Mbale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Mbale’s first female mayor, Canon Janet Wesonga has spoken out against the omnipresent stench of rotting garbage in the city’s cente. She served as Mayor of Mbale between 1967 to 1971.
In retirement at her country home in Bumaskiye, Janet Wesonga says she gets disturbed by the near-constant presence of waste piling up on pavements and most places in a town once known for its cleanliness.
“One time, I went to the central market….you do not even want to buy anything. Flies all over. People are dumping things all over,” she said in an interview.
Wesonga says during her time and even immediately after she had left office, Mbale flew in glory for it has been dubbed the cleanest town in in Uganda and East Africa.
Looking back to her times, Wesonga says many things seem to have gone wrong in the administration of the municipality which was recently elevated to city status. She reveals that key to the delivery of services was cooperation between the political wing with the technical persons.
Wesonga says unlike now, the previous mayors of the towns were appointed and vested with powers to ensure that services are delivered.
“I did not have had time. People respected people those days. When I say something, all councilors would listen… that was the same case with the town clerk, town engineer and health officer. If I told him there a potholes in Namakweke, he would go and see for himself, since he then had to make a report by evening,” she said.
Wesonga was appointed Mayor in 1967 to 1971. Out of the 21 councilors who were in the Mbale council then, Wesonga was the only woman and the rest were men.
She had served as a counselor at the district council from 1960 to 1964. Janet Wesonga she was the only female on the council of 24 councilors. With four years’ experience as a counselor, she was one of the councilors from whom new councilors would consult.
She in an interview said her appointment as the mayor Mbale came as surprise having learnt of it from over radio with the then then town clerk Peter Otai congratulating her upon becoming the first black female mayor in Uganda.
During her regime, Mbale town council set up a home for the needy on Kumi road near the referral hospital where all homeless people were accommodated and beggars were only allowed on the streets on Fridays.
Hakim Watenyeli, a senior resident of Mbale city said that then when Wesonga was the Mayor, the people had the heart of their country, believed in good leadership and they were committed to live in good living conditions unlike today.
He said that Mbale can only regain its lost glory, only if sanity returns within the leadership of the city and they stop swindling public funds.
Janet Wesonga was succeeded by Naome Nora Aryada after the later former President Idi Amin Dada took power.
Who is Janet Cannon Wesonga?
She was born in 1928 to her Daniel Tingu and Ruth Tingu in Sakia village, Bupoto Sub-county in present day Namisindwa district.
She was the age of four placed under the missionary church at Nabumali where she started nursery education at Nabumali boarding school.
After completing J.4, she was advised to join the teaching profession. She was admitted at Buloba Teachers’ College. On completion, Janet Wesonga deployed to Kabwangasi Primary Teacher’s College. The college had a boarding primary school which she headed for some time before she was promoted to a tutor at Kabwangasi Primary Teacher’s College.
In 1959, she relocated to Mbale town council. At the time, the colonial administrators asked for the nomination female councilor to the council.