By Stephen Ssenkaaba
The Government of Uganda through the department for museums and monuments in the ministry of tourism wildlife and antiquities is developing a framework to protect a number of ageing historical buildings and monuments.
This follows growing concerns over the continued demolition of such buildings and their replacements with so called modern structures without due regard to the historical important of the old buildings.
“Many of our buildings and architectural landmarks need protection,” Rose Nkaale Mwanja, the commissioner for museums and monuments in the ministry of tourism wildlife and antiquities says. She explains that many important historical buildings languish in obscurity, while others have been removed. For that reason, the department of museums and monuments has now embarked on a campaign to identify all buildings that have a special historical significance to this country and, in conjunction with local governments-design plans of conserving them. In Kampala, the department has already identified 76 buildings of unique historical importance to the city which need protecting. “We are working with KCCA to map these buildings. We will then preserve and promote them,” she said. It is estimated that over 100 historical buildings of immense tourism and educational potential exist in Uganda but many of them are under some form of threat.
In 2011, the Uganda museum survived demolition following revelations of the Government’s plans to have it replaced with a modern 60 story complex. Thanks to the intervention of conservation activities and concerned Ugandans, its demolition has now been put on hold. Nakasero Market had the hangman’s noose around its neck for some time amid bickering for redevelopment and replacement by business interests. And Fort Lugard, the first base of the British colonial administration in Uganda was removed and replaced with what is now called ‘Gadhafi Mosque.’
Vivian Craddock Williams of the historic buildings conservation trust in Uganda says that historical buildings are the benchmarks against which the history of a country is written. “In the end they not only become great points of reference to the nationals and other people but also become tourist attractions for a country,” he said in an interview recently. The biggest threat to Uganda’s historical buildings, he said, is “organizational neglect.”
Absence of strong legislation to protect historical buildings has been a major obstacle to protection of these structures. Lack of financial support from government also compromises many otherwise commendable efforts by conservationists to protect historical buildings. Indeed many such people operate as voluntary bodies without any facilitation from Government.
In more developed economies, governments provide money and facilities and legal protection to conservation of historical buildings. Until such steps are put in place to support conservation, our history will be wiped out.