Museums and monuments: How much have we invested?

Author: Joel Innocent Odokonyero. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • We need to harness the available opportunities and invest in the power of museums for the realization of peace and development with well documented narratives. 

As we join the rest of the world to celebrate International Museum Day (IMD), how much have we (as a country) invested in heritage education and promotion of museum development across the country?

IMD observed annually on May 18, since 1977 and coordinated by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has come at the commencement of key government programmes/initiatives to promote social economic development and household income enhancement such as the National Development Plan (NDP) III and the recently launched Parish Development Model (PDM) concept with the former having a component of mindset change which in my opinion is the game changer for and/or driver for social economic transformation in Uganda. 

This year’s international theme is “The power of museums” while Uganda will celebrate the day under the local theme, “The power of Museums in Conservation of our Culture.” How can we ensure that the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and museums create more frequent activities to promote the role of museums in society?

What happened to our cultural heritage? How can we harness various opportunities to conserve our cultures? Just like they say, ‘a good lawyer is the one who knows where to find the laws to win a case’, can we utilize the mindset change agenda as envisioned in the NDP III to revitalize, expand and promote our cultural heritage in a national and holistic manner for sustenance of lasting Peace, Unity and Reconciliation?

Protecting cultural heritage is very essential for our generation. How do we preserve and protect cultural heritage at risk? How can we develop a durable solution to protecting cultural heritage at risk, amidst the mushrooming cities in Uganda?

There is a need for MTWA to fast track the development of Regional museum Centre’s alongside the promotion and creation of community museums. Museums play a critical role in the teaching and learning of history, can we then use museums as an ingredient to achieving lasting peace and unity which is the engine of development. How can we contribute towards the development of a strong, more viable and pluralistic civil society in Uganda? The great potential for cultural development can be undermined by development projects that either destroy or continue to pose risk to some tangible cultural sites in the face of development.

As part of its works, Refugee Law Project (RLP) through its National Memory and Peace Documentation Centre (NMPDC) a partnership with Kitgum District Local Government, has engaged young learners with the exhibitions panels at the NMPDC under Education Justice and Memory (EdJAM) project to facilitate discussions on our past shared history. We must make museums and heritage education part of our daily lives because the future lies in these brilliant young people.

Therefore, Recalling Uganda’s troubled past, absence of a National Reconciliation Peace Policy, delayed enactment of the Transitional Justice Bill, we need to harness the available opportunities and invest in the power ofmuseums for the realization of peace and development with well documented narratives. Our Culture, Our heritage, Our pride!

Joel Innocent Odokonyero, TJ Practitioner and Ethnographer is a Research and Advocacy Officer for Conflict, Transitional Justice and Governance Programme with the Refugee Law project, School of Law, Makerere University.