Saturday, December 23, 2023

Uganda will from January 15 to 22 host back-to-back the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit of 120 countries, and Group of 77 Plus China of 135 nations. It will then for the next three years chair NAM focusing economic inclusion and transformation. Presidents, Prime ministers, Heads of Government and other high-profile guests from mostly Developing countries are coming to Speke Resort Munyonyo, Half-London, Middle East, and the Bufundas so we have to really spruce up Entebbe airport, roads, traffic, Kampala city, gardens, hotel rooms, conference facilities and even the beer kennels.


In the good-old days of political turmoil and violence, economic hardships characterized by extreme scarcity of basic and essential household commodities like salt, sugar, soap, water, food, wears, and electricity in the early 1980s, Ugandans who had traveled yonder and returned, birthed Half-London and Middle East and Kafundas in Kampala as places of social mingling.


Hald-London in the Kabalagala suburb was mostly for the wealthy and young upcoming wannabbes climbing the social, economic, and financial stairs returning with some money from informal odd jobs in the UK. They hard seen and eaten good fried chicken and potatoes chips and so they sought to make Half-London in Kampala to distinguish them from the rest who could only admire from a distance. During the short-lived Tito Lutwa military junta 1985-86 it was an enclave of peace within Kampala because Andrew Kayira’s Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) didn’t permit UNLA soldiers there.


Earlier on the other side during Idi Amin and Milton Obote II regimes, had sprung ‘Middle East’ in Bugolobi where soldiers from Bugolobi flats and Mbuya army headquarters would come to socialize with civilians. After good amounts of alcohol, they would rampage in fistfights and gun violence, hence the name Middle East to mimic Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine conflict. “Kafundas” were, if you like, code-names for informal restaurants and hideouts for drinking alcohol especially beers then so scarce only smuggled from Kenya, Rwanda, and Zaire now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of the Bufundas were and still are in dingy locations often ack street outlets or private residences where women keep both the patrons and alcohol in their bedsitter dwellings. Many of the those who frequented Bufundas were those dodging political harassments. 


Today, even with economic hardships still prevalent, Kampala as former President Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa christened as a city on “seven hills” of Nakasero, Kololo, Mulago, Makerere, Rubaga, Namirembe, Makindye and Kibuli has expanded exponentially beyond ordinary belief stretching as far as the yes can go including into Lake Victoria. Most developments are private on account of the overall enabling environment by the thirty-seven years of NRM leadership. But government has also increased its public infrastructures especially office buildings, roads, water, and electricity and it is hard for those who fled in 1986 or young people to appreciate Kampala and indeed Uganda’s remarkable social and economic journey of not just the recovery but development, transformation, and prosperity.


For the younger generation especially born in the mid-1990s, and now frustrated by the lack of employment and income, Kampala and Uganda seem on a standstill. Some even think that Uganda is going backwards when they watch television images of other countries.  And the prevailing failure by Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) to fix public infrastructure has left wide-gaping potholes on roads, open manholes and sewer lines accompanied by the offensive smell, and of course its top leadership on stitches. For the rest of the public, it has left unmitigated wide disappointment, frustration, anger, time and huge economic losses.


Former journalist turned politician, and now Health State Minister Margaret Muhanga had to take a snide swipe on twitter lamenting “I’m going on hunger strike next week coz of potholes, gullies, swimming pools, anthills, rivers and lakes etc. on every road. Are the potholes in Kampala on promotion nowadays? Banange togoingewa?” She was immediately ‘invited’ by former Speaker of Parliament, now Deputy Prime minister no less, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga who also on twitter said, “Come and join me in Makindye Division, the Headquarters of POTHOLES and SWIMMING Pools.”


The huge heaps of garbage that usually go uncollected for days, and sometimes weeks on various roadsides is an eyesore but perhaps only mitigated by ravaging scavenger birds, stray dogs and vermin battling each other for survival can pass for tourist attraction. And then the boda boda cyclists and matatu taxi nuisance jamming Kampala roads. Everywhere you, you will notice the multitudes of unruly boda boda public transport cyclists dangerously taking their passengers somewhere, and in competition are the equally inconsiderate taxi drivers.


I believe that am not alone in thinking that cyclists and matatu riders are a public menace and danger that should be banned from Kampala centre environment or be restricted where they can go so lives and travel time can be save, otherwise Kampala has become unlivable. As we return from the calm of Christmas and New Year holidays, Dorothy Kisaka, KCCA Executive Director must improve city management regardless of obstructions by the ever crybaby Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.