In the second part of our series looking at one year since Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) was formed, Edris Kiggundu examines what the authority has got right and the challenges it still faces.
For fifteen minutes on May 3, legislators on the Presidential Affairs Committee were captivated by a documentary produced by the Kampala Capital City Authority. Grinning and shaking his head, Barnabas Tinkasiimire, the chairperson of the committee, could not believe that it was shot in Kampala.
“Is this Kampala or another city,” he at one point asked sarcastically as his colleague, Faisal Kikulukunyu (Butambala), broke into chuckles.
Three metres away on the opposite side of the table was Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and her technical team who had come to Parliament to push for more funding next financial year. Musisi appeared not to pay attention to the MPs’ compliments even if she occasionally smiled. The documentary highlights what Musisi and her team have been up to in the last 365 days. It points out that the roads have now become much cleaner thanks to a dedicated team of casual workers.
There is also footage of KCCA staff repairing the Ntinda-Kiwatule road. The documentary also shows that at night, the city is bright thanks to streetlights that have been installed at various locations. The transformation of Kampala from a filthy to squeaky clean city is succinctly captured by two contrasting images of Nakivubo Channel, which before KCCA’s intervention is shown choking on rubbish but after is smooth and clean.
In truth, the documentary tells only half the story of the transformation. It does not highlight the fact that some of the 2,650 lights that were installed last year have since become dysfunctional with their cables stolen or vandalised. It’s also curious that Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s appearance is only limited to about ten seconds where he speaks about the need for the leadership to work together to built a better city.
After that it is Musisi, Musisi and more Musisi (a street cleaner is shown praising Musisi for ensuring that salaries now come on time unlike before).
There is no denying that Musisi’s tremendous energy and fighting spirit have moved the city to another level. One of her biggest achievements was the eviction of street vendors, which made Kampala streets more navigable. Considering their numbers (approximately 8,000) and their perceived political clout, previous leaderships had feared to undertake such a move, unsure about how it could play out.
KCCA has also tried to reform the public transport system that had long been dominated by 14-seater commuter taxis and poorly managed by the Uganda Transport Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA). Court last year nullified UTODA’S contract and KCCA decided to manage the taxi parks. Musisi told Parliament that during the time they have been in charge, they have collected more than Shs 3bn.
The introduction of buses by the Pioneer Easy Bus (PEB) in February, though done controversially, eased movement of commuters. The 60-passenger buses (that have 30 people seated and another 30 standing) coexist with the commuter taxis and have been licensed to operate within a radius of 30km.
Dr Amin Tamale Kiggundu, an urban planning expert at Makerere University, believes that while reform of public transport was long overdue, the abrupt introduction of buses might not be a feasible idea.
“The problem with Kampala is that there is low population density in the suburbs. We do not have organised settlements like in South Africa, which make it easier for buses to operate,” he told The Observer last week.
In the health sector, the Naguru and Kisenyi health centre IVs have been reconstructed and upgraded to hospital status.
Political bickering aside, KCCA’s biggest challenge remains inadequate funding. This financial year (2011/12) government allocated only Shs 142bn ($57m) to Kampala, which is meagre compared say to what Nairobi got. The Kenyan capital, according to Kenya’s budget, was allocated $160m (Shs 400bn).
KCCA says it has already spent Shs 40bn on roads in and around the city. According to Andrew Kitaka, KCCA director of engineering, the city needs Shs 200bn per year to maintain roads in perfect condition.
“The infrastructure in Kampala has been neglected for a long time. Revamping it will take some time and lots of money,” Kitaka says.
KCCA has requested for more than Shs 300bn to meet key priorities in the forthcoming financial year. It needs Shs 30bn for the erection of traffic lights at various junctions, including Pride Theatre, Mulago roundabout and Fairway hotel, to ease traffic flow. The authority also needs Shs 78bn to oversee the staff restructuring exercise that will see more than 1,300 people employed.
President Museveni is yet to appoint a deputy executive director of the Authority. Musisi told Parliament that one of the major challenges they face is to convince people that the projects they undertake are supposed to benefit them. This, she said, is why there are many cases of vandalism.
“Everybody has a stake in the city. But for us to serve the people in Kampala, we need their support and their love,” Musisi said.