Tortoise, snail to erect Uganda tower

Prof Timothy Wangusa

What you need to know:

  • Poor me! All the above instances prove that the Uganda Tower that I saw in my dream is destined to progress at the speed of Tortoise and Snail

Last week I had a curious dream in which I met a very gifted Ugandan local entrepreneur who had a vision of erecting, on behalf of the government, the tallest building in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, to be known as Uganda Tower; who gave the contract for the job to a local and time-tested engineering outfit called Tortoise and Snail Construction Company.

Uganda Tower was projected to be a skyscraper comprising 130 floors, representing as many years as Uganda has been in existence, right from 1894, the year it acquired its name as a protectorate from Britain its former colonial master. Construction commencement year, 2024.

Construction period, five years, representing one Ugandan parliamentary term. Maximum construction period allowed, seven years, representing the new hoped-for parliamentary term.

(But first, a confession, before I proceed. My dream in which Tortoise and Snail Construction Company features must have resulted from my contemplating the cartoon in Sunday Monitor of November 12, in which Ivan the ingenious cartoonist depicts a Mr Tortoise as the builder and Mr Snail as his assistant builder for the Shs2.76b government school project in Otuke District, regarding whose slow progress local leaders have expressed grave concern. And there, for you my highly esteemed reader, was a supreme example of the ‘picture that is worth a thousand words’.)

At this point, my mind swiftly skips the years back to somewhere several Parliaments ago, when an honourable lady was the country’s minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. Among other things, the said minister, not an engineer by profession, was the overseer of the civil engineers’ construction of valley dams in various parts of the country.

One particular day, one citizen raised his concern in Parliament about the delayed commencement of the construction of the valley dams in one part of the country. The minister’s amazing response was that some of the said dams were already in place – but that some Ugandans were so blind that they could not recognise a valley dam even when they are standing next to it and are looking at it! 

Ah, ha, ha! That makes our beloved Uganda a wonderland country. A more recent instance of wonderment is that of the road works in Mbale City, as of two months ago. In a conversation with two of its top engineers, ‘yours truly here’ discovered some incredible statistics. The first was that the expanded greater Mbale now comprises a road network of more than 537km. This is almost the same distance as Mbale to Kampala via Tororo multiplied by two.  

The second incredible statistic was that the government funds available to Mbale City Council for roadworks are only enough for tarmacking 1km per year. The third incredible statistic was that, at this rate, it would take Mbale City more than 500 years to tarmac and revamp all its roads! 

But perhaps the most intriguing of our beloved government’s engagement in construction wonders is the International Specialised Hospital of Uganda (ISHU) located in Lubowa, on the southern outskirts of Kampala. 

To occupy a 32-hectare (79-acre) piece of land, for a 264-bed hospital, this ‘Lubowa Project’ was scheduled to commence in 2019 and to be completed in a period of two years, by June 2021. The ‘developer’ of the project is the controversial Italian speculator Enrica Pinetti, the very same Jack-of-all-trades who also later penned a coffee processing deal with the government.

According to newspaper reports, in April 2021 the Lubowa Project was still at ground level; by April 2022 no further work had been done at the hospital; and in May 2023, ISHU was granted one further deadline, to December 2024.

Poor me! All the above instances prove that the Uganda Tower that I saw in my dream is destined to progress at the speed of Tortoise and Snail!

Prof Timothy Wangusa is a poet and novelist. [email protected]