Majid Batambuze, Mayor of the newly approved Jinja City, also the chairman of Urban Authorities Association Uganda (UAAU), has come out to criticize the dilapidated buildings dominating the new city centres.
Addressing the media from UAAU offices in Kampala, he argued that the old building structures should be demolished to create way for new developments.
“Cities need to look like cities,” he stated adding that however much some of the buildings are of historical value, others are only but a hindrance to a city upgrade.
“The city is littered with dilapidated old buildings which are making it look ugly and old. Unfortunately, these buildings are also sitting on prime land right in the middle of the city, in Jinja,” he said.
Batambuze noted that he has held various discussions with the Minister of Finance and Local Government to ensure that the old structures are gotten rid of as most of them have no owners; and some belonged to the Asians who departed years ago.
He also argued that the buildings have absentee owners yet they are in the middle of the new cities, not only Jinja but also others like Mbaale.
“They are vested in the Custodian Board and the Ministry of Finance so it is the Ministry with full control,” he said.
Batambuze stated that he has been urging all the other city administrators to do a master plan; a physical development plan that will indicate how a particular city is going to be developed into a residential, commercial and industrial region.
“We also have to address the issue of open spaces and infrastructure,” he said.
He noted that they are seeking resources from the Government of Uganda to build the infrastructure as it is going to be the number one challenge for most cities.
“We need to make sure that we build the roads, drainage systems and street lighting,” he emphasized.
Batambuze opined that cities should be equipped with the right facilities that fit a city status.
“This means that we have to upgrade the administrative areas and buildings; not only the district headquarters but also the division headquarters because this is where the people are going to go to access the services from the city administration.”
About the challenges facing Jinja City, Batambuze stressed that the biggest is the failure of the people to change their mind-set about living in a city.
“The challenges facing the new cities are huge but the biggest challenge will be the mind-set of the people. The people need to leave the village mind set aside and remember that we are now living in the city and we have to behave like people living in the city,” he said.
For this reason, he noted that the transition requires combined efforts of the people themselves and the government.
“The government has a much bigger role to play because it has to equip the cities with the resources, facilities and the infrastructure. We also call upon the International communities like the World Bank, European Union, African Development Bank to come in and support these cities.
In a nutshell, Batambuze called on the responsible authorities to act quickly so that the interested parties can set off with fresh development arrangements.
“We urge the Ministry of Finance and the Custodian Board to come up with the decision to sell off these properties or auction them off so that new investors can acquire them, demolish and put up new structures,” he said.