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Saving Historic Building

Uganda Museum saga now in court

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Mar 10, 2011

UGANDA (eTN) - In a predictable development, civil society organizations and heritage advocates have gone to the High Court in Kampala to stop the plans by the Ministry of Tourism to demolish the Uganda Museum and instead put up a 60 – yes SIXTY – story building instead.

At least 4 organizations, probably to be joined later by other groups and individuals should the case go to trial, are seeking an injunction to stop the ministry from going ahead with any preparatory work, leave alone starting to demolish existing structures, in a bid to save the historic post independence building and preserve history and heritage for future generations, as one of the involved parties put it to this correspondent.

This will again pit the tourism minister against opponents of his decrees against civil society, similar to a case he lost when the High Court annulled his appointments of a board for the Uganda Wildlife Authority on the grounds that they lacked qualifications required under the Wildlife Act.

The case will be heard on March 21 and government, already claiming the new building will improve and promote Uganda’s infrastructure, will be represented by the Attorney General while the plaintiffs have reportedly lined up some of Kampala’s finest legal minds to stop the ministry in its tracks. Meanwhile, the ministry has tried to appease the public by saying that two floors of the building would be dedicated to house the exhibits presently found in the museum.

Critics, however, pointed out promptly that the historic Lugard Fort was also to be protected by government and even had a court order on it, but was still demolished to make way for an expansion of the national mosque in Old Kampala. When eventually reconstructed at a different site, it lacked several key attributes, making it less valuable and no longer authentic. It is feard the same might happen to priceless artefacts and exhibits in the present museum.

One regular source within the ministry told this correspondent last evening that the minister would likely have to say something about the upcoming case and, as and when his comments are on record, an update will be issued. It was also said, off the record, that the recent demand by members of the East African Legislative Assembly, and several of their lawmaking colleagues in the Ugandan Parliament, to spare the Uganda Museum had rattled the hierarchy in the ministry as it drew additional local, regional, and even international attention to their plans.

Uganda Museum saga now in court
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