Reviews & Profiles
Kololo Hill got its name from an Acholi chief
Posted Wednesday, March 20 2013 at 00:00
To many, the name Kololo is synonymous with the airstrip. But more to Kololo is an intriguing history and story that has shaped its growth since the early 19th Century.
Kololo is definitely a rich man’s slum it is a place for the wealthy and people who attained successful status a long time ago. It is home to many big shots in the country, housing most diplomats and diplomatic organisations from different countries. In its early years, Kololo Hill became the home of colonial officials and civil servants. Today it is one of the best planned, with a good road network and beautiful houses with large well-trimmed lawns.
Kololo is one of the seven hills of Kampala standing at a height of 4,305 feet. It commands a stunning view of the city and Lake Victoria. It can be accessed from different directions of Kampala. To the east, it is bordered by Naguru, and Bukoto lies to its north, Mulago to the north–west, Makerere to the west, and Nakasero to the south-west. Kololo is also separated from Nakasero by a drainage that starts from Mulago and goes all the way to Lake Victoria.
Kololo is a residential area, has a warm and peaceful environment, and you can easily forget that people live on the hill. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Kololo is how it got its name.
Unlike the other hills that are steeped in Buganda tradition, the 4,305 feet Kololo Hill is believed to have got its name from Rwot Awich, the paramount chief of Payiira in Acholi who was imprisoned on the hill, by the British in 1912.
According to Dr Martin Aliker, one of the earliest occupants and longest staying residents of Kololo, a story is told that at the height of the British rule in Uganda, Rwot Awich and Kabalega of Bunyoro vigorously resisted the British rule in the early 19th Century.
Chief Awich was arrested and brought to Kampala. He was incarcerated on top of Kololo, which was a great wilderness at the time. Aliker narrates that Awich is alleged to have cried out in Luo, “An atye kany kololo”, which means “I am here alone.” Awich was lamenting over the fact that he had been left alone in the wilderness, miles away from home. His captors and the Baganda started calling the place the hill of Kololo. Before long everybody called the hill Kololo.
“But it’s a fact that Awich was incarcerated on top Kololo Hill at the beginning of the last century when the British had established their rule in Uganda,” Dr. Aliker says.
Development in Kololo
Development in Kololo started in mid-1950s. Before that, all European civil servants and expatriates lived in Nakasero. However, it became crowded and the government at that time moved some civil servants to Kololo. “The buildings on Upper Kololo Terrace were meant for only European expatriates. At the same time, they sold some plots to private individual- expatriates mostly and a few Asians. Ugandans were not housed there,” Dr Aliker says.
Dr Aliker specifically points to House No. 14, on Philip Road that was built by Prof McAdams as his private house. Standard Chartered Bank later on followed suit by building a house for its managing director on Upper Kololo Terrace. Asians like AJ Meta also put up houses on the hill which are still standing to date with Asian architecture. Asians also built the house where the American ambassador resides. The building housing the Germany embassy was also built at the time.
“As far as I know, there were no Africans living on top of Kololo, I as a civil servant lived in Kololo but at the lower level where the Church of Christ Latter Day Saints is located,” Dr Aliker reveals. He adds that he built his house on top of Kololo in 1963. It was a novelty because he put electricity and running water even in the servant’s quarters. Reporters used to go to his house to take pictures of this “insane” African who put electricity in the servant’s quarters. This was not the case for the Europeans who let their servants use lanterns. He also adds that others like Christopher Mboijana also built his house on Summit View. He was the first African to build his house on top of Kololo where you can get no higher.
At the top was a meteorological centre which has since been replaced with small army detachments –Summit View military barracks. Today, Kololo is inhabited by mostly the rich of Uganda’s society and has some of the best infrastructure in the land. Such infrastructure like the Kololo Airstrip on lower Kololo acts as main celebration grounds of the country. It also doubles as burial grounds for heroes. Dr Aliker explains that the airstrip was meant to be country’s main airport, but due to its small size, it was shifted to Entebbe. Back in the day, the airstrip was a leisure park where people went to relax and unwind, but with the advent of independence, it soon changed to be the main celebration grounds.
By 1972, Kololo was host to several embassies of Belgium, France, Germany, DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and the British high commisiion that has since been replaced with the Italian embassy. Other embassies and organisations like the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia embassies came up after the NRM government came to power.
Kololo is also slowly becoming more than a residential area with banks like DfCU and Housing Finance, having their headquarters here. The schools on the hill include East Kololo Primary School, Arya Sumaj School, Uganda Management Institute, Kitante High School, and Kololo Secondary School. There also a number of hotels and hospitality centres like Kampala Protea Hotel, Hotel Africana, Metropole Hotel, Speke Apartments and Kampala Golf Course. The hill is also home to Kampala Christian Cemetery, and hospitals like The Surgery and Kololo Hospital.
Kololo has stood the test of time and lived up to the original expectations of its fore planners. It is one place that is rich in history and holds a special place in the heart of Uganda. It attracts different kinds of elites because in Kololo, you can rest assured of your safety and comfort.