By Christopher Bendana
George Rukanyi in his 80s has seen Ishaka grow from a small trading centre to the big town it is today. He has been here since the 1940s.
In his shop on Rukungiri Road he is mesmerised by the new buildings and the many cars in the town. He recalls with nostalgia when Idi Basajjabalabaâ€™s lorry and the late Kabirisiâ€™s Peugeot were the only two cars in the town.
You cannot visit Ishaka town and miss the mention of businessman, Hassan Basajjabalaba. There is a small town; secondary school and road named after him. This town a cousin of Bushenyi is located 5km on the Bushenyi-Kasese Road.
The late Idi Basajjabalaba, the father of Hassan Basajjabalaba, was a businessman. Basajjabalaba senior was into hides and skins. Hassan on the other hand, is more into education and health. Hassan owns Kampala International University (KIU) which has a branch in Ishaka.
The university also has a teaching hospital, Kampala International University Teaching Hospital.
Rukanyi explains that Ishaka derives its name from okushaka, a Runyankore word meaning looking for essentials. People from the surrounding areas used to come to this place looking for essentials like salt, clothing, soap and paraffin. They would tell other people that they were going to okushaka. With time the place got its name Ishaka
Rukanyi recalls that in the past many of the buildings in Ishaka were made of mud and wattle, but today, Ishaka is occupied with permanent buildings housing banks, hotels and schools.
Mugumya Apollo, a property broker in Ishaka, says the best residential areas are in Rwemironkora near the KIU campus and Nyakatoma along the Ishaka- Kasese Road. Mugumya says rent in these areas for a self-contained three bedroom house ranges between sh300,000 to 500,000 a month.
Detached and semi-detached houses in these areas are roofed with mangalore, and corrugated IT4 iron sheets. The detached houses are owner occupied or rented by top government officials while semi- detached are mainly rented by students.
For business rent is 400,000 per month for shops in the town centre and between sh150,000 to sh200,000 at the peripherals like in the areas of Kikuubo and Basajja Kabirisi Street.
For tenements behind the main shops, a room, costs between sh20,000 to sh30,000 a month.
Residential houses have seen a surge of rent prices since KIU was started. The price increase is due to the students and lecturers who look for accommodation. â€œLectures and students pay handsomely especially the Kenyans,â€ Mugumya reveals.
Mugumya further says a plot in Ishaka town costs between shs200m to sh300m. It is between sh50m to sh60m in Nyakatoma along Kasese Road.
Moses Bafaki, a resident has seen an influx of non- indigenous people due to the KIU revolution. He talks of Kikuyus, Nigerians among others. Previously Ishaka was dominated by the native Banyankore, and Buganda.
Bafaki says the immigration has come with advantages. â€œIn trade the income has increased due to increased sales, like we are seeing an influx of supermarkets. Houses used to be empty. Now people are looking for where to sleep,â€ he reveals.
This view of developing fast is shared by Kyambya Ali Muhumuza, a manager at Savan Hotel. He says since the opening of KIU Ishaka branch he has seen an increase in his food sales at the hotel.
Those who would like to spend a night in Ishaka rooms at Crane Resort along Kasese Road go for sh62,000 a single sh72,000 for double. Lodges like Savan go for sh15,000 a night.
For those who like hanging out, there is Swing Club on Kabirisi Road. There are also several banks: Centenary, Stanbic, Barclays and Pride.
Travel to Bushenyi and Mbarara is mainly by small cars, Ipsums and other Toyotas. The town is safe because one can move past midnight. The town has a water network, but no sewer system. Ishaka town is connected to the main power grid.