As the week ended, former Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister, Daudi Migereko and former Jinja Mayor, Muhammad Baswale Kezaala were cited in illegal development plans at the Source of the Nile, a recently gazetted World Heritage site though not yet listed.
The illegal development claims were raised by former Member of Parliament of Uganda representing Kigulu North, Edward Kafufu Baliddawa in a couple of social media posts. In a lengthy phone conversation this morning, Baliddawa points to sinister motives by the two high ranking Busoga politicians.
“We were initially given the impression that the proposal to have the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Cultural Center at the Source of the Nile called Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Park was a proposition by the Indians but it later emerged it was being pushed by Mr. Migereko Daudi and Ambassador Muhammad Baswale Kezaala,” mentioned Baliddawa. “We’re not opposed to any developments but rather that they should fit within the Source of the Nile development Master Plan as fronted by the Ministry of Tourism,” he added.
“As Jinja Municipal Council, we have never had discussions to that effect” – MBAYO
In July 2018, Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India while on his State visit to Uganda pledged to offer the government of Uganda a grant for the establishment of a Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Cultural Center at the Source of the Nile to be called a Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Park with an observation deck, a swimming pool, conference rooms and a Yoga center.
In 2014, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Maria Emily Lubega Mutagamba had launched discussions to redevelop Source of the Nile and some preliminary working papers were produced. It was suggested that a stretch of 10miles starting from the source itself stretching along the Nile on both river banks be earmarked as the Source of the Nile Development Area. The site was zoned ready for investment.
“The Source of the Nile is not and cannot be the ideal location for the proposed Indian cultural center. Since the proposal is premised on the argument that Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were spread over River Nile, our view is that River Nile is long and within the Jinja area, another appropriate location can be found where this cultural center can be built. It is therefore prudent that the investment project proposed must fit within this line of planned development,” offered Baliddawa. “The point of contention is that those pushing for the Indian Cultural Center should be working with other stakeholders and should be open on what exactly they want to achieve.”
In response to Edward Baliddawa’s exposé, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has come out and distanced itself from the new development proposals.
“Indeed we have a comprehensive plan to develop this attraction to international standing. The people of Jinja seem to be moving multiple programmes at the same time and it would be useful to keep engaging them so that we pull in the same direction, said a Ministry official who preferred anonymity as they (Ministry) are engaging the stakeholders in Jinja regarding this matter. “We detect personal and selfish interests in many of the developments proposed at the Source of the Nile and whereas we appreciate the Gandhi Cultural center, it should be within the context of the general plan,” the official concluded.
In a quest for more facts to understand this better, I spoke to the Jinja Municipal Council Secretary for Works/Environment, Benard Mbayo. Mbayo distances Jinja Municipal Council from the new proposals.
“I personally heard of these new developments yesterday. As Jinja Municipal Council, we have never had discussions to that effect. What we had were stakeholder meetings guided by the Ministry of Tourism. I personally attended the meetings together with the Town Clerk. In essence, what we as council are aware of is the Ministry position, nothing else,” intimated Mbayo.
If the custodian of the Jinja Municipal Council assets isn’t in the know of the new proposals, what volumes does that speak of the cited gentlemen and the illegal development plans? We dig deeper to find out in subsequent articles.