By Ogova Ondego
Published July 20, 2012
Uganda is set on replacing its national museum with a 60-storey trade centre.The announcement to demolish the house of culture and replace it with East Africa Trade Centre was made in January 2011 and was swiftly opposed by cultural activists who took legal action against the National Resistance Movement government of President Yoweri Museveni. While the case pends in court, the government’s will is likely to prevail. Already the High Court dismissed the case against the government in April 2012 forcing the petitioners to seek redress from the Court of Appeal two months later.
Writing in The Observer on July 17, 2012, Edris Kiggundu reports that the Uganda National Museum was “founded in 1908 and has exhibits and artifacts of traditional culture, archeology, history and science…that bring to life the different historical aspects of our society.”
Kiggundu writes that the government “believes that the museum has become a liability, having failed to generate any meaningful revenue. A trade centre in the same place, government feels, would perform much better. Yet government must also take part of the blame, having continually underfunded the museum. For instance, for the 2011/2012 financial year, it was allocated a mere USh50 million [about US$22,321], money that certainly is not enough to meet its needs.”
The management of the museum has over the tried to come up with income-generating initiatives–leasing part of its land to the Uganda Wildlife Authority and to private developers, and from gate charges–to circumvent the funding crisis.
Meanwhile, Zambia has created a Ministry of Tourism and Arts to take care of the creative, cultural, travel and tourism matters. The new ministry is to be headed by Sylvia Masebo.
The creation of the ministry, writes Chanda Mwenya in Zambia Daily Mail of July 13, 2012, will instil a lot of enthusiasm and professionalism in the arts sector that is beset by low morale, and administration and financial challenges.
“The ministry is expected to draw more deliberate administrative policies and put to rest some issues that the art fraternity has struggled with for…decades. One such critical issue has been to engage and lobby Government for the creation of an art school. Other pertinent subjects have been to build a national theatre house and to improve the collection of our national museum,” Mwenya writes.
He expresses the hope that with the creation of this ministry, players in the arts sector–National Arts Council (NAC), Zambian National Visual Arts Council (VAC), Zambia Union of Musicians (ZUM)–will take advantage of the government instrument.