At an underground railway crossing near Makerere University Business School (Mubs) in Nakawa, I stop to stare at hundreds turning the rubble, in search of their belongings.
An earthquake-like operation by KCCA operatives, under heavy police protection, has just concluded, destroying all settlements along the railway line. Like a wind, it is blowing along the same line towards Banda and Kireka, leaving in its passage all but ruins.
Where it has not arrived, there is a real stampede, as the population sorts out the most valuable and loads it onto pick-up trucks. The interim plan, according to those in the know, is to create space of five metres on either side of the rail line, 15 to 30 metres being the long-term target.
And this is happening with regard to a one-week notice, issued by KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi.S. She has even forgotten that her jurisdiction stops in Banda, as this operation will reach Namanve, about 10 kilometres into Wakiso district. Once this has been achieved, Rift Valley Railways (RVR) will reintroduce passenger services along that stretch from Nalukolongo to Namanve. This is not a KCCA project but, rather, RVR’s.
The RVR, which is a business and, therefore, a profit-hunting consortium, didn’t know what to do with both legal and illegal settlements along the line. They contacted Jennifer Musisi, who is looking for a quick fix of our city, and she got excited about the prospect of reintroducing passenger train services. She then announced introduction of cable cars, as though it is hers or a KCCA project.
In this whole transaction, KCCA is acting like a mercenary force. Rift Valley Railways knew of, and had in fact budgeted for, compensation. To avoid it, KCCA promised that it would use some health-related bylaws to evict and destroy every structure, not built on plan. That is exactly what has happened. I hope you still remember Operation Wembley, led by Brig Elly Kayanja.
Its initial mandate was to eliminate armed robbers. It eventually turned into a debt-collector. If someone refused to pay you, you just needed to hire Wembley and, within days, you would be paid. That is how their unit in Kireka became a torture chamber. It was eventually scrapped.
KCCA, under Musisi, is slowly taking that direction. But because of the history of mismanaging the city, our people are cheering Musisi, and government is giving her all the protection. All of us are interested in a functioning railway transport, but must we treat our people like rubbish for it to happen? Are there no procedures to follow when evicting people? Didn’t this government push through a law on bibanja holders?
Let us understand this RVR business for which Musisi is creating passage by evicting the urban poor, without any compensation. Uganda Railways Corporation, which was 100 per cent owned by Ugandans, was formed, I think in 1977, after the collapse of the East African Community. It is this corporation that owned the railway infrastructure in Uganda.
In 2005, the corporation agreed to a concession of its business to a consortium in which South Africans were the majority shareholders. A South African company, Sheltam Rail Corporation, with 49 per cent shares, was the majority owner in the new consortium.
Other South African companies with shares were Comazar (10 per cent) and the CDIO Institute for Africa Development Trust with four per cent. I think Kenya’s Prime Fuels owned 20 per cent while Mirambo Holdings of Tanzania had 10 per cent.
The shareholding controversially changed when the majority shareholder sold to Egyptian businessmen. This, I think, happened after arbitration in London. The new shareholding is now as follows: Citadel of Egypt has 51 per cent, TransCentury of Kenya has 34 per cent and Bomi Holdings Limited of Charles Mbiire has 15 per cent.
Mind you, Mbiire had been appointed to the board of RVR to represent Uganda’s interests. Now he is a shareholder in a company that is using public infrastructure to make money. This is the company that Jennifer Musisi has helped avoid compensating our people, when she decided to throw them away like garbage. Her action points to what we have been saying all along.
Kampala is no longer the stretch from Nateete to Nakawa we must, therefore, sit together as stakeholders to plan for it. Secondly, we must plan before we act, popularise the plan and sensitise the population. The government must also incur some costs, especially when it comes to destruction of settlements. Maybe Mr Museveni has lost the human heart and feeling. We all want development, but it must be legal and humane.
The author is Kyadondo East MP.
Source : The Observer