disquiet in Fort Portal Municipality as a result of a planned removal of a lion
effigy that stands at the roundabout in the centre of the town.
The effigy was erected in 2016 after consultations between Tooro Kingdom and
Fort Portal Municipality officials. It stands prominently in the centre of the
town at the roundabout that connects four roads, including Lugard Street,
Kasese road, Bundibugyo Road and Kibogo Road which connects to Kamwenge Road. Lugard Street is the main entrance to Fort
Portal town centre from the Kyenjojo-Mubende-Kampala road.
Besides beautifying the town, kingdom officials chose the lion, Entale, as a
symbol of royalty. The lion is part of the full royal title of Omukama of Tooro
Kingdom. Traditionally, the lion symbolizes courage, nobility, royalty,
strength, stateliness and valour.
On Wednesday, however, while appearing on radio, Fort Portal Mayor Rev Willy
Kintu Muhanga said that the municipal authorities are in the final stages of
removing the “lion” to create room for the redevelopment of the town which is
set to become a tourism city effective July 1, 2020.
According to Muhanga, the municipal council noted that the roundabout is
keeping the road narrow and there is a need to replace it with traffic lights.
The plan has however attracted opposition from Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister
Bernard Tungakwo who has asked Muhanga to refrain from removing the effigy
without consulting the kingdom authorities.
In a letter dated June 4th and copied to Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru
Rukidi IV, the Resident District Commissioner Kabarole and the Town Clerk Fort
Portal Municipality among others, Tungakwo argues that the lion effigy
symbolises Tooro heritage.
“The purpose of this letter is to seek
clearance from you and other relevant authorities on how such a decision was
taken if it was, without our knowledge. As development comes in, we need to
consult widely with other stakeholders,” reads part of the letter.
Herbert Mugisa, the Fort Portal South Division Chairperson, says that the mayor
has never consulted about the matter. He reveals that the lion effigy has been
attracting tourists to the town.
However, Robert Tusiime, a resident of Fort Portal, argues that the planned
expansion of the road and the removal of the roundabout are long overdue. He
says that the effigy should be erected at the entrance into the palace or any
other place so that the road remains clear.
Mayor Muhanga explains that the municipal council has already gazetted the
green belt on Balya Street where the effigy and other sculptures will be
erected. The street was named after Aberi Kakyomya Balya, the first black
Anglican bishop in East and Central Africa.
//Cue in: “So I wrote…
Cue out… a tourism city.”//
Besides the “lion”, Fort Portal has other historical statues of personalities
who contributed its growth. They include that of Bishop Aberi Kakyomya Balya
which was erected next to the street named after him. Bishop Balya was
instrumental in spreading Christianity in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He died in 1979 at the age of 102 and was
buried at St John’s Cathedral, Fort Portal.
The other prominent statue in Fort Portal is that of Sir Gerald Portal, a
British colonial officer after whom the town was named. Just a few metres after
the roundabout, along Kasese Road, the statue depicts Portal in a standing
position holding a gun.
In 2010, Fort Portal
Municipal officials removed the statue to pave way for the renovation of the
roads. It was dumped in a municipal yard where it stayed for several months.
Tony Duckworth, a British national living in Fort Portal then, retrieved the statue
from the yard and renovated it with the help of other British nationals and the
Toro Golf Club. He moved it to the front of his hotel, Rwenzori Travelers Inn,
about 200 metres from the roundabout where the statue was initially installed.
The original statue from
which the name originated was built at what became Boma Grounds in the early
1890s by Frederick Lugard, a British military administrator of Uganda.
Lugard played an instrumental role in restoring Omukama Kasagama of Tooro to
his throne in 1891.
Another prominent statue in Fort Portal is that of Commander Calwell, a British
soldier and teacher who founded Nyakasura School in 1926. While a headteacher
at Kings College Budo, Calwell met two students from Tooro Kingdom who
encouraged him to start a similar school in Tooro. This happened in 1926 when Calwell left Budo. His statue stands prominently
as one enters Nyakasura School.
Last year, there was uproar in Mbarara when several metallic effigies that were
erected obscured the iconic monument of the traditional long-horned Ankole
Bull. The images that surrounded the clock tower in the middle of the
roundabout had the shape of cow horns and were designed to light up at night.
However, the new metallic poles attracted public uproar in Mbarara and beyond
on grounds that they were not in line with the cultural heritage and values of
the Ankole people.