A little less than a year ago, Bulange plaza now renamed Masengere plaza was a deserted, unfinished building, which was an eyesore in Mengo-Bulange, the seat of Buganda kingdom.
After reconstruction, the new-look building has become the main attraction in Mengo, thanks to Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga’s fundraisers (Ettofaali).
“It [Masengere] is this year’s special treat for the Kabaka’s birthday , it has never happened in the history of Buganda that the Kabaka’s subjects hand over such a magnificent building,” the kingdom spokesman and information minister, Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi told The Observer on April 7.
Officially, the building will be commissioned today, April 13, and handed to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II as a gift on his 60th birthday anniversary. When The Observer visited the building last week, workers were putting final touches on the magnificent building.
Construction of Bulange plaza began in the 1970s at the urging of then President Idi Amin Dada who wanted to use it as the general military headquarters. At the time, Bulange house, which had been renamed Republic house following the 1967 abolition of traditional institutions by then president, Apollo Milton Obote, was used by the military for administrative purposes.
With Amin’s ouster in 1979, its construction stalled until 2012 when the Kabaka at the commissioning of Muganzirwazza building at Katwe, a Kampala suburb, tasked Buganda Land Board (BLB) to work on the completion of the structure. In his 2013 new year’s message, the Kabaka reiterated his desire to have the building completed. That prompted then Katikkiro JB Walusimbi to table in the Lukiiko in March 2013, a plan for the building’s completion.
Walusimbi was sacked two months later before Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) approved the building’s plan.
Until its renaming last year, the building was popularly known as Bulange plaza, and was mainly used to host informal meetings and CBS FM’s open-air political talk show, Mambo Bado, and other kingdom meetings that would not fit inside Bulange.
Masengere is a Luganda word that means residue stones from the smelting of amatale stones for iron ore.
The residue stones (Amasengere) were used in the traditional judicial system. Traditionally, Baganda who were unhappy with judgments handed down by the chiefs would appeal to the Kabaka. However, if the appellant lost, he would be dragged on the amasengere as punishment.
None of the officials at Mengo was certain about the cost of the building’s reconstruction, but before his sacking as Katikkiro in 2013, JB Walusimbi had put the total cost at Shs 8bn. Like Muganzirwazza, Masengere is one of the projects that the kingdom undertook to widen its income base.
As the Kabaka commissions it today, at least 90 per cent of its shops and office spaces are booked. An official of Namulondo Investments Ltd, the managers of the kingdom’s properties, said several telecom companies, banks, law firms and audit firms had taken up space.
Other commercial entities such as CBS FM radio and Buganda Land Board that have been operating from Bulange House will shift to Masengere.
Source : The Observer