By Prof. Semakula Kiwanuka
I write to thank President Museveni for standing firm with Musisi in her efforts not only to beautify but also to bring order and sanity to the capital city.
It is a herculean and risky task because of the huge vested and powerful interests.
Now that the Centenary Park has become a contentious issue, let me give a background to its origins and the intentions of those of us who started it.
As one of the people who created the Centenary Park I am saddened because the Park has been turned into a built up area, totally contrary to the intentions of those of us who set it up.
It was in the early days of the NRM government when Christopher Yiga was Chairman (Mayor) of KCC and I was Chairman of Makindye Division and, therefore, a councillor of KCC.
The then Council had many upright and patriotic Ugandans such as the late Justice Mulenga (Nakawa), the late James Sinabulya (Kampala Central) etc.
At that time, the newly rehabilitated Sheraton Hotel had cordoned off Kampala City Park. That was one of the challenges we faced as councillors because the Capital City had been deprived of the only green environment of reasonable size where Ugandans could stroll and relax with their families.
Some of us gave examples of great cities like London whose beauty and fame are enhanced by their numerous parks such as Hyde Park, the Green Park, Kensington Gardens, St. James’s Park etc.
That was the origin of the decision to create the Centenary Park. It was never our intention that the Centenary Park would be converted into a built up area.
In pursuance of creating a green environment, we also had plans to landscape the banks of Nakivubo River. That never happened because there came a new breed of mayors and councillors for whom the idea of a beautiful city with beautiful parks was totally alien.
Then came the mad days of CHOGM when an unholy alliance of Lands, Local Government, and KCC decided to sell whatever they could lay their hands on.
I remember making a spirited pro-green, pro-park speech in an important forum when a distinguished lady tabled the sale of City Square. I did not even know who the purchaser was until last year 2011.
Beautiful cities are magnets to investors
Worldwide, beautiful cities with world class infrastructures are magnets to investors and tourists.
At onetime some of us had dreams and ambitions to make Kampala a regional hub with headquarters of international corporations, banks, United Nations Agencies etc.
Because their presence gives the host cities and host countries international clout and status.
Besides, they have huge pockets and are big money spenders all of which boosts national economics.
What Jennifer Musisi is trying to do is to recapture what has been lost. Needless to say Ugandans want and deserve a beautiful city.
The creation of KCCA headed by a non-political Executive Director with a powerful mandate was intended not only to reduce the politicisation and the kavuyo in the management of the city.
It was also intended to restore order and sanity and to embark on Kampala’s rehabilitation.
My appeal, therefore, which is shared by many Ugandans is to support Musisi, not only to beautify the city but also to reclaim the whole of Centenary Park to its original status as a complete green environment for people to stroll, sit and enjoy their city.
Let us not support Musisi selectively. When she stood up to the mighty and powerful who had illegally acquired KCC’s prestigious buildings she was applauded.
Similarly those who obtained Centenary Park and other contracts through influence peddling and abuse of office to turn the park into a built up area should not be protected to perpetuate the vandalisation of a public good.
The late Nobel Lauriet Mathai Wangari stood up against the mighty and powerful in Kenya to protect Nairobi city’s Uhuru Park.
I appeal to Ugandans to support Jennifer to restore the beauty of Kampala and to bring chaos to an end.
The writer is Uganda’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates