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Parliament scuppers plans to build Gandhi Centre in Entebbe, insists on Jinja

India Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari visits the Indra Gandhi memorial in 2017

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament Wednesday passed a motion moved by Igara  West MP Raphael Magyezi to have both the Mahatma Gandhi Conference Centre and Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Centre built at the River Nile in Jinja.

He moved the motion after Members of Parliament questioned a decision by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Tourism, to have the Mahatma Gandhi Conference Center built in Entebbe, and leave only the Heritage Centre in Jinja.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year pledged to to build a Gandhi Centre in Jinja to mark the 150th year since the birth of Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi. (video bottom)

There was a heated debate after Minister of Lands Betty Amongi revealed to Uganda parliament’s plenary that her officials were having difficulty securing land for the project, but also that, she had got a directive from government to have the Conference Centre built in Entebbe. She brushed off criticism, saying her mandate was not to determine where the centre is built, but to secure land for the project.

MPs, mainly from the east of Uganda, argued against the Entebbe decision, despite an attempt by the Minister of Tourism Prof Ephraim Kamuntu to say the decision was to ensure equity. They were particularly unimpressed about his argument about equity, giving several examples that contradict his position.

Speaker Kadaga, while guiding the debate, argued that parliament’s decision is actually in line with equity and good planning for the country.

Magyezi said he was baffled at why government was dragging its feet on the project.

“I suggest that we as parliament resolve that the entire Mahatma Gandhi project, in its entirety, be in built in Jinja at the River Nile, and that government avails land in less than one month for this” Magyezi said.

He also warned that delays in securing the money promised by Indian Prime Minister Modi, will discourage the Indian government. Speaker Kadaga ordered the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija to make an immediate requisition.

Earlier this month, India’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Shri Ravi Shankar attributed delays to construct the Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Centre to lack of cooperation from Jinja Municipal council authorities.

Speaking at a function commemorating the 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday at the source of the Nile in Jinja district, Shankar said that, they have addressed municipal authorities with letters demanding a meeting to discuss their views on the project but there has not been any response.

He further says that the structural designs are ready, but, the municipality has failed to allocate them with the five hectares of land.

Shankar further warns that failure to ensure a good working relationship between the India High Commissioner and the authorities may kill the whole project.

“The most scared of all, that shows the strengths of the ties that connect  Uganda and India, is the site in Jinja, at the source of River Nile, where a portion of the ashes of Ghandi were immersed,” PM Modi had told parliament last year.

He went on to state that, “At the sacred site in Jinja, where the statue is, we will build a Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Centre. As we approach his 150th birth anniversary, there can be no better homage than a Centre to remind us of Africa’s role in shaping his mission.”


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