Stories engraved on Kampala Monuments

A monument is defined as a statue, building, or other structure established to commemorate a notable person or event. On 16th September, 2023, together with the 20 writers of the best articles for the Travel Writing Competition 2023, we set out to follow the trails of numerous untold stories engraved on Kampala monuments.

The trail is within Kampala at the center of which sits Buganda kingdom – the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, and across East Africa. A walk through Kampala ceases to be just a walk when you stop every after a kilometer or less to learn about the history of a building, a road or even a certain class of people.

During the walk, I got to learn about part of Uganda’s history and the origin of different places within its capital city. Here, I share snippets of places, people and stories from time immemorial and rich enough to have monuments established for generations to come.

We started off from the Sheraton gardens formerly known as Kampala Park or Apolo hotel, depending on when you were born. Located on Ternan Avenue along the slopes of Nakasero hill, is the famous five star hotel that was donated by Nanii Kalidas Metha and is fully owned by the government of Uganda under the Sheraton Hotels franchise.

In the 1960’s most of the land in Kampala was of Indian heritage which explains the monument of Nanii Kalidas Metha to commemorate his generous contribution to Uganda’s hospitality industry.

A few meters after is the Independence monument on Speke road standing majestically at the height of 6 meters. The Independence monument was erected to commemorate Uganda’s first independence on Tuesday 9th October, 1962. The surrounding gardens also serve as a lounge for city dwellers and citizens that would like

to catch their breath before heading to their destination.

Right below the Independence monument at the roundabout sits the Sir Edward Muteesa (1924 – 1969) monument. Sir Edward Muteesa was the longest serving King of Buganda who later served as Uganda’s first president.

Moving past the Central Bank of Uganda, we made our way to the Constitutional Square monument, formerly known as City Square which commemorates the 1995 constitution. Right above it and below the High Court of Uganda sits the World War memorial monument. Both significant structures that are symbolic of the people that fought for this country to make the current Uganda.

Moving swiftly across Buganda road, we passed by the African village and finally the Kampala Pentecostal Church now known as Watoto. Right at the heart of Kampala’s city center was the first cinema in Uganda, now a church spreading the love of Jesus Christ.

Kampala Road being one of Uganda’s busiest roads, it took us a while to cross to the other end as the crowds stared at us with intrigue. I too, felt like a tourist in

my own country as I stared back at the faces, as an invitation to come and see the worth of heritage engraved in every monument that stood before our eyes, one that we all passed by everyday.

We crossed down to Kyaggwe road, through Rashid Khamis road and up to Old Kampala landing right in front of St. Matia Mulumba Catholic Church. Known as Matiya Mulumba, he was a Roman Catholic martyr that underwent excruciating pain as he was skinned alive and left to die in 1886. He is one of the Ugandan martyrs celebrated by Ugandans for their unwavering faith on 3rd June of every year.

At the end of the same road lies Pride theater, one of Uganda’s earliest hosts for music, dance and drama. Now turned into a church, the name is still vivid and crystal clear to many Ugandns that grew up watching this kind of entertainment.

This path led us straight to the heart of Kisenyi, a place situated in downtown Kampala. A neighborhood evidently louder than any other. A place filled with numerous Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians. Here, I saw many vendors selling something and trying to secure their next client. With clothes as cheap as Ugx 2,000, men and women stood by the roadside calling out to passersby.

We also visited the St. Athanasius Bazzeketta monument located in St. Balikudembe market, commonly known as Owino market.

Our walk was crowned with the Buganda Royal Mile, a straight path through Kabaka’anjagala road connecting to the Buganda royal palace and her parliament.

Tourism is an experience. Behind every monument is a story to tell. There are lives and lines behind every monument you come across. A country is best sold by its natives and that is why I choose to tell the Kampala story.

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