What you need to know:
No progress. Tenants were evicted from Nakawa-Naguru estates and buildings demolished to pave way for the construction of two self-sustaining satellite towns. However, 14 months later, work on the project has not began.
Fourteen months ago, bulldozers arrived with a bang, knocking down homes and leaving in their trail wailing women and distraught family members at the Nakawa-Naguru estates, in Kampala.
These houses were supposed to be replaced with new flats- an estimated Shs750b investment was expected to be sunk into a project flaunted as one that would change Kampala’s skyline by creating two self-sustaining satellite towns.
Today, however, the 66-hectare Naguru-Nakawa estate has grown into bush-land and turned into a home for hoodlums, rodents and policemen.
The government had argued that the houses were blighted and unfit for human habitation. But in a twist of fate, the police, who supervised the eviction of the tenants, some 1,750 families under the stewardship of Kampala Capital City Authority and at the behest of a presidential directive, have become new occupants at what is left of this rambling suburb. And here is how they are living.
Black polythene sheets, tarpaulin and several pieces of wood have been improvised to close broken windows and doors. Concrete frames of the ramshackle three-storeyed flats still hold the shape of what the police are more than happy to occupy and call home.
Makeshift bathrooms have been built. It is difficult to imagine how these law enforcement officers answer to nature’s call as what remains of functional toilet facilities is a conked-out sewer system.
A police source admitted that the personnel who live under these squalid conditions are servicemen and women deployed at the Central Police Station.
Driving school instructors now ply their trade in this estate whose main road, Estate Road, is now a busy potholed short cut used by the public. Goats roam and graze freely in this estate whose bushes people now use to urinate and defecate.
But what could explain the glaring delay in executing this multibillion shilling project? Do the investors, Irish billionaire brothers, Brian and Luke Comer through their real estate development company, Opec Prime Properties Limited, whom government allocated the land lack money to start the project? Are they still interested in developing the project? Or has the proverbial curse that has plagued similarly hyped projects such as the Shimoni and Nakasero land giveaways obtained its latest victim?
The government version of events is that a tedious process of titling the land into the names of the investors as well as dealing with issues surrounding compensation demands by former tenants and other investors who were reportedly leased parts of the land has bogged down the process of starting the project.
Officials at the Ministry of Local Government, the entity overseeing the project, told Sunday Monitor that the delay is “negligible” and the project will soon start.
Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mutabwire, who confirmed reports that President Museveni recently issued a directive to have the site “expeditiously” handed over to the investors as well as an end to “speculation” over their financial muscle, declined to address himself to queries as to why the project has stalled.
“Call me at 10 o’clock on 3rd September and I will give you the entire story after we have finished our technical meeting on this project,” he said, before admitting: “The developers are showing us their development plans and time plans.”
Mr Simon Barigo, a former resident who was part of the 1,750 families forcefully evicted on July 4, 2011, said he was disappointed to see that “a lot of things have been happening but not in favour of sitting tenants”.
Mr Barigo doubled as the area local council chairman and has been leading a campaign for redress of former tenants. “We have heard that the developers actually don’t have money right now and are running around international banks looking for funding,” he said.
This newspaper could not independently verify that claim although officials at the Local Government ministry were quick to dispel the idea. By press time, Sunday Monitor was still waiting for a response from Opec Prime Properties, despite days of repeated calls and email inquiries.
- October 15, 2007: Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Opec Prime Properties to develop the $20m 66 hectare Naguru-Nakawa land within a 10 year period.
- Earlier in 2006: The IGG issues a report, pointing that the procurement process was flawed and Opec Prime Properties Ltd should not be awarded the deal.
- 2007: Sitting tenants sued government for unlawful eviction but lost.
Estates: The estates were built by the British in the 1950s to accommodate low income workers and servants working in British homes and businesses.