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Falling in love with Uganda’s fading glory

Watoto Church built in the early 1950s by Goan entrepreneur, Norman Godinho, has always been a popular social hangout in Kampala. Before it was transformed into a church in 1984, it used to serve as a movie theatre (Norman Theatre)

How an EU project is creating interest in nation’s history and heritage

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Imagine working in an office which has a very rich history; one where important national agreements were possibly discussed, drafted or signed, in a well preserved building that is over 100 years old. How would that feel?

That is how it felt recently, when I read that workers at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) headquarters in Entebbe sit in offices built by the British Protectorate’s Secretariat in Entebbe around 1910. These premises housed the colonial governor’s offices and later the first parliament of Uganda or the Legco as it was popularly known from 1921 to 1955.

But do the NARO workers know how lucky they are? Possibly not. In fact, some of them could be unhappy to be working in such old buildings.

It is attitudes such as these that a year–long documentation project funded by the European Union Delegation in Uganda hopes to change through a project on Uganda’s built heritage and historical sites.

The project which started in May last year found that many of the sites are under threat of destruction across the country.

Lack of information and awareness about the significance of this heritage and the drive towards “modernity” are the main reasons for the ongoing destruction, according to results of the documentation project released on May 06 at the EU Delegation offices in Kampala.The event was designed to coincide with the African World Heritage Day.

“Nations all over the world preserve heritage in the form of historical buildings and sites for the sake of their own people, and showcase them with pride to foreigners,”said the EU Ambassador to Uganda, Attilio Pacifici.

To him, it is unfortunate that heritage and historical sites are not better preserved yet “it would also help Ugandans to understand better their past, appreciate more their present and forge their future.”

The project is a collaboration of the EU, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda. It covered historical buildings in the cities of Kampala, Entebbe, and Jinja as part of the European Union Year of Culture celebrations.

Pacifici said the project was intended to save historical buildings from demolition and raise interest of potential donors and private investors for future rehabilitation or restoration works of many of them.

“There are many beautiful places that are already protected but many more that need protection,” Pacifici said, “If Uganda identified and preserved key historical buildings and sites, it would help attract more visitors and create many jobs, especially for young people.”

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