Augustine Ruzindana

KCCA has transformed bulldozer into a distressing demolition tool

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By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, August 8   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Whole families, children, women, disabled, the elderly and household heads have been suddenly rendered homeless, without income, their belongings destroyed or taken away and their worth as human beings completely destroyed.

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The ongoing demolitions of structures along the railway line and elsewhere in Kampala may be legal as Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) asserts, but whatever is legal is not necessarily just.

There is no doubt that the demolitions are causing a lot of social distress and, therefore, that there are consequential protests, should be expected. However, a caring government should also put in place measures to ameliorate the suffering caused to the affected people.

Whole families, children, women, disabled, the elderly and household heads have been suddenly rendered homeless, without income, their belongings destroyed or taken away and their worth as human beings completely destroyed.

The only reaction of government cannot and should not be deployment of riot police; there must be emergency assistance and resettlement plans in place.

In any case, how did these people settle there for years and pay certain fees to city council and railways authorities unless there was collusion or permission by those authorities? I witnessed how one of the settlements arose.

A few years ago, the Nakawa Housing Estate opposite Makerere University Business School was demolished but no activity has taken place at the site ever since the demolition. Some of the displaced residents of that estate moved to a narrow strip along the railway line and erected some temporary structures.

At the beginning they were not many, but over time the number grew. At that time I commented to someone about what was taking place without any action by the authorities and predicted what would happen later when the authorities wake up.

And indeed recently when I was crossing the bridge over the railway, I noticed that all the structures had been demolished. How does a person who was evicted from the housing estate and took refuge along the railway line feel, when a few years down the line he/she is again evicted by the same authorities, using the same violent methods?

Ninety per cent of Kampala and environs comprises of informal structures without approved plans, imagine what would happen if KCCA became consistent and demolished all of them.
As if there is an eviction viral epidemic that has attacked and on the rampage or may be that there is a departmental demolition competition, one of the numerous electricity authorities Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) has engaged a contractor to demolish structures using bulldozers along a high voltage corridor, 40 metres on each side, all the way from Bujagali to Kawanda onwards to Mutundwe and from Lugogo also to Mutundwe, the demolition finishing or resting line.

There is something called “the law of the instrument” popularly known as Maslow’s hammer, which says “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” or “give a small boy a hammer and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

Thus KCCA is using bulldozers and UETCL is using the same instrument. The bulldozer has become a distressing demolition tool rather than a construction one.

This law of the instrument is what makes the police use tear gas or fire live bullets unnecessarily. Contrast with the Indian police which is not armed and yet confronts and controls much larger crowds without applying lethal instruments. The police in the UK are not armed either and they control large crowds.

If we return to our original subject of demolition, is it really necessary to use bulldozers, which make it very difficult for affected persons to salvage anything? In other words, even if demolition has to take place, can it be made more humanely?

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP. a_ruzindana@yahoo.com