mayoral race and those in the running should be scrutinised and their manifestos evaluated for the best solution to many of Kampala’s woes.

The plan to appoint a new Chief Executive for the city is a welcome gesture, but only if this position is not filled by another failed politician who is rewarded for loyalty! In the same way that I applauded the election of the Irish Ugandan Dr. Ian Clarke in Makindye Division, we need to set politics aside and appoint leaders that will actually contribute to improving our livelihood.

The lack of a proper garbage disposal system, the absence of recycling plants for polythene bags/plastic bottles, failure to plant new trees, the blocked drainage system that leads to city floods around Nakivubo Channel and a lack of proper sewer systems to help treat the city sewage and its growing population—all point to the looming dangers that lie ahead if our city planners and politicians continue to “play politics” instead of improving on the service delivery!

Kampala desperately needs a national campaign that will aim at keeping our city clean while introducing heavy fines on those who continue to blatantly litter the city.

To this end, I propose the introduction of a patriotic day among all the citizens of Kampala; that way we can put an end to the confusion that currently dogs much of the city and its five boroughs. Why wait for Kigali to lead the way? We too can rise from the ashes and turn our capital city into the envy of the African continent.

The author is a director of Soreel Mayas Grafx Ltd. [] and also doubles as editor of UNAA Times, a popular US news blog.[]

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