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Tracing Jinja’s 100-year history

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th July 2007 03:00 AM

HE sits on a veranda on Iganga Road in Jinja town, with his walking stick by his side. He seems to be in a pensive mood as I approach.

By George Bita in Jinja

HE sits on a veranda on Iganga Road in Jinja town, with his walking stick by his side. He seems to be in a pensive mood as I approach.

Sheikh Anas Kinyiri, the man who has seen Jinja through the years, welcomes me with a broad smile.

He leaves his lunch, set on the low stool by his side, to attend to the visitor. No amount of convincing from his wife seated nearby could let him abandon our chat for food.

“Since I reside by the roadside, I welcome all sorts of people. Busoga norms teach us to be welcoming,” a smiling Kinyiri says.

According to Kinyiri, Busoga traditions rule over Jinja although the town has had several tribes since time immemorial.
“I was born here in 1930, but my father, Mwalimu Kinyiri, witnessed the birth of this town and contributed a lot to its welfare.”

Last week, several activities to celebrate Jinja’s existence for 100 years as an urban settlement and 50 years as a municipality began.

He says, the town, began with different categories of people, including Asians (mostly Indians), Baganda, Jaluo, Nubians and Basoga.

The people settled in different parts of the town, basing on their tribes, which led to partitioning of the town into divisions, still existent in the municipality.

“The Indians occupied the central part, while the Baganda took up Nalufenya. The Jaluo were in Walukuba and Masese as Amber Court accommodated Nubians and later whites,” he says.

Kinyiri says the Baganda populace were mainly single women popularly known as banakyewombekeire (concubines) since married men used to go to them for casual sexual affairs.

Although the town had many tribes, he says, no feuds existed. People would gather and enjoy malwa (local brew) over the weekend.

“As malwa drinking went on into the night, musical groups from different tribes would entertain revellers with cultural songs and dances,” he says.

Overtime, the Nubians and the Swahili-speaking Muslim community relocated to Wanyange and Bugembe as the town expanded. Kinyiri says his father was tasked with this re-location in the mid 1950s.

“This was the time when industrialisation was beginning in Jinja. The movement created space for construction of Walukuba municipal housing estate to accommodate workers of different industries,” he says.

Records at Jinja Town Library show that most industries like MULCO, PAPCO and Steel Corporation started operations in 1956 after the opening of the Owen Falls Dam in 1954.

However, the oldest was NYTIL constructed in 1950, followed by Grain Milling Company in 1954.

Kinyiri says the town was conspicuous, with company-branded bicycles like those for Nyanza Textiles and Mulco.
“Industries used to give their workers bicycles for easy transport.

In the mornings or evenings, the streets would be busy with people riding home. Vehicles were rare at the time,” Kinyiri says.

This was the start of the love for bicycles by the Basoga. The bicycles, he says, differentiated the jobless from employed ones. With time, many Basoga men began buying bicycles after amassing wealth from odd jobs.

He says at the time, Kirinya Prisons was located where present-day Jinja Secondary School is, but rampant escape of prisoners prompted its re-location.

“The locals communally moved chunks of murram and rocks, setting up Kirinya Hill. They also dug a man-made canal around the hill to prevent prisoners from escaping,” he adds.

Kinyiri says the streets of Jinja were named after the hereditary chiefs of Busoga, although some of the names were later changed.

“Gabula Road was after the chief of Bugabula, Nadiope Street was named after chief Nadiope of Budiope, while Lubas Road was named after chief Luba of Bunya, who ordered the killing of Anglican Bishop Hannington in 1885,” he explains.

According to Kinyiri, Jinja has come a long way and is now ripe to attain a city status.

“I studied in Khartoum, Sudan before returning to become the chief Khad of Busoga district in 1971-72. At the time, Khartoum was more like Jinja. But imagine, Jinja is still a municipality,” Kinyiri says.

To him, Jinja has what it takes to become a city and the issue should be given the attention it deserves.
Kinyiri criticises the tendency to raze old structures in preference for modern high-rise buildings.

“It is time we emulated what is done elsewhere. Look at neighbouring Kenya, where the city of Mombasa has both the old and new buildings. In fact, the old city of Mombasa has houses dating back to the 19550s,” he adds.

However, when all is said and done, the final word on Jinja’s city status rests with another forum.

Tracing Jinja’s 100-year history

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