Entebbe Municipal Council has introduced a by-law whereby any resident caught littering will be fined a definite Shs 50,000.
Whistleblowers stand to get half that amount for reporting the offenders. Irresponsible littering and garbage disposal have made life in Uganda's urban centres almost unbearable. Besides making the towns filthy, they cost the urban authorities a lot of money to deal with. Yet appealing to the people's good sense doesn't seem to work, thus necessitating such drastic actions.
The idea of rewarding whistleblowers is rather creative, given that the urban authorities cannot be expected to be everywhere. It also makes sense in Uganda where many urban dwellers lack a strong sense of civic duty. Otherwise, responsible residents need no reward for reporting offenders because they have a vested interest in a clean environment.
However, to avoid allegations of being harsh and prone to abuse, the by-law needs to conform to principles of natural justice by giving the suspects a chance to defend themselves, say in a special tribunal. But the bigger challenge remains implementation, the Achilles' heel of many well-intentioned initiatives in Uganda. In fact, such by-laws already exist on most urban authorities' law books, but implementation has always been the missing link.
Indeed a couple of months ago, some offenders were rounded up in Kampala and charged in court for littering, but that campaign has since lost steam, and now it's back to business as usual. Besides, dustbins and garbage collection services must be provided first, so as to remove excuses.
And then unscrupulous people who steal the dustbins, just as those who steal road signposts, streetlight bulbs, manhole covers and related items, should be equally fined or charged with theft.
While we are still at it, public toilets must be provided in urban areas before residents can be penalised for urinating on roadsides or other public places.
Having clean towns will take some sacrifice and Entebbe is leading the way; let the others follow.