In the euphoria that followed his election victory last year, Kampala mayor, Nasser Ntege Sebaggala, was asked by a journalist how he foresaw his tenure as head of Uganda’s capital.
His reply was curt. “Kampala is a big concrete slum. I am going to make it like New York [in USA].” And he said that with a lot of zeal, detailing how he would streamline the city’s transport system; rehabilitate some roads and revamp the city’s drainage system to curb floods.
Sebaggala is yet to bring the buses like one above he launched in June last year
What followed was very much in that line. He launched a city-wide campaign to rid the city of garbage—- a campaign that drew applauds even from his critics.
He also announced plans for the city bus service that was supposed to replace the chaotic commuter vans before the end of last year, thereby reducing the cost of transport. It seemed he could not put a foot wrong.
Then things began to change. Shauriyako market vendors urgently needed Sebaggala’s support to stave off an impending buy out by businessman, Muzamiru Basajjabalaba.
In the meantime, he started bickering with Kampala Central division chairman, Godfrey Nyakaana over the city’s plans. Sebaggala claimed that Nyakaana was interfering in various projects, like the proposed re-development of the Constitution Square and the management of city markets.
Their bickering was thought to be political, considering that Sebaggala is from the opposition background while Nyakaana is a die hard NRM supporter.
While the above conflict has subsided, Sebaggala’s mayoral reign today appears to be in tatters and fresh questions are being raised as to whether he is fully in charge at the White Hall.
Besides his unfulfilled promises, he also seems to have lost his way, particularly in the wake of emerging scandals involving the sale of city markets and the renewal of Uganda Taxi Owners and Drivers Association’s (UTODA) license.
If there is one thing that is going to define Sebaggala’s legacy, it is the way he has handled the management of several city markets.
Before he took over at KCC, most city markets were owned by the Council and only managed on its behalf by contractors such as Hassan Bassajjabala’s Sheila Investment in Nakasero market.
This kind of arrangement ensured that the vendors were assured of their livelihood without fear of eviction while KCC ensured the contractors handled them well.
Yet Sebaggala – who at the age of 12 sold fruits and vegetables in the same market – wants this arrangement to be revoked.
“The city is organic and it [the market] has to change,” he told vendors of Nakasero market last week.
According to his vision for the city, a 15-storey building is supposed to be erected on the plots occupied by Nakasero market. Part of this plan, he claims, will see vendors own 30% of the building while Sheila Investments takes the remaining 70%.
The vendors have rejected the proposal, which they view as the first step in their eventual eviction from the market. But Sebaggala told The Weekly Observer last week that the market issue has been resolved and that “99% of the vendors were in agreement with the new arrangement.”
Basajjabalaba, according to documents seen by The Weekly Observer, has since paid a total of Shs 853, 020, 785 million – using three bank payment forms to Stanbic Bank, IPS branch, regarding the title deed for plots 4B and 7B or Nakasero market.
Sebaggala’s latest position contradicts what he told the vendors in September last year that he would see to it that they take over the management of the market.
Former Local Government minister, Bidandi Ssali, recently said on CBS’s public debate, Mambo Bado, that if he were still minister, he could not sanction the sale of the market.
“After the sale of the market, the common man will be sidelined, so where will he get money to buy food and pay fees for his children?” he asked.
Bidandi revealed how he resisted attempts to sell Kisekka market to investors after realising that its sale would jeopardise the livelihood of thousands of people.
With Nakasero gone and the dispute over Shauriyako market still in court, the focus has shifted to St. Balikuddembe [owino] market also managed by Basajjabalaba. Some say it is just a matter of time before it is sold.
Links to State House
While it is a good thing for the mayor and the central government to work together, critics think Sebaggala’s close relationship with State House has done him more harm than good.
They argue that because of this link, the mayor is subjected to government’s or President Museveni’s directives and has little room to question these.
In fact, he admitted while featuring recently on WBS TV that the decision to sell Nakasero emanated from government which wanted to see an orderly city ahead of CHOGM, trashing claims he made last year that the government cannot overrule him.
Matters have not been helped by the fact that Sebaggala’s relationship with some councillors does not seem to be good. He is not particularly at peace with councillors who oppose some of his programmes, like Bernard Luyiga of Makerere University.
Is the mayorship becoming too heavy for him to handle?
Sebaggala disagrees. “How can someone say I have failed?” he retorted over the phone last week.
Asked when the city bus service will become operational, he sounded unsure, giving a cagey “soon.” Those close to Ssebaggala argue that his main undoing so far is that he wants to play the populist card which sometimes leads him to unwittingly overstep established proceedures.
For instance, by announcing the introduction of buses complete with a contractor, he raised the anxiety of many people. But the law requires that such a decision must be made after it has been thoroughly discussed and endorsed by KCC’s 31 man-strong council, after which a bidding process commences.
Other analysts say he is a victim of Uganda’s politics where in some cases his programmes are deliberately failed by people inclined to the government.
With four years left of his reign, it would be premature to write off Sebaggala. But pressure is slowly mounting on him to deliver what he promised.
SOME OF SEBAGGALA’S PLANS
- City bus service
- COld taxi park to become 25-storey building with five levels of parking
- Eradicate city slums
- Enlarge and tarmac 58km of city roads
- Redevelop Constitution Square into green zone with a fountain
- Erect landmark sign to identify Kampala similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris