By Joshua Niyonshima
A feeling of euphoria filled the streets of Kisoro yesterday after Key decision makers and stakeholders forced the hand of Kisoro Municipal councilors to reverse their decision to turn the Mayor’s Gardens into a Modern Market.
The decision not to tamper with the only green belt in Kisoro Municipality has also resulted in saving a smaller Gatimba Market to be converted into a green belt as well.
Kisoro municipal councilors, last week passed a resolution to turn Kisoro Mayor’s Garden into a modern market that is expected to cost up to 25 billion Ugandan shillings.
According to a Council meeting minute seen by Vomuhabura.com, the Mayor’s gardens would change its name to Gatimba Market under, the Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Programme (MATIP) while Gatimba would be reserved as a green belt.
The decision by Council irked the public who voiced their distaste on the matter by making use of various social media platforms. The public efforts to save Kisoro Mayors’ gardens were not in vain.
Stakeholders Meet and Decide to Reverse Decision
The meeting that was held at BAM 2 hotel in Kisoro Municipality attracted the participation of Members of Parliament including Kisoro Municipality MP Paul Kwizera Buchana, Kisoro Woman MP who also serves in the capacity as State Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Sarah Mateke Nyirabashitsi.
Kisoro Municipality MP. Hon. Paul Buchana said the decision to turn Mayor’s Gardens into a market is absurd because the MATIP program specifically targets already existing markets that require an upgrade.
“Markets that have vendors but lack the sanitary standards and have proven unsuitable to have vendors will be the ones that are targeted, therefore talk of converting Mayors’ Garden or taking it to Saaza should be disregarded”, Buchana Paul explained
Minister Sarah Mateke said she was extremely impressed by the level of unity from the people of Kisoro who have joined one voice to fight for Mayor’s Gardens.
She noted that Mayor’s Gardens has always been a place of worship and other social activities.
“I was receiving phone calls from as far as Nyabweshenya, Kisoro Municipality, Busanza and Nyarusizia with people saying the same thing, please save Mayors’ Gardens from destruction. If we did not fight to reverse the council decision, we were going to witness the strongest prayers from God’s people, said Hon. Sarah Mateke
Minister Mateke however advised all stakeholders not to be taken up in emotional excitement adding that the Municipal council needs to meet quickly and make a new resolution to protect the Mayor’s Gardens from future attacks.
Technical Team given two days to fight for the Project.
The Kisoro Municipal Town Clerk Sharifa Nakintu explained to the stakeholders that the weekend following the council resolution was the worst she had experienced in Kisoro.
Nakintu says she had to travel to Mbarara to meet with the Assistant of Urban Inspection in the Ministry of Local Government Yasin Sendaula to find an alternative option so that Kisoro district does not lose out on the mega project.
According to Nakintu, Old Market will be proposed for rehabilitation under the MATIP program.
“We have been given two days to harmonize the matter so that Government can move forward with its plans for the district”, said Nakintu
Winners and Losers in Mayor’s Garden Saga
Members of Public with keen interest in conservation showed themselves strong after they proved that a united voice can make a difference.
Using a Whatsup group titled Save Kisoro Mayor’s Garden, people openly expressed their concerns and challenged the leaders to reconsider their decision.
An Online petition was also started that garnered several signatures within hours of its creation.
It would now seem that the Municipal councilors with ulterior motives have been sniffed out.
Social media rumors indicate that upon completion of the market in the Mayor’s Gardens, some councilors would own lockups in the new mega market, however this has not been verified.
This is not the fight time, public interest has led to a government decision being reversed.
In August 2011, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced that he planned to give away part of Mabira rainforest to a sugar corporation to grow a sugarcane plantation and enhance sugar production in the country.
The President had made a similar proposal in 2007 and only abandoned it after public and environmental groups received it with immense resistance.