Friday, 28 March 2014

Kampala’s Villageism Killing KCCA dreams

KCCA ED Jennifer S. Musisi

There has been two disturbing pieces of news about Kampala in the previous few days: The Sunrise article  of March 14, 2014, “KCCA in Spotlight over Security at Park” reveals how vagabonds have turned the gardens at Centenary Park into their den. This was followed by a story in the Daily Monitor “City fountains dry up as street lights vandalized” published on March 18, 2014 – this one tells how just a year after they were installed, city fountains have stopped working and street lights have been vandalized.

These developments must be very frustrating for the people at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). When they entered office three years ago, their dream was to turn Kampala into a shining city we had never seen before: Clear the garbage and keep the city neat (they have scored high here); plant grass, flowers and trees along the streets (done very well); let some toilets be free to the public (probably more needed); free-up public parks and road reserves (still in progress), the list of their dreams must be big. 

It is disheartening that before we can get to see what a beautiful city looks like, some people are destroying what the authority is putting up—this can be as annoying as someone pouring rubbish where you have just swept. Like Jose Chameleon sings: Ozimba bazimbulula (you build they dismantle; opanga bapangulula (you arrange they disarrange)! This state of affairs raises very important questions: 1) Are we ready for modernization? 2) Jennifer Musisi has been strict when it comes to orderliness, what will happen when she leaves the KCCA top office? Shall we sustain her legacy? At the moment we are looking at what Musisi indents to be permanent as temporary developments.

The problem is; we are failing to appreciate that Kampala is a city. Because most of us are rural-urban migrants, we have retained with us our villageism, except for using money to buy food as opposed to picking it from the garden: When we have rubbish we want to throw it anywhere as if we are throwing it in a bush, wherever we see grass is a urinal, so even when we see beautiful gardens we think they are not for us, maybe for Bazungu.

In reference to The Sunrise story, KCCA opened up these beautiful gardens for us to go enjoy them free of charge: You could buy some ice cream and popcorn and go to Centenary Park with your girlfriend to enjoy a quiet and peaceful time there; you could carry a novel, with your little flask of tea in the bag, or a bottle of soda, and you enjoy some good reading there. Because we are not using the gardens, vagabonds have taken them over. How would they get there if we had occupied our gardens? They fear to stay near orderly people.

The little park at Watoto Church looks beautiful with its fountain (when functional), why not go there and enjoy a photo-shoot? It may be very open and directly under the sun but even when the sun is not strong people are hardly there. Are we criminal that we fear to be seen because of the heavy traffic around this little park? Ok, if that is too open then why are we not in the Centenary Park?

Some people claim that public parks pose security threats and should therefore be given to developers to construct buildings there. If our government can secure the whole of northern Uganda from Kony then how can it fail to secure these few metres of space for us to enjoy our nature? In Nairobi, apart from public leisure parks (which are very popular by the way), there is even a whole National Park (with animals) within the city. The people of Nairobi are not saying “let-us remove the national park and build there shopping malls.”

In drawing its plans KCCA might have underestimated our villageism, but it is not too late. We might just need a campaign to educate us on how to use free open spaces in the city –. Naye tufa ekyaalo!

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