With all the suspicion around Kampala, we could do with a ministry of trust
Uganda needs a ministry of trust. The level of trust, or the lack thereof, is both alarming and hilarious. There exists a beautiful proposal for a Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA) planning project by the National Planning Authority (NPA) and also been a World Bank study on the same.
The chairperson and/or chief executive of the NPA sits in Cabinet. That is how important the GKMA is. The thrust of the proposal is to co-ordinate planning in three districts that neighbour Kampala, such that the capital city will provide improved services with modern infrastructure and create jobs for youth in these districts using incubation centres at different sites. While Kampala itself has a night population of two or less million people, the GKMA in which it is intertwined, has 10 million people.
The proposed GKMA is about a planning unit housed in the ministry responsible for lands, housing and urban development, which is also mandated to handle the urbanisation process in the country. The many things that need to addressed include sewerage. Currently, virtually every house built in greater Kampala must have a sceptic tank, a situation that prompted experts to warn recently that one of these days, the city might Illustration : John Nyaga sink, given the fragile nature of the ground beneath it.
Anyway, the grand proposal, or a version of it, was unleashed to the public, some would say prematurely, by politicians. There already exists a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the general assumption is the ‘A’ in GKMA stands for Authority. Given the imperfect nature of public communication in the country, there are one too many versions of what is really happening. Some in government waved it proudly as a government plan to be implemented by the minister responsible for KCCA. It did not help matters that the said minister, Betti Kamya, was a die-hard opposition politicians who joined the government overnight and declared that President Yoweri Museveni will win Kampala — which traditionally votes against him — in the next election. (That was before the presidential age limit was expunged from the Constitution and he was still ineligible to run again.) Now Kamya’s former opposition colleagues think GKMA is all about expanding her empire.
The opposition swears GKMA is just a plot to grab land in the districts surrounding Kampala.
Unfortunately, the government has not had a good name in matters of land because of its failure to protect public land from grabbers in the past.
Simply put, the poor government does not have the public’s trust when it comes to protecting public wealth. It is difficult to ask what the government’s position on this is, because the whole idea has not been procedurally made into policy yet.
So, the government would not apparently respond to what it has not officially proposed. All the arguments flying around have been about a motion that is not yet a motion. It is mere suspicion. NPA officials swear there is no proposal to change the boundaries of Kampala. But the opposition is bent on calling the GKMA the annexing of districts to Kampala, thereby shrinking the old kingdom of Buganda where the districts are found.
In short, we live in an era of distrust with any suggestion, good or bad, being received with suspicion. A ministry of trust is urgently needed. Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org