• Sun. May 28th, 2023

UGANDA, Mbarara | Real Muloodi News | Kisenyi Slum in Mbarara City is undergoing a rapid economic transformation where neighbourhoods are being rebuilt to support new economic activities and provide accommodation for the growing population with higher incomes and discerning tastes.

The Kisenyi slum in Mbarara was formerly known for criminal activities, dead body dumping, drug addiction and so many degrading activities.

The slum has, however, been transformed into a bustling business and residential area, attracting people from different social classes. The area’s transformation was possible with a concerted effort from security agencies, local leaders, and residents.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Kisenyi was a no-go area for many residents of Mbarara City.

Rwamwojo Kasigaire, now 70 years old, remembers the neighbourhood as one of the most feared places in Mbarara City.

“This was a den of criminals who gave the area a bad reputation. I remember a time when you could not say you came from Kisenyi because that automatically meant you had criminal associations,” he recounts.

The area was ridden with criminal activities, drug addiction, and frequent shootouts between gangs and security agencies. Some gangs attacked, robbed, and tormented people during the day with impunity.

Operation Wembley

With the mounting insecurity, security agencies launched Operation Wembley, which led to the arrest and prosecution of many gangsters.

Abdallah Katwire says that with the security returning to the neighbourhood, tentative developments began to appear.

“People started showing interest in the area and were even willing to buy land. Back then, a 50X100ft plot cost about Shs8m. Right now, the same plot goes for about Shs150m depending on the location,” says Katwire.

Rashid Mukasa, the former Kakoba Division chairperson says the security enjoyed by the new residents did not come easy nor was it achieved overnight.

It took more than 15 years to restore sanity in the area and build people’s confidence to want to live there. The security strategy included recruiting local defence security personnel (LDUs), coordinated by LCs and police. They carried out joint operations to disperse any gangs that tried to move back in.

“We had to recruit local defense security personnel (LDUs) that were coordinated by LCs and police. We would carry out joint operations to disperse any gangs that tried to move back in. That is how we managed to improve security of neighbourhood,” notes Mukasa.

Mukasa says another security strategy was demarcating the neighbourhood under zones.

“With the increasing number of population, we demarcated security zones where a group of 10-15 households had its own security committee, we then beefed up that team with their own security,” says Mukasa adding that infrastructural developments such as the extension of electricity, opening up of new roads and upgrading the existing ones also helped very much in attracting people into the area.

Kisenyi is now one of the fastest-growing areas in Mbarara City, with several accommodation facilities, retail businesses, bars, hotels, and restaurants.

Unlike in the past, there is an active nightlife that has attracted people to work beyond 8 pm.

However, with the area’s rapid development, physical planning challenges have emerged, such as unplanned structures and poor drainage and sanitation challenges.

Jomo Mugabi, Mbarara City North division Mayor, acknowledges the challenges, and he blames the city’s past leaders for failing to prioritise physical planning for the area.

“The city’s past leaders ignored some crucial urban planning guidelines and let uncontrolled development mushroom all over the place. But all that is in the past, we have stopped that course by enforcing building policies and guidelines,” says Mugabi.

However, Mbarara City Clerk, Assy Abireebe notes that the city is strict with developers and cannot allow unplanned structures.

“There are structures that might have been there before but as of now we cannot allow any unplanned structure here, if we find such structures we demolish them,’’ says Abireebe.

The Positive Impacts of Gentrification

Gentrification has led to the improvement of living standards in Mbarara City, with Kisenyi being an example of the positive impacts of gentrification.

The transformation of Kisenyi has attracted people from different social classes, resulting in a mix of residents in the area.

The area’s security has improved and has also attracted infrastructural developments, such as the extension of electricity, opening up new roads, and upgrading the existing ones, making the area more accessible.

The Negative Impacts of Gentrification

One of the most significant negative impacts of gentrification is displacement. As neighbourhoods become more desirable due to gentrification, property values and rents increase, making it difficult for lower-income residents to afford to live there.

As a result, they are forced to move to cheaper neighbourhoods, sometimes even leaving the city altogether. This can have a devastating effect on the social fabric of a neighbourhood, as longtime residents who have contributed to the community are forced out.

Muhammad Byansi, a city councillor, however, is concerned by the haphazard development of the area.

 “Many people are rushing to buy land in the neighbourhood because of its proximity to the city. Unfortunately they are putting up unplanned structures and you can see the effects in the rampant poor drainage and sanitation challenges,” Byansi says.

As new residents move in, they may bring their cultural traditions and preferences, which can clash with those of the existing residents. This can lead to the erasure of local culture and history, as buildings are demolished and replaced with new developments that cater to the tastes of the new residents.

Gentrification can also contribute to increased inequality. As property values and rents rise, those who can afford to live in gentrified neighbourhoods tend to be wealthier and more educated. This can create a social divide, with gentrified neighbourhoods becoming enclaves of the affluent, while lower-income residents are pushed out to less desirable areas. This can further exacerbate existing inequalities in access to education, healthcare, and other resources.

The new developments often require the demolition of existing buildings, which can lead to the destruction of green spaces and the displacement of wildlife. Additionally, there will be increased traffic and pollution as more people move into the area.

About Kisenyi Slum in Mbarara

Kisenyi is located in Kakoba ward, Mbarara City South division town around two kilometres from the city centre. The once-feared slum as a hub for criminals has now turned out to be a middle-class residential and business hub. It is believed to be among the fastest-growing areas in Mbarara City with a population of more than 7,000 people.

Kisenyi slum in Mbarara got its name from business people who equated it with Kampala’s Kisenyi which was also a criminal hub but has been transformed with the help of some of the real estate muloodi tycoons like Haruna Sentongo.

Nakayiza Market, N. M Apartments, and Haruna Towers are some of the prominent establishments in Mengo-Kisenyi in Kampala owned by Ssentongo under his Umbrella Company – Haruna Enterprises.


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