In Uganda, historical buildings bring to the fore the introduction and evolution of formal education, modern medicine, conventional religions, traditional governance systems, pre and post-colonial administration, among others. Many of these reflect a blend of cultures and traditions that contribute to present-day ways of life in Uganda. Yet, this heritage is constantly at risk of demolition to make way for “modern” cityscapes that pay little attention to the irreplaceable tangible and intangible heritage that historical buildings represent.
The unveiling ceremonies
With support from the European Union, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) has recognized and unveiled commemorative plaques on notable historical sites in Kampala, Jinja, and Entebbe. Plaques have been placed on Mengo Primary School and the National Museum in Kampala, the Freedom Tree, the Botanical Gardens and the Secretariat Building in Entebbe and St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Rubaga, the Jinja railway bridge and the Historic Main Street in Jinja (read the leaflets with all the historic sites recognized in Kampala, Jinja, and Entebbe)
The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, and the Ambassador of the European Union in Uganda, H.E. Attilio Pacifici officiated at the unveiling ceremonies in Kampala on 20th November 2018. Addressing the audience, the EU Ambassador stressed the innovative nature of this project: “It will pave the way for a ground-breaking perspective about historical buildings in Uganda, and an innovative approach to their use, re-use, and management. We hope that the project will not only raise awareness on the value of historical buildings but will also generate opportunities to create new jobs and develop innovative business, especially for young people“. He also evoked the opportunity offered by the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, which celebrates culture, traditions, and creative expression. “This 2018 has been the occasion to share with our Ugandan friends those values, as well as the European experience and know-how in protection and valorization of cultural heritage”. “I have seen historical buildings become big tourist attractions in several countries. If thousands of people come here to see these buildings, they will stay,” Prof. Kamuntu said.
Other dignitaries, including Ms. Naumo Juliana Akoryo (Commissioner, Department of Culture and Family Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development), Ms. Rose Mwanja (Commissioner, Museums and Monuments, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities), Ms. Rosie Agoi (Secretary-General, Uganda National Commission for UNESCO), Ms. Jennifer Musisi (the Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority) and a wide audience, composed of political leaders, historians, architects, conservationists, cultural experts, religious and cultural leaders, anthropologists, sociologists, private sector representatives, and building owners, showed their commitment to acknowledging the importance of historical buildings in Uganda and the need to preserve them. The other unveiling ceremonies took place on 22nd and 27th November in Entebbe and Jinja respectively.
The European Union chose to celebrate 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage by supporting CCFU in implementing a project for the protection and promotion of historical buildings and sites in Kampala, Jinja, and Entebbe. As well as being historically and architecturally important, many of these buildings and sites also illustrate the connection between Europe and Uganda.
Watch out for upcoming maps of historical buildings and sites in Jinja, Entebbe and Kampala, a mobile app and the forthcoming book ‘Beyond reeds and bricks – Historical sites and buildings in Kampala, Jinja, and Entebbe’