Efforts by city residents to reclaim more than five acres of land or part of it at Centenary Park as an open public space were yesterday buried in a deal between Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) and Nalongo Estates Ltd.
In a deal brokered by President Museveni on Monday, Centenary Park was shared between Unra and Nalongo Estates, which is owned by Ms Sarah Kizito Nyakana. Ms Kizito and Unra will each take 2.5 acres.
According to Ms Kizito, the government has committed to extending her lease on the 2.5 acres she currently occupies at the park.
"I thank President Museveni for being with us during the period of wrangles. The wrangles were as a result of groups that they were confrontational, but the President calmed them down. We have handed over two acres to KCCA and they are going to give us titles for the rest of the land (in the park)," she said yesterday.
The executive director of KCCA, Ms Dorothy Kisaka, said the other two acres have been handed over to Unra as per the President's instruction, to enable commencement of the construction of the Jinja Expressway.
Ms Kisaka, however, said they are still in talks in regards to retaining public space in the area that will remain in the management of Nalongo Estates.
According to KCCA records, in May 2006, Nalongo Estates was given a contract to manage the green public open space land at Centenary Park on behalf of city authorities. A contract was to be renewed after five years. The space was later fenced off and members of the public could not access it for free.
Nalongo Estates constructed permanent structures on part of the piece of land and turned it into bars and parlours.
After the expiry of the lease, KCCA attempted to obtain vacant possession of the land in vain. In September 2012, there was a physical confrontation between KCCA enforcement officers, who wanted to demolish the structures and repossess the land, and Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde.
This affected the construction of utility lines such as water and power. A small piece of land was later repossessed by KCCA as open public space.
On Monday, the President met all groups at the State House and took the decision that there should be a compromise, according to Ms Kisaka and Ms Kizito.
"His Excellency the President directed that the land surveyed and demarcated at Centenary Park for the Jinja Expressway should be immediately handed over to the Unra to enable the commencement of work," Ms Kisaka's October 19 letter reads in part.
After the handover, Ms Kizito said four entertainment centres and four shops will be demolished in the area that has been handed over to the government.
A tiny open public space that KCCA repossessed will be part of the flyover under Unra, leaving city dwellers without a recreation area.
Park project that never was
According to the initial plan, Nalongo Estates was supposed to establish a parking yard, a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts in Centenary Park.
The developers were supposed to plant trees that would create bridal gardens, leisure and conference centres.
Members of the public were to be allowed access without any restrictions. However, Nalongo Estates did not establish the amenities as per the plan. Instead, several plots were created in the 'park' and each was managed by a different company. Bars and restaurants that operated 24 hours a day were established with valid licences from KCCA.
Permanent structures were also erected and turned into shops that sold garments and hair salons.