To mark 50 years of Uganda’s independence, New Vision will, until October 9, 2012, be publishing highlights of events and profiling personalities who have shaped the history of this country. Today, SOLOMON OLENY narrates how Kololo hill has evolved through the years to its present position
When one mentions Kololo hill, many cannot help but think about the last time they were there during one of the national functions at the Kololo Airstrip. However, beyond hosting numerous historical functions like the 1962 Independence ceremony, Kololo, one of the original seven hills of Kampala, has a rich history.
Kololo is one of the hills in Kampala Central Division, which is one of the managerial units of Kampala Capital City Authority, located about 3km from the city centre.
This makes it one of the hills closest to the heart of Kampala. Interestingly, unlike most parts of the city synonymous with uncontrolled noise, Kololo has a cool and peaceful atmosphere.
To the East, it is bordered by Naguru, Bukoto lies to its north, Mulago to the North–west, Makerere to the west, Nakasero to the south-west and Kibuli southwards.
Kololo is almost exceptional in all ways, not forgetting how it got its name. Unlike the other hills in Kampala whose names are affiliated to Buganda’s traditions and words, Kololo got its name from Rwot Awich, the paramount chief of Payiira in Acholi, who was in 1912 imprisoned on the hill by the British.
Born in 1904 at a time when the Acholi chiefdom, just like other monarchies, was under colonial rule, chief Awich’s early years of leadership were largely characterised by defying the British. In 1912, Awich and Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro put up the strongest resistances against the British rule.
Awich was, however, captured by the British and imprisoned at the present day Summit View military barracks (which began as an outpost). While there, he repeatedly kept lamenting “kololo” from the word “kolo” in Acholi (being left in solitude). Awich was cursing the fact that he had been left to die alone since he was miles away from his chiefdom.
“Perplexed by the chief’s lamentation, Awich’s incarcerators and attendants, who did not understand Acholi started referring to the place as the “hill of kololo”. Before long, everyone was using the name and the hill would soon be legally referred to as Kololo,” says Scovia Mukasa, whose mother, Aidah Nantume, once served as an attendant at the outpost.
How it became an affluent hill
“Between 1910 and the 1960s, there was a high influx of Europeans in Kampala and resided in Kololo. Since Kololo stood at over 4,300ft, it was the highest hill, meaning it offered more breathtaking views of the city than any other hill,” Chris Blunt, a 60-year-old resident of Kololo, narrates.
“With the majority of its occupants serving in the most influential offices at the time, it wasn’t long before Kololo’s natural beauty was spiced up with a good roads and beautiful houses, making a unique neighbourhood.”
By 1940, the face of Kololo had transformed from a medieval hill to a nationwide famous hill popular for its luxurious culture and influential residents.
This limited its population to mainly the extremely rich and elites mostly foreigners. A few of the first indigenous residents at the hill were the cream of the land then, including the late President Apollo Milton Obote, chief Nadiope of Busoga Kingdom, Dr. Martin Aliker and Ignatius Musaazi, among others.
Affluent structures in Kololo
Owing to is fascinating physical environment, the Obote I regime, picking from where the colonialists had left, continued to develop Kololo. This entailed maintaining infrastructures such as the Kololo Airstrip and the National Museum. This trend was emulated by succeeding governments.
Today, Kololo is inhabited by mostly the elite of Uganda’s society and has some of the best infrastructure in the land.
These include: The Kololo Airstrip, which is at the base of the hill, a portion of which has been reserved as a burial ground for national heroes. The airstrip narrowly missed becoming the country’s main airport, due to its small size. Entebbe International Airport is Uganda’s major airfield. Kololo serves as the independence park and receives unscheduled airlines.
The hill hosts the embassies of Algeria, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Germany, Libya, North Korea, Russia, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
It has the head offices of major banks like dfcu, Housing Finance and Opportunity Uganda.
Schools on the hill are East Kololo Primary School, Arya Sumaj School, Uganda Management Institute, Kitante High School, Kololo Secondary School and Lincoln International School.
Airtel and uganda telecom also have their headquarters on the hill.
We find a number of hotels and hospitality centres like Hotel Africana, Independence Park, Metropole Hotel, Kampala Protea Hotel, Speke Apartments and Kampala Golf Course. Kampala Christian cemetery, Dr. Stockley’s Hospital and Kololo Hospital are also on the hill.
Since it hosted the first Independence Day celebrations, Kololo Airstrip is considered the heart of Uganda.