Views from Fiona: Commonwealth Heads Of State General Meeting- Kampala's New Look
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First published: May 23, 2007
With the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads Of State General Meeting (CHOGM) set for November this year in Kampala, our city is getting preened and glammed up for the occasion while other towns in Uganda are also in process of getting themselves new looks. You see, we Ugandans don't adapt to changes fast. We lot are creatures of habit, very much like nuns (no pun intended).
We actually don't cherish owning scenery that is nice looking. We go out of our ways to destroy the beauty of our country yet so much hard work is put into beautifying it. Ugandans see to it that the flowers, shrubs and any greenery planted in and around streets are urinated on while drivers ensure that kerbs get hit and broken by vehicles. It will perhaps take us a little longer to appreciate our beautiful city.
Not very many Ugandans have traveled out of the country to espy the beauty that is cherished in other capitals. Those Ugandans that have traveled seem to see no need in importing into Uganda what they see or experience on such trips. Their usual argument is; After all, Uganda is gifted by nature. We let Kampala keep its forlorn looks, punctuated by lots of potholes.
Every right thinking person wonders why we are currently glamming up Kampala if we have no will and funds spared to maintain it later. Must we look like a mini Britain for the Queen of England to visit us? She would in any case. For example, changing the lay out of the Clock Tower junction in Kampala, (otherwise known as Queen's tower) is going to create problems for the Queen's entourage. They will simply get lost and fail to find their way around the city! The daily reports she is used to receiving indicate Britain's former colony's capital is a dilapidated ghost city. But Alas! If she realizes that the city is all lights, spick and span, we may cease receiving any aid from her nation because we will seem like a developed country to her.
Kampala City Council (KCC) and the central Government of Uganda, in their divine wisdom, saw it important to introduce awesome 'high tech' street lights powered by wind. Now I have been raking my head for an answer as to why for the last couple years, Kampala's street lights have never blinked into life. The truth is, I can't find a better answer except that Ugandans love all nights dark. Business in dark, poorly ventilated shopping arcades, etc. We simply don't like owning a city with any kind of working public lighting! KCC please be alert. The eventual claimants (read thieves/burglars) of those lights you recently procured will come for them not so long from now.
While celebrating Kampala's new look, be cautious because the pessimists among us keep wondering for how long the city will keep looking so nice. Can we maintain it? Where did the money come from that is being spent to refurbish the city? Must it take a CHOGM in Kampala for this unnamed source to be forth coming? We can only wait and see.
It's not the streets alone that have suddenly woken up to improoved looks. Kampala City's skyline is changing. With hotels like Hilton (construction currently at a stand still), Serena and others coming up, you would be forgiven for thinking you are in Abu Dhabi. Nakasero hill is dotted with hotels of all sizes. I bet the price of acquiring a plot on that hill would beat that for one at a Florida beach. If the powers that be in Uganda deem it necessary, entire demonstration schools used by 1,900 pupils (not counting teachers) will be razed down to make room. If it means selling Uganda as a whole to hold a successful CHOGM, there are signs that the government may seriously toy with the idea.
Jinja Road has not been spared either. In Uganda we hardly plan and permanent structures are not our style. Sometime ago the Celtel House round about had a clock sponsored by Alam Group of Companies. Now it is gone, to give room to the re-designed junction. All this comes not only in the name of embracing development but also to the annoyance of some road users.
My humble suggestion to the Ugandan government and Kampala City Council is to stop all new road works along the road from the city centre to Munyonyo, where the Commonwealth Heads of State General Meeting will take place. Why create new roads if we can't maintain those that exist already? We can fly the Queen and other dignitaries between Munyonyo and Entebbe State House, where she will reside, and require all major hotels to construct helipads where helicopters can drop and pick guests. This saves our government a lot of money in road construction and beautifying the highways and streets. It will also give our visitors a priceless aerial view of Kampala. Those visitors who would like to shop and visit the Ugandan night spots can be availed Hummers to take them around. That way, we do not spend too much on purchasing executive Mercedes saloons to ferry them. Another grand idea is have the yet-to-arrive Easy buses pick them and take them where ever it is they want to visit.
Why build new hotels and clutter Kampala, without giving thought to decongesting the city and having the owners of all usable buildings apply a fresh coat of paint? All hotels and lodge facilities should be made to scrub, wash, and re-paint. Oh, while at that, they should install new beds to meet the high standards expected by our esteemed guests. That way CHOGM will give business to common Ugandans rather than existing tycoons. This will bring opportunities to those who need them most.
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First published: May 23, 2007
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