With all the sus­pi­cion around Kampala, we could do with a min­istry of trust


The East African - - OPINION -

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: buwembo@gmail.com

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