The news for Kampala residents and revellers from across the country and beyond is out. The October 2018 version of the City Festival has been cancelled (See Daily Monitor, September 13).
According to the Kampala Capital City Authority's executive director, Ms Jennifer Musisi, the Shs1.9 billion that is expected to be realised from partners in the three-day event, will now be channelled to remove asbestos roofs from six city primary schools. These are Nakivubo Blue Primary School, Bat Valley Primary School, Kibuli Demonstration Primary School, Mengo Primary School, Nakivubo Settlement Primary School, and Katwe Martyrs Primary School.
Started in 2012, the City Festival has been offering a platform for rallying city dwellers together and preserving their history and tradition to stimulate growth of local economy. Therefore, the cancellation of the festival less than a month to the scheduled date of October 5 to 7, for the reasons given, raises more questions than answers.
The executive director says it is immaterial to spend about Shs500m on the festival yet the city is still grappling with poor services. But what could have prompted this realisation just a few weeks to the event?
In October 2017, the KCCA political wing, headed by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, questioned the manner of organisation of the festival. For instance, he cited the hiring of a foreign artiste, Mr Nasseb Abdul Juma, commonly known as Diamond Platinumz, to perform at a whopping $30,000 (about Shs108m then).
"I find it abnormal that you are paying all this money to a single artiste at the expense of our local artistes. ... but why do we spend all this money to one musician?" Mr Lukwago asked then. The political leadership's views were ignored and the festival went on.
This in spite of the fact that the organisers of the event had claimed that the money collected would be spent on renovating dilapidated city schools.
Now that Ms Musisi has made a U-turn and now prioritising available resources to critical areas, including education and health, it is crucial that in future, the Authority works in unison with the political wing to drive service delivery in the city for the good of residents.
Therefore, while Ms Musisi says KCCA's City Festival committee are to meet the sponsors and determine whether to retain or scrap the event, the final resolution should be arrived at after consultations between the KCCA technical and political teams.
It is refreshing to learn that after six years, the executive director and the Lord Mayor now seem to be reading from the same page - that KCCA funds should be put to better use.