Kampala — Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has rejected the request by the Judiciary to takeover part of the Constitutional Square gardens for expansion of the High Court.
On May 10, the Judiciary's estates manager, Dr Christopher Ebal, wrote on behalf of the Permanent Secretary to the chairperson of the Kampala District Land Bore (KDLB) Yusuf Nsibambi, saying the Judiciary would soon start construction of the Appellate Courts at Plot 2, the square where High Court is located.
This means both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal would be located at Plot 2, the square where High Court is currently located.
"... it is hereby requested that the space bordering the southern side of Plot 2, the square be allocated to the Judiciary for gardening and will be open to the public but maintained by the Judiciary," Dr Ebal wrote.
In an interview with Daily Monitor, Mr Lukwago said the Constitutional Square is one of the few remaining open spaces in the city and giving it away would leave the future of open spaces in the city at stake.
He also argued that the city authority is currently struggling to reclaim open spaces which have since been either encroached on or controversially sold away.
"Open spaces are highly treasured in other countries to an extent that if you attempted to carve off a mere decimal from it, there would be public uproar. It is sad that most of our public parks in the city are no more. I have asked the chairperson of Kampala District Land Board to politely decline the Judiciary's request," he said in an interview.
Yesterday, the Judiciary's senior communications officer, Mr Solomon Muyita, said the Constitutional Square is the only suitable place due to its proximity to the High Court.
"We are not taking away the entire place but just a few decimals off the upper part of the green space and we shall still maintain it as a green space but managed by Judiciary and not by KCCA. We will use it as a compound where people seeking court services can rest. Mr Muyita said the Judiciary's plan is to have the Appellate Courts in the same place because they are the heart of the Judiciary.
Asked about when construction is likely to start, he revealed that procurement is likely to start in July so that construction works can commence at the end of the first quarter.
He said at least Shs20b was released in the 2019/2020 budget to start construction of the Appellate Courts and estimated that the two-year project would cost Shs100b.
Kampala City Council, the predecessor of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), in 2011 attempted to lease Constitutional Square to businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba through his company Yudaya Investments Ltd (YIL) to set up a modern shopping centre.
However, the plan was rejected by then Local Government minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali and Parliament.
An audit made by KPMG on behalf of the Auditor General found that Mr Basajjabalaba's contracts to manage city public properties were not legally viable.
Law on city green spaces
KCCA recently drafted the Urban Green Infrastructure Ordinance 2019, to regulate the management and control of Kampala's green infrastructure.
Under the Ordinance, the authority shall provide for the recreation and enhancement of the aesthetics of the city. The control of all public spaces within the city shall be vested in the authority or any other person appointed by the authority.
It further states that the minimum tree planting requirement in public open spaces will be one tree per every 120 square metres.
The ordinance also gives the authority powers to grant a club, association or similar body or any other person, the exclusive use of any public green space or part of it, but that person shall obey the terms of the agreement by the authority.
Status of parks
Centenary Park. On May 16, 2006, Kampala City Council (KCC), the predecessor of KCCA, awarded a 10-year contract to Nalongo Estates to manage and transform Centenary Park into a modern recreational centre.
Although KCCA declined to renew Nalongo Estates' contract upon expiry in 2016, the latter refused to vacate, accusing KCCA of breach of the contract.
Jubilee gardens/Sheraton gardens. Sheraton Kampala Hotel started managing the gardens in 2000 after signing a 10-year tenancy agreement with the then KCC.
Although KCCA terminated the contract in 2013, it still remains a contentious matter as far as its accessibility is concerned. But Mr Peter Kaujju, KCCA's spokesperson, says the park can be accessed upon request.