Doreen Katusiime, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities while appearing before Parliament’s Trade and Tourism Committee to discuss the Museums and Monument Bill 2022.
Government through the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities has reiterated its rejection to the plan by Watoto Church, arguing that the current building formerly known as Norman Gordinho Cinema, was the first cinema hall constructed in Uganda, thus qualifying it to be a historical site.
Government’s position was made by Doreen Katusiime, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism while appearing before Parliament’s Tourism Committee during the scrutiny of the Museum and Monuments Bill 2022.
“This Bill is going to incorporate the historical buildings in the different cities. For example, we have been fighting with Watoto Church who wanted to demolish that building and put up a mall or high rise building, and we said that is one of the few historical buildings left in the city. So when you remove the emoluments the monuments and museums, you have really taken away what is the gist of the matter,” said Katusiime.
Although Katusiime didn’t directly mention plans to compulsorily acquire Watoto Church, but if the current Museums and Monuments Bill 2022 is passed into law in its current state, Watoto Church that has been bickering with government over its redevelopment plans, risks to fall victim to this latest proposal.
Clause 26, stipulates, “The Department may where a monument of national importance or significance is in danger of being destroyed, compulsorily acquire the monument in accordance with article 26(2(b) of the Constitution.”
Government in clause 27 of the bill mandates; Government ministry, department or agency, local government or community within or surrounding a heritage site, monument or museum in Uganda shall conserve, protect that heritage site.
The Ministry of Tourism further stipulated, “A person who abuses, misuses, alters, destroys or does an activity that is likely to threaten the existence of a heritage site, monument or museum commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both.
Government tabled before Parliament the Museum and Monuments Bill on 13th July 2022 and the proposed legislation is supposed to repeal The Historical Monuments Act of 1967, Cap- 46, arguing that the 55year old bill has limited focus on preservation and protection of historical monuments, making it obsolete in terms of providing the much wider cultural and natural heritage.
The Ministry of Tourism argued that whereas the country boasts of a rich and diverse cultural heritage of approximately 650 designated cultural heritage sites and monuments, only 56 sites have been relatively preserved and managed at a national level, adding that the improper national registry and inadequate guiding principle for conserving in the museum is arising from the lack of classification of museums and absence of a national museum register.
The current Watoto church building was constructed in the 1940’s by Norman Gordinho, an Indiam businessman and housed the first Cinema hall in Kampala, but following the overthrow of the former Preisdent Idi Amin regime, the building was renamed “The Center of Creative Arts”.
However in October 2019, through its architectural firm, Symbion Uganda Limited, Watoto Church sought approvals from the Directorate of Physical Planning at Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA for the redevelopment of Watoto Church to construct a new building comprising of a conference center with a sitting capacity of over 2,100 people, ample institutional space, youth-related functions space, retail space and a 3-star hotel with all functions for business and recreation.
KCCA’s Physical Planning committee however refused to okay Watoto’s issue redevelopment plan, until the Church furnished Government with a detailed plan on how the historical site will be preserved.
Watoto Church however rejected the new demands from KCCA arguing that the property is privately owned, Norman Gallery isn’t listed among the historical sites by Government, for the Church to abide by KCCA demands.
In response, KCCA cited The Historical Monuments Act 1968, considers structures set up in the 1960’s as historical sites.