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Masaka Loses Civility, Modesty as It Urbanizes :: Uganda Radionetwork

Masaka Loses Civility, Modesty as It Urbanizes

Charles Kwewayo Kiyimba, an opinion leader and landlord in Masaka city, says that the traditional urban centre has gradually been losing its civility, shared values and unique humane character that best described the people living in it.

Audio 4

Leaders of the newly established Masaka City Council are faced with an uphill task of managing and meeting the high demands of people, some of which include restoring the priceless social values that once defined the area. 

Masaka is one of the seven ‘new cities’ that the government inaugurated in July 2020. The cities were created after they were elevated from statuses of Municipalities which they had held for several decades. 

The elevation of Masaka was specifically achieved after a series of altercations between the local stakeholders and political leadership against government, which they accused of side-lining the traditional township which, they argued, met all the conditions of becoming a city.  

The elevation of Masaka, however, continues to generate debate over the unprecedented aftereffects it is presenting to the social, political, and economic lifestyles of the people in the city. 

Charles Kwewayo Kiyimba, a local opinion leader and a landlord in Masaka, says the traditional urban centre has gradually been losing the precious civility and unique humane characters that best described the people living in it.   

He says that besides the rare character of humility of its people, Masaka could be ranked in the third position of the most organized and cleanest urban centres in Uganda; coming after Mbale and Fort portal municipalities. However, he says, this narrative has adversely been changing with the different, decades long, stages of urbanization Masaka has gone through.  

Masaka was founded as a town board in 1953 before becoming a Town council five years later and eventually a municipality in 1968. Kiyimba says that, throughout these stages, Masaka was mainly built by the local entrepreneurs who made sure that they maintained its structural designs and cleanliness. 

“The town was structured in such a way that whoever entered it would circumstantially follow the established standards. It was a collective responsibility of all property owners to guide new developers to conform to order in the town,” he says. 

Kiyimba recounts the days when Masaka had a council of prominent persons, which comprised of revered opinion leaders, landlords, enlightened individuals, and progressive entrepreneurs, who would meet to deliberate on ideas that would advance the area.  

He narrates that such committees of volunteers gradually disintegrated when the elected political leadership rendered them insignificant, coupled with direct confrontations from the new breed of residents who settled in the town as it urbanized further. 

“Apparently, everybody is living on their own despite the negative implications this presents to the general appearance and the way the town expands. I recently took concern about the way people are destroying the beauty of this town by building in traditional greenbelts and leisure centres, encroaching on known road reserves and utility service lanes, but leaders seemed unbothered that I was left with no alternative but to back off,” he says. 

For instance, the 2018 Auditor General’s report noticed that eight prime plots in gazetted open spaces in Masaka Municipal Council had been lost to encroachment. Kiyimba says such irregularities could have been avoided if the council of prominent persons was still existed and respected.

 (Luganda) //Cue in: “Nga omutuuze…. 

Cue out: ….tebirina makulu.”//  

Mousa Wamala, a member of Masaka City Development Forum, which acts as a linkage between the leadership and local community, says the city is taking an undesired trend of urbanization, hence presenting a heavy task to the leadership. Wamala is of the view that the declaration of Masaka as a city ought to have waited until it naturally grows in a manner that meets the real standards of an urban authority.  

“The clamour for these cities was laced with highly exaggerated expectations, most of which were political. We ignored crucial aspects of sensitizing people about their obligations and the demands of living in a city that is worth the status, and as a result, the town is being messed up,” he says.

He explains that the city has lately attracted a big population size of people with different social and cultural backgrounds, much of whom are not even mindful of the standard trade order and approved infrastructure designs.

As a result, the town is now harbouring several categories of unruly people that are currently struggling to integrate; an experience that is alien to Masaka.  

Wamala says the current model of urbanization that Masaka has undergone is spontaneous, which has made it lose a sense of social responsibility among residents, hence contributing to the growth of scattered slum settlements in the area with all the resultant consequences. 

 //Cue in; “Masaka was now…..  

Cue out:….to a town board.”// 

Wamala bemoans that the urbanising town is regrettably witnessing a rare trend of people adopting disgusting social behaviour that includes the discharge of human waste in the open and on streets because many people can hardly afford to use the existing common toilets.  

//Cue in: “what is the difference…. 

Cue out:….getting the problems.”//  

Similarly, Hajj Badru Namuyimba, another prominent citizen who has seen Masaka evolve through the various stages of urbanisation observes the need to revive the socialization meetings of residents, that would deliberate on the issues affecting them and generate consensus for the common good. 

Namuyimba who also served as Chairperson for Katwe-Butego Division in the late 1980s says, the town certainly embraced low-income earners but these lived up to the set standards because the local leadership had set proper guidelines within which a person would operate and coexist.  

“People here knew each other and even those that are younger than our generation could be identified by their family background. This nurtured a sense of responsibility among the people here,” he says. Namuyimba notes that today everybody is literally on their own and that the situation has been complicated further by the divisive political style where even immediate neighbours are looking at each other as adversaries.  

But George Mutabaazi, one of the major agitators for the elevation of Masaka into a city, still insists that their demands were valid and long overdue despite the resultant costs in some aspects of life.  

“We could not afford to continue folding our hands when other municipalities were being elevated to cities. The things people are talking about that have been lost in their social lives because of changes were probably ancient and could not pass the tests of an urbanised community,” he argues, adding that the new generation is already crafting its own standards that meet their demands.  

He explains that although the city is primarily observed in the creation of new administrative units and settling political scores, the government has been circumstantially pushed to extend heavy infrastructural development investments that couldn’t have been possible under Masaka’s former status.  

“The changes of urbanisation are inevitable and are not unique to Masaka city alone. But so far the benefits outweigh what has been lost in all aspects. From the increased value of the property, the city is attracting the improved social services that were formerly a preserve of the wealthy class,” he indicated.

Meanwhile, all is not lost yet according to Florence Namayanja, the Masaka City mayor. She says the leadership is cognizant of the foundation upon which Masaka was built, and that they are working towards preserving everything that is relevant to the city’s growth and dignity.  

Namayanja says they are committed to building an inclusive city that integrates all classes of people. 

 //Cue in: “Masaka City’s …. Cue out: ….growing city.”//          

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