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Kampala on its way to being a clean city

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th September 2011 08:00 PM

ANYBODY familiar with the term “persistent objector” will agree that it aptly describes President Yoweri Museveni’s take on the state of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

ANYBODY familiar with the term “persistent objector” will agree that it aptly describes President Yoweri Museveni’s take on the state of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

Mary Karooro Okurut

ANYBODY familiar with the term “persistent objector” will agree that it aptly describes President Yoweri Museveni’s take on the state of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

For many years now, the President has relentlessly attacked the perpetual dirt and filth that had come to characterise the capital city; arguing that it simply was not kosher to have a capital city in which marabou storks and big green flies feel perfectly at home and are therefore to be found all over the place.

As marabou storks (locally known as karoli) and those huge greenflies are creatures that are usually to be found in places that are stinking filthy, the message was quite clear: something ought to be done to clean up the capital. And real quick at that. And the President wasn’t the only high profile figure to decry the state of the capital ; in which uncollected garbage piles all over the place and many people do not help matters by continually littering, making an already bad situation worse.

A few years ago when renowned American Televangelist Joyce Meyer, known for speaking her mind came to Kampala, she made a remark that was a bit too frank for many people’s liking. She described Kampala as dirty and disorganised; unworthy of a second visit and declared that unless it was improved, she would not be back for another visit.

Maybe the biggest problem has been possibly two-fold: lack of strong, strategic and accountable leadership in the city, coupled with a nonchalant society that has come to accept the status quo, unwilling to challenge the trend and happy to go along with matters.

It is arguably the President’s persistent objection that culminated into the Constitutional Amendment Act 2005 which stipulated that Kampala would henceforth be administered by the Central Government. This was followed by the Kampala City Authority Act which operationalised the amendment. The city is now managed by an executive director appointed by the President and to be fair, whose coming has brought with it plenty of change.

For all intents and purposes, it would be quite apt for a huge banner or billboard to be put up at every entrance to the city to proclaim that Kampala is now “under new management”.

Slowly but surely, the dirt is decreasing; the uncollected garbage is less and less and so is the indiscriminate and disorganised positioning of vendors all over the streets. The entire mess made Kampala a huge risk in terms of sheer health, but also cut its streets out as highly risky for anyone, especially the pedestrians and those on motorbikes – particularly the boda bodas –because the congestion has been so severe that safety was always in doubt with thousands of cars, motorbikes, bicycles, carts and pedestrians all crammed on both street and sidewalk.

The situation exacerbated by vendors who narrow the streets by cramming the sidewalks.

The result of the mess is well documented: regular outbreaks of cholera, food poisoning, high casualty rates of those who move on boda bodass, many of them losing life and limb. Security itself has been a challenge, with many thieves and robbers taking advantage of the mess to relieve people of their property. It has never been easy to police the city in such a situation. Fire outbreaks have always been regular and costly. Environmental degradation has been untold; with pollution very high— the Nakivubo Channel, the city’s biggest outflow of water from surface run-off, clogged with all manner of garbage.

In short, the city has been hell for the law-abiding and a perfect haven for those who love mayhem and pandemonium and are comfortable living on the side of the law. With the city “now under new management”, firm decisions are now being taken; decisions that are calculated to restore order to the city so that progress is not sacrificed at the altar of populism. Vendors who had previously been on the sidewalk of every street (and in many cases right in the middle of certain streets) have been relocated to gazetted market areas. If no place had been got for them, that would have been totally inhuman because they are also out to take an honest living.

Apart from ensuring order in the city; this is an excellent step to minimise unfair competition in which those who pay expensively to rent shops are shortchanged by vendors who park on street and sidewalk and lap up customers who would be purchasing from shops. I suspect that suggestions to have flea markets — once a week or sobazaars in which, for example, an entire street can be cordoned off and turned into a market for a few hours—will be listened to: after all even cities like New York have them.

All this ties in well with the Anti-litter Bill, a proposed law to maintain a clean environment by criminalising indiscriminate dumping of rubbish and establishing regulations and guidelines for the orderly disposal of the same. The Bill started as a Private Members Bill in the 8th Parliament, but Government is now taking it up and it will soon be presented to Cabinet, before its onward journey to Parliament for debate and enactment.

The Bill in which yours truly has had a hand will not be for the city alone; but across the country, and it is expected that it will help reverse a tradition of indiscriminate disposal of garbage where you find even those in posh cars who you expect have a possibly higher standard of civilised conduct, casually tossing used beer or soda cans, or banana peels through the window as they speed along!

By all indications, all this is just the beginning of a transition towards a cleaner city and country and a population which is environmentally conscious and friendly.

Kampala on its way to being a clean city

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