The grand opening
On the 16th of March 2022, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) in partnership with the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), and with the support of the European Union and SOGEA-SATOM, officially opened the Uganda Railway Museum, the first of its kind in Uganda and the second in East Africa.
The Museum was launched by Ms. Caroline Adriaensen the Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation in Uganda and Mr. Sam Kizalwa, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of museums and monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
Located along the Jinja-Iganga Highway at the Railway Station in Jinja City, the museum will diversify the range of tourist attractions in Uganda, both for local and foreign visitors. Part of the museum has been designed with young people in mind to support their learning and appreciation of Uganda’s history.
The Board of Directors Chairperson, Mr Migereko from the Uganda Tourism Board noted that the museum will add to the pool of tourist ventures in Jinja City, which will in return create economic opportunities for the people in Jinja.
The Uganda Railway Museum will offer a varied programme that includes heritage theme nights, exploring a locomotive and coach, film recollections/stories, guided tours and access to a cafeteria.
Speaking on behalf of H.E. Attilio Pacifici, the Head of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Uganda, Ms. Caroline Adriaensen, the Head of Cooperation, noted that the museum presents a great opportunity to recognise and appreciate the history of the railways in Uganda, their role in the lives of Ugandans who lived and worked along them, and their place in the country’s political and economic development. The European Union is delighted to support the revival of this crucial infrastructure and an important piece of our collective memory in Uganda.
Ms. Caroline Adriaensen speaking at the event
Uganda’s railways played a fundamental role in the economic, colonial and post-colonial development of the country in terms of bringing communities together, allowing access to education and other facilities, and cementing national consciousness. The introduction of the railways in Uganda followed the August 1895 Bill in the British Parliament, authorising the construction of a railway from Mombasa to the shores of Lake Victoria. This marked the beginning of the Uganda Railway, which eventually expanded all the way to Pakwach in the north and Kasese in the west.
For many years, however, Uganda’s railways have been unused or underused, with historical artefacts (such as equipment, engines and carriages) and buildings (such as stations and workers’ cottages) falling into disrepair.
Speaking o n behalf of Ms. Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Mr. Kizalwa, the Assistant Commissioner Museums and Monuments acknowledged that remains of the railway are laying idle and rendering the line ineffective. He also acknowledged that the Railway Museum will support the maintenance of such artefacts .
“The museum has come at a time when most of the original railway hardware has been vandalised. Remaining pieces are laying idle and yet this is an important of our cultural heritage. The establishment of the Railway will help us to maintain and preserve this heritage.” Mr Kizalwa said
There are ongoing government efforts to revamp the railway transport with the rehabilitation of the northern line and the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway. The establishment of the railway museum thus complements the government of Uganda’s efforts to highlight the importance of railway transport by reinvigorating its interest among Ugandans.
The Uganda Railways Corporation Board Chairman, Mr. Hannington Karuhanga said that the railway museum complements the government efforts to revamp the railway line adding that it should be a place of reflection, learning and interaction especially for young people.
The Mayor of Jinja City, His Worship Okocha Kasolo Peter, acknowledged that history can only be learnt through interventions such as the museum and it will as well contribute to the development of Jinja City.
The establishment of the Uganda Railways Museum is premised on CCFU’s previous works on the history of the railway in Uganda. A book titled “Our Railways, Our History” was produced last year to recognise and celebrate the story of our railway lines; explore their role in the lives of Ugandans who lived and worked along them, and their place in the country’s economic and political development. The book is available at 90,000shs at selected bookshops and CCFU offices.
CCFU’s Executive Director, Ms. Barbra Babweteera Mutambi, noted that the establishment of the Museum demonstrates the Foundation’s commitment to safeguarding historical buildings, sites and monuments:
“We have always advocated for the safeguarding of historic buildings, sites and monuments but the establishment of the Museum gives us a chance to demonstrate to the general public how to preserve a historic building sustainably,” Ms. Babweteera said.
The Museum will open to the public starting tomorrow Thursday, March 17 and will be free to the general public until Monday, March 21st. Thereafter, the Museum will always be open to the general public from Tuesdays to Sundays, 11:00am – 6:00pm at a fee. For further information about the museum, see this flyer
Our efforts to safeguard and promote built heritage
CCFU is a local non-governmental organisation established in 2006 to promote the appreciation of culture as vital to human development that responds to our diverse identities. Our work hinges on three programme areas, which are; cultural heritage safeguarding and promotion, cultural rights promotion and managing cultural diversity.
In Uganda and elsewhere in the world, buildings, sites and monuments of historical and cultural significance provide character and identity to cities, towns and villages: their location and architectural design reflect the way of life associated with traditional governance, colonial administration, religious affiliation and peaceful co-existence, commerce and trade, as well as relationships between Uganda and other nations. These sites and buildings indeed reassure people about the existence of life before the present day, while reflecting ambitions that may or may not be realised.
In this era of globalisation, with fast changing identities and aspirations, the importance of conservation for the benefit of future generations cannot be overlooked. Historical buildings and sites are irreplaceable, and this is why CCFU, with the generous support of the European Union documented historical buildings, sites and monuments in 4 cities (Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe and Fort Portal). Outputs such as maps, a book, and a mobile application were produced, displaying the hidden treasures of these cities. CCFU is now, embarking on a crowd funding campaign to document historic properties in Mbale city.
While speaking at the launch of the museum, the Assistant Commission of Museums and Monuments at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities appreciated CCFU for leading efforts to preserve and safeguard Uganda’s cultural heritage.
“CCFU has taken care of historic properties on our behalf and the demolition is not as rampant by private developers.” Mr. Kizalwa said.
Pictorial highlights from the event. EU delegates, Jinja City representatives, CCFU staff, Uganda Railways Corporation representatives and community museums