Friday August 11 2017

Centenary Park demolition: The aftermath

At work. An excavator  digs a trench for the

At work. An excavator digs a trench for the construction of a new sewer line at Centenary Park recently. PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA.  

By Derrick Wandera

Kampala. At the mention of the word Centenary Park in Kampala, one’s mind would think of a lively leisure place with lots of myriad bars and nightclubs with related activities ongoing.
However, the park has become a shadow of itself since July 10 when bulldozers demolished some of the structures to pave way for the construction of sewer lines and flyovers, among other proposed government infrastructure.
The perception of many people is that Centenary Park is no more, which is not the case. What has since changed after the demolition is that business has just slowed down with low numbers of revellers flocking the place.
According to Ms Sarah Kizito, who is running the park under her Nalongo Estates company, the demolition did not mean that the whole area was razed.
She added that some structures were left behind and business resumed, though at a slow pace.
“Business has resumed normally, we are just waiting for what Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) has to say. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is now out of the fight, so let us wait and see because we don’t know what Unra wants,” Ms Kizito said in an interview with Daily Monitor recently.
Comparing the business climate before and after the demolition of the park, Mr Godfrey Sempebwa, 42, who runs a bar and restaurant, said there is slow turn out of customers in the aftermath of the demolition compared to the period before.
“The businesses no longer attract as many clients as it used to,” he said.
Mr Geoffrey Tumwine and Mr Martin Byekwaso, who were regular customers at the park prior to the demolition, said they had since shunned the leisure place thinking the whole park had been demolished.
“All along, I have been thinking that the whole park had been razed. I have never gone back to that place but I am surprised there are sections of the park which are still operating,” Mr Tumwine said.
A joint combination of KCCA, Unra and National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) enforcement officers demolished about four bars and restaurants that were near the Umeme power sub-station near the Kampala-Jinja highway.
But the rest of the park was not affected and business is going on as usual.
Mr Francis Mugerwa, a bar owner at the park, suggested a mass campaign to let their old customers who have since not returned thinking the whole park was razed, know that the place is still open.
Ms Kizito is of the same view, but accused the media of portraying that the whole place was razed, a scenario she says has has scared away potential customers.
However, according to Unra, the required land for the flyover project cannot be decided just as yet because the land has not been surveyed, although KCCA has already okayed them to begin with the construction on the land.
Unra deputy spokesperson Allan Sempebwa said the amount of land required for the project will depend on the project design.
“We wrote to KCCA and they have given us a go ahead to use the land and build the flyover,” he said, adding that works on the project will commence soon.
Mr Sempebwa revealed that the flyover project is financed by the Japanese government under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In the run-up to the razing down of some of the illegal structures at the park, there was a tough resistance from Nalongo Estates not to relinquish the park to government.
The resistance saw the intervention of President Museveni and after a series of meetings with all the stakeholders, Ms Kizito softened and allowed the demolition of some of the structures to pave way for construction of government projects.
It was also agreed that Nalongo Estates can in the interim, continue running the park.