KCCA’s Kisakka and the difficulty of marketing an ugly princess

Author: Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • There are other awards that Kampala could scoop up easily – which city can beat Kampala when it comes to potholes, narrow roads, uncollected garbage, unplanned development and environmental degradation?

I think it is the Baganda who have it in their very many proverbs; and it is rather uncharitable, I daresay, because it is something about how difficult and tedious it is to market an ugly princess: okwogelela elimbejja ebbi.

Now, that really is hard language, and this column here (wink, wink!) ‘condemns it in the strongest terms possible’ - but it does push a point.

Princesses are expected to be beautiful; first because a king has the luxury of picking up the finest damsels in the land; and second because, well, a princess really must be beautiful .

But when she just happens not to be, your work is cut out for you. Thing is, you have to keep introducing her and explaining, in very many words, that she is in fact a princess, to those who don’t feel able to give her the look that lingers.

Ms Dorothy Kisaka, the executive director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), has issued a clarion call to Ugandans to turn out by the millions and vote Kampala in some obscure contest – the Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, 2023.

Apparently, Kampala has recently come up with some “ground-breaking” innovation called “weyonje” (clean yourself) which is about, sijui, pit emptying services through a GIS-enable app and it has “revolutionised” sanitation. Hard to make sense of really.

There are two problems here. First is that Kampala as a city is so badly messed up, we endure it rather than enjoy it. It is the epitome of lawlessness of the highest degree – people in a rush to grab properties both public and private, using their connections with the ruling junta; people looting the national coffers to quickly erect huge buildings that will secure the future of their children.

Kampala is a city that showcases a rat race of the worst kind; like hungry kids swooping vengefully on a small meal that will not be enough for the family and each must eat quickly or end up hungry. The way Kampala is managed doesn’t inspire people to love it; Dorothy is marketing an ugly princess!

Second is that the award, no matter how much our dear Dorothy, who happens to be a very nice person actually, sings about it, is not what Kampalans want to hear; so she is singing the wrong song.

She inherited a mess, so it really isn’t her fault; she came in after decades of rot had piled up, so there is no way she can be held responsible.

But what we should like to see is genuine effort to arrest the disturbing trend, mitigate disaster and then launch serious reforms that will turnaround Kampala.

The British – our former colonial masters, and who I suggest, quit Uganda much too early – were very strategic in their planning. The insight, the foresight and sheer planning that they put in everything shows you why such a small island that Britain is, was able to dominate the world for centuries.

Kampala had a blueprint – a master plan which we Africans ignored, thus ending up with this slum, rather than a city. If Dorothy is to leave a legacy, to be deemed a legend, her effort must be focused on making Kampala the city it was meant to be.

There are other awards that Kampala could scoop up easily – which city can beat Kampala when it comes to potholes, narrow roads, uncollected garbage, unplanned development and environmental degradation? Which city has law enforcement crew more cruel, corrupt and uncouth than those of KCCA?

Which city in the world has worked harder to destroy its green spaces? I mean, where went the Lugogo playing fields? Where went Centenary Park? Where went all the green spaces?

Which city has worked really hard to ensure that property of the State ends up in private hands? Which city in the world has the narrowest roads? Which city in the world has a culture where people first build and then begin looking for access roads to their homes and arcades?

If we want awards, Kampala should compete in the above areas, where it has clear comparative advantage; so that, like Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga (their premier football league), we take home a global trophy year after year. Until then, Dorothy should keep the most important thing as the most important thing.

Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda, [email protected]