Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) Executive Director has received numerous threats on her life following the Thursday take over of the controversial leafy Centenary Park.
Musisi talked to this paper in an exclusive interview on Saturday morning that unknown people were sending threatening messages to her phone warning her that she would die if KCCA did not back off from the park.
The park was a scene of violent confrontation between the KCCA law enforcement and the sitting tenants especially the lease holder, Nnalongo Estates. The KCCA law enforcers were backed by police as the authority sought to take over the park to turn into a green belt.
“The resistance at Centenary Park was expected because ever since KCCA communicated the termination of the Management contract, I and my team have been receiving threats of dealing with us, death threats, threats to burn our homes and property as well as beating us up. I have received personal threats on my phone and through anonymous messages. This is happening almost daily,” she revealed.
“But like I said, we are dealing with a destroyed society. So we pray and plough on,” she added.
The confrontation at the park came to a halt when Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde intervened and stopped the eviction. She referred to Musisi as terrorist before apologizing to her during a meeting at the KCCA head office.
Kyambadde revealed she had been misled by some of the tenants who reported that the KCCA law enforcement was razing down their structures as well destroying their property.
KCCA terminated the management contract with Nnalongo estates, the park’s lease holder following the latter’s breach of agreement which strictly forbade it from constructing permanent structures on the belt.
Below is the full text of the interview.
Red Pepper: Why are you reclaiming this park?
Musisi: Centenary Park was a green Public park set up to commemorate 100 years of the existence of Kampala City. The lease title held by KCCA indicates the use as a public open space.
KCC entered a management contract with Nalongo Estates to maintain the area as a bridal garden. Under this contract, the place was to be kept open to the public and Nalongo Estates was not allowed to build any structure thereon without authorization from the owner who was KCC. Over the years, Nalongo continuously breached the agreement by building unauthorized structures and closing the park off to the general public. The KCCA Contracts Committee decided to terminate the contract in April 2012 due to these breaches.
RP: But did you have to violently reclaim what belongs to you? The Thursday morning scenes were ghastly!
Musisi:No, not all. During the process of taking possession, the proprietors of Nnalongo Estates mobilized and arrived with a mob which included
hooligans who according to Police were armed with knives, hammers and iron bars. They are the ones who attacked the KCCA staff who reacted by arresting them. Police reports indicate that of the proprietors, Sarah Kizito, assaulted two KCCA officers leading to her arrest and detention.
RP: Why is this park such a hot potato at this time?
Musisi: Everything in Kampala is a hot potato. You just need resolve to handle such potatoes otherwise you will never do anything to move Kampala out of the dumps it had fallen into.
RP: There are allegations that KCC is taking it over the park in order to facilitate a fraudulent sale to somebody else. What is the truth?
Musisi: It is the usual Kampala rumor mills grinding away. KCCA is not selling Centenary Park or any other green area in Kampala. At least not when I am still here as the custodian of all KCCA properties. That will not happen.
RP: You are being accused of applying selective justice on this matter. That other structures like Garden City and Oasis Mall are illegally occupying a green belt but are silent on them. Why?
Musisi: The Centenary Park issues are specific to breach of a management contract to manage a particular green area. There are laws governing wetland degradation which are strictly implemented by NEMA as the lead agency and KCCA under its physical planning role. The penalties for degrading range from warnings, restoration orders, prosecution, fines, imprisonment and demolition. They can be applied on a case by case basis after studying permits given, zoning rules wetland boundaries etc. We are looking at all these. It is also important to say that KCCA’s fundamental role is not to demolish buildings but service delivery, regulation and planning for the City as well as Infrastructure development. Our focus is on these.
RP: Is that green belt so important? Why don’t you let structures come up and employ more people?
Musisi: Green belts world over enable the City to “breathe.” They provide places to absorb surface run off water when it rains, beautify the city and provide recreational areas for the public. So, we definitely need them.
RP: The president has praised you for somehow improving the city. But other Ugandans think you have done nothing. What have you achieved?
Musisi: Even if one were blind at least they would hear or even smell the difference. The city is cleaner and greener than I found it. It is lit up at night. Roads are being repaired and all these initiatives have created jobs for over 4000 cleaners. We have set up community projects, service delivery is more effective and revenue collection for the city has almost doubled. We have also set up a new institution to manage Kampala.
RP: What challenges are you facing?
Musisi: Turning a city that has been degenerated for so many years is not easy. The levels of personal interest, greed, corruption and fraud in matters to do with City Administration is at depressing levels. Funds are limited so we cannot do everything we planned to do. There are also politicians in the city structure who have a very different agenda from that of the technical staff, often making work a challenge. It is an uphill task but we shall eventually win. We have the good will.
RP: Do you have a personal problem with Hon. Kyambadde and Sarah Kizito? Both accused you of being insensitive and a terrorist?
Musisi: I have no personal problems or relationships with either lady or for that matter anyone else we are affecting in this City. I am just executing my duties as accounting officer for KCCA. The accusations, suspicions, threats and personal attacks come with the territory especially because we are dealing with many people who were part of the causes of Kampala’s looting of public property and degeneration in the first place.
RP: In your view, how best should Kampala residents embrace your initiatives?
Musisi: People need to realize that in supporting and working towards redeeming and restoring Kampala, they are not helping Jennifer Musisi, they’re doing it for themselves, their children and their grandchildren. Their investments, properties and businesses will deteriorate as Kampala deteriorates. But they will gain if Kampala improves. So they have a choice.
Kampala residents need to appreciate and be part of the change. For example keeping the city and their homes clean, protecting public infrastructure, protecting the Green environment and participating in city initiatives such as communal cleaning is something they should embrace. They should move from spectating and criticizing in front of TV screens, in the comfort of their living rooms or spending airtime calling radio stations to actually doing something positive about Kampala. No matter how long and how loudly they praise Kigali, or Brussels or Cape Town, they will always be Ugandans and will always be associated to Kampala.
The technical team at KCCA is doing their best amidst fierce resistance. But we need more Kampalans to catch the same vision.
RP: Don’t you fear for your life? These policies are negatively affecting people’s incomes and they could retaliate.
Musisi: Ofcourse. But pray about it. The resistance at the park for example was expected because ever since KCCA communicated the termination of the Management contract, I and my team have been receiving threats of dealing with us, death threats, threats to burn our homes and property and beating us up. I have received personal threats on the phone and through messages, almost daily. But like I said. We are dealing with a destroyed society. So we pray and plough on “