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Please Spare Nation's Only National Museum!

Stop demolition of Uganda National Museum

Published on 14 February 2011

Author(s): The Monitor/Richard Kagolobya

Type:  Comment

HRCI investigations revealed that the preferred designs by MTTI will lead to the demolition of the Uganda National Museum

I recently received an email titled: 'Invitation to participate in a public dialogue on the demolition of Uganda Museum...' The invitation was from an NGO- Historic Resources Conservation Initiatives (HRCI). It had the background: "HRCI has reliably learnt that the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry (MTTI) intends to undertake a project of constructing an ultra modern 60 storey commercial building "The East African Trade Centre" under "Build-Operate -Transfer Arrangement" at Plot 5 Old Kiira Road (11.5 Acres) where the Museum is currently located. The project is expected to begin in September 2011."

HRCI investigations revealed that the preferred designs by MTTI will lead to the demolition of the Uganda National Museum. The Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, in partnership with Historical Resources Conservation Initiative and the Historical Buildings Conservation Trust are opposed to the demolition. The purpose of the dialogue was to engage the public on the government's proposal to demolish the only National Museum in Uganda.

The unilateral educational systems glorified and visualised developmental change. Some times development has been linked to, or equated with modernisation; this is the transformation of traditional societies into modern ones, characterised by advanced technology, material prosperity and political stability.

But in Uganda, development has been skewed and misconstrued to mean the demolition of every old building in the city and controversially destroying greenbelts within and around the city in contravention of environmental protection logic. Refer to: "Ministers give away forest," Sunday Monitor, February 6. And mark you, in the years gone by the heavily symbolic

'Constitutional Square' was proposed to house shopping malls by city planners! Therefore, the proposed demolition of the National Museum seemingly shows that our policy makers and planners disdainfully look at cultural and historical conservation. Even though after the release of his phenomenal rap 'Mpa Enkoni', President Museveni declared his undying love for culture preservation and propagation, this is not mirrored through the actual and proposed policy frameworks of many of his technocrats in government and the proposed demolition of the nation's symbol of cultural and historical heritage, vividly challenges the President's self- confessed suppositions. It somewhat shows that Uganda's development policies are not streamlined but are a patchwork of incongruous policy frameworks from government ministries that many a time have no point of convergence.

That is why you hear about the 'prosperity for all' philosophy from one corner and then from another, banks are freely charging colossal interest rates! Some technocrats may argue that the building housing the museum is old but that would be missing the very essence of museology, and one would expect the technocrats at the MTTI to understand that better.
As HRCI rightly noted, the project of this kind requires taking into account Uganda's rich history, culture and traditions. The demolition of Uganda's only museum will be a historical and structural setback .

The Uganda Museum, which was founded in 1908, has exhibits of traditional culture, archeology, history, science and natural history. Many citizens now believe that the government has always found means of pushing forward its somewhat controversial proposals. As citizens we cherish development, but development at what cultural and environmental cost? Please save our only national museum!

Mr Kagolobya is a lecturer at Makerere University


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