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Weak laws failing efforts to protect historical buildings- Conservationists

Watoto Church buildind is at the centre of controversy

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Weak laws have been identified as the biggest challenge to the efforts to protect and preserve historical buildings and monuments in Uganda.

Conservationists say proprietors of historical buildings and monuments are at liberty to do whatever pleases them since the legal framework doesn’t compel them to protect and preserve them.

James Galabuzi, a conservationist says there is need to enact stringent laws to protect and conserve historical buildings.

The 1968 Historian Monuments Act provides for the preservation and protection of historical monuments and objects of archaeological, palaeontological, ethnographical and traditional interest.

However, conservationists say the law is insufficient in dealing with people who own such property and those that destroy them. It doesn’t compel owners of such buildings to preserve and protect them.

Those that destroy or damage them are subjected to a fine of Shillings 2000 or six months in prison or both, according to the Act.

Galabuzi, who comes from the famous Ham Mukasa family, which owns a historical building says people like him shouldn’t act selfishly and destroy these historical heritages because of public interest.

Galabuzi was speaking during an online dialogue organized by the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda which is running a campaign to save Watoto Church from demolition by its current owners.

Originally Norman Godihno Cinema, Watoto Church building was the first purpose built structure in Kampala. Last year, Watoto Church submitted a plan to Kampala Capital City Authority to demolish the building and put up a 12 storied structure.

The move prompted the campaign by CCFU to protect the historical value of the structure and its architectural design of Indian origin. Solomon Musasizi, the CCFU program manager says they have engaged Watoto management to revise their plan in vain.

He says there is need for a law to compel owners of historic buildings to protect and preserve them. He says they are working with KCCA to pass an ordinance for protection of historic buildings in Kampala.

According to the 1968 Historian Monuments Act, the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has the powers to declare a building with archaeological, palaeontological, ethnographical and traditional interest, a protected building. Its then that government can influence its protection and preservation.

Watoto church says they need to expand their building to accommodate their growing number of guests. In a July 20th, 2020 letter to the Watoto family, Pastor Julius Rwotlonyo, the Associate Team Leader of Watoto says the structure is their own and that they haven’t been formally engaged on any process of gazetting the building as a historic one.

Catherine Ajiambo a Senior Researcher in the Department of Museums and Monuments in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, says until the Minister declares the building historical and is gazetted, the department can only do much.

She says they are documenting historical sites in the country and working on a bill to protect and preserve them. Ajiambo also called out to engineers to make architectural designs that serve interest of modernity and preservation of the cultural, historical and architectural heritage of buildings.

Deo Katekere Rubongoya, the senior project manager Profica International Pty, says it is possible to modernize while preserving the buildings. He says a building can be partly reconstructed while preserving its historical features.

Moses Serugo, an art journalist and former student of Buganda road primary school also founded by Norman Godihno, says the cinema brings back primary school memories when they performed there. Serugo says the building should be taken back to its original purpose, cinema hall.

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