Kampala, Uganda – By our reporter.
The handing over of the park follows a directive from President Yoweri Museveni following a meeting held at State House Entebbe.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) handed the Centenary Park over to Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) on Thursday, ending several years of stalemate after Sarah Kizito Nyakana, the proprietor of Nalongo Estates Ltd, failed to vacate it to pave way for the construction of the Kampala Flyover phase two project.
The handing over of the park was witnessed by KCCA executive director Dorothy Kisaka and UNRA head of enforcement John Bosco Ssejemba. It followed a directive from President Yoweri Museveni following a meeting held on Monday October 19, 2020 at State House Entebbe.
Kisaka, in a letter to Nalongo Estates dated October 20, 2020, notified them of the intention of KCCA to hand over the park to UNRA.
“H.E the President directed that the land surveyed and demarcated at Centenary Park for the Jinja Express Highway project should be immediately handed over to UNRA to enable the commencement of the national project. I am therefore writing to notify you that on Thursday October 22, KCCA team will be at Centenary Park at 9:00 am for purpose of handing over the project site to UNRA so that the work can commence,” Kisaka said.
The letter was copied to the Commander Kampala Metropolitan Police, who was notified to ensure that the exercise is peaceful and does not cause disruption.
UNRA media relations manager Allan Ssempebwa said UNRA welcomed the development.
“We have been trying to get access to this land since 2017 but had been denied access. With this development, we can now proceed with the land aquisition exercise and delineate the project corridor in preparation for start of Lot 2 of the Kampala Flyover project,” he said.
“It also puts us in good light with JICA, the funder who was getting concerned about UNRA’s ability to have all the land for Lot 2 prior to signing the contract,” added Ssempembwa.
Earlier, before the handover, he had said their team would be there to receive the demarcated sections. “Phase one was already going on well, but the contested issue is on the phase two of the project.”
Attempts to evict Nalongo Estates from the park previously was met with resistance. The issue between Nalongo and UNRA was on what size of the land should be taken for the project.
Sources who spoke to a local news paper noted that even though the flyover had been projected to take only two acres of land, the initial projects did not cater for space for the leisure park and the flood-detention ponds which expanded the land needed from the initial 2.7 to 4.7 acres, sparking off a row.
In September this year, Members of Parliament on the physical infrastructure committee learnt that Nalongo Estates was holding on to the land for the project, pending a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with KCCA.
The legislators resolved to meet the Solicitor General to resolve the matter after it emerged that compensation dispute was holding the construction of the flyover project.
The Kampala Flyover Construction and Road Upgrading Project, which is a sh684b project financed through a loan agreement between Uganda and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had started accruing interest even though no work had been done at the Centenary Park site.
During the meeting held in Parliament, MPs wanted to establish details of the MoU and asked KCCA officials to explain circumstances surrounding the land ownership and why Nalongo Estates deserves compensation.
KCCA acting legal director Caleb Mugisha informed MPs that Nalongo Estates had a lease on the disputed land which was supposed to be renewed upon its expiry.
However, before it could be renewed in 2016, President Museveni directed that the contractor be allowed access to the land. But by the time the directive came, KCCA had entered into an MoU with Nalongo Estates.
Additional reporting by NV.