THINK of the Nyayo Monument in Nairobiâ€™s Uhuru Park. And how about the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square in London? Think of the Statue of Liberty in New York, or of the Union Buildings in the South African capital city Pretoria.
All these are revered symbols of nationhood of the respective countries. The Nyayo Monument reflects the spirit of â€˜harambeeâ€™ that has helped Kenya to be one of Africaâ€™s most stable post-independence states.
Lord Nelson is one of the greatest figures of British imperial splendor, when Britain was the worldâ€™s foremost superpower. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the newly independent United States, a symbol of the freedom that has characterised American nationhood. South Africa was forged around the union of many states, and that is now immortalised in a cluster of magnificent buildings.
And Uganda? We have a few monuments, including the generally neglected Lugard Fort that marks the foundation of modern Kampala, and the well preserved Kololo Independence Grounds (airstrip), among others. But the crowning shame of all is the Independence Monument, a sculpture of magnificent beauty in the very centre of Kampala.
An expose by Sunday Vision reveals not just neglect, but outright desecration. Built by the sculptor Maloba on the eve of Independence in 1962, the all-concrete sculpture depicts a young child lifted high in the air, arms aloft in the triumph of freedom. It is here, today, that drug pushers rendezvous, weary pedestrians ease their bowels, abandoned children make a home, prostitutes peddle their wares, and the mentally deranged find a nightâ€™s abode. All this in spite of location â€“ on the edge of a 5-star hotel, in spitting distance of the central bank, in full view of the High Court, and with State House just up the road. Where is our sense of history as a nation? What do we value in our past that we should preserve for posterity? Where is the Department of Antiquities, the City Council? Where are Ugandans, collective and individual? Shame.
Desecrating our nation