Muhanga, from smuggling centre to fast growing town

Wednesday August 1 2018

An aerial view of Muhanga Town. Th

An aerial view of Muhanga Town. The town has graduated from having semi permanent to mostly permanent housing. Photo by Robert Muhereza 

By Robert Muhereza

Muhanga Town Council in Rukiga District, western Uganda, started as a small trading centre in the 1970’s. It later developed rapidly because of cross border trade. Most of the traders smuggled goods from Rwanda to Uganda and vice-versa.

Muhanga is about 36Km from Kabale Town on the Kabale-Mbarara High Way. It is at the centre of the main road that connects to Kisiizi Falls in the neighbouring Rukungiri District. LCIII for MuhangaTown Council James Tumwijukye, says Muhanga was elevated to a town council in 2010.

It has five wards – Muhanga Central, Butare, Highland, Rutare and Nyakabungo. He says when the current government took over power, issues of smuggling stopped and the business community used the generated money to trade in agricultural products.
Tumwijukye says because of the current economic growth in the area, many tourist camps, hotels, bars and restaurants have come up.

“This economic growth has led to the establishment of Saacos such as Rukiga Saaco. Cottage industries dealing in value addition, especially sorghum processing, bakeries, have also come up,” Tumwijukye says.
He says the economic growth led to establishment of a Catholic parish and a church of Uganda Archdeaconry in Nyakabungo Ward.

Tumwijukye says the existence of the prominent Bukinda core Primary Teacher’s College, six secondary schools and eight primary schools have also contributed to economic growth. Tumwijukye notes that the town council is into areas of residential, commercial, industrial, cemetery and sewerage lagoons for human waste management.

There is a weekly flea market at Bukinda Trading Centre in Muhanga Town Council and Muhanga central daily market.
The price of food is relatively low during the harvest season and high during the planting season.

State of housing
According to the town clerk for Muhanga Town Council, Eudia Mutabazi, when the town council was opened, most of the houses were semi-permanent but now more than 80 per cent are permanent with a few temporary ones in slum areas.

“Because of the rapid development, we directed that construction of houses in this area must be done after getting approved building plans. This is to promote organised housing,” Mutabazi says.

Rent and hotel
Frank Nomwesigwa, a resident of Muhanga, says: “Renting a single room ranges from Shs20,000 to Shs100,000 depending on the location of the rented premises.

Hotel and camp site accommodation ranges between Shs30,000 to Shs600,000 per night. Food in the hotels and campsites is between Shs5,000 to Shs20,000 per plate.

A 50x100ft plot of land is between Shs100m and Shs300m depending on the location unlike in the 1970’s where the same piece of land was sold at Shs100,000. This rise in the cost of land is attributed to the development of the area.

Justus Katungi, a resident ofMuhanga, attributes the economic growth to the spirit of the local people to love developing their area.

“Without an investment in Muhanga town council and yet you are born from there, the community does not respect you at all. This attitude has attracted natives of the area to participate in developing this town.

Besides this, the central location of Muhanga town attracted social services such as electricity connection, clean water supplied by National water and Sewarage Corporation and mobile telecommunication networks,” Katungi says.

Mauda Mugasho, a business woman operating in MuhangaTown Council, says: “We need to have street lights, enough public toilets, well builtdaily market and many more roads constructed in the wards if economicgrowth is to be fully attained.”

Muhanga town council has three health centere IIIs that offer health service delivery to the people around the area besides having several private drug shops and clinics.

Muhanga mayor James Twijukye says: “... in case of complications, patients are referred to Kabale hospital about 36Km away or to Kisiizi hospital, which is about 30kms away,” says.

The Rukiga District commissioner, Emmanuel Ngabirano, says they have formed community security committees in all villages. Their main duty if to identify wrong characters and report them to the police. He adds that police patrols have been intensified.