Uganda 11 Years After CHOGM 2007 Excitement

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A decade later, just how much can Ugandans remember of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, that took place in Kampala in 2007.

The sweeping, planting of trees and renovation as well as construction of new hotels around Kampala spoke volumes about how much the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007 was a very important event for the country.

The roads were lit, more gardens planted and the hotels constructed as the country particularly Kampala city was getting set to host over 50 delegations. Not only were heads of state of the Commonwealth countries coming to Uganda, but Her Highness Queen Elizabeth II of England was returning to the Pearl of Africa for the first time since her April1954 visit.

And finally, it was November the month for the summit

Several hotels were hurriedly constructed or reconstructed to meet the standards set for the delegates.

The green scenery that was created by planting of trees and flowers along the road, the redesigned junction at the clock tower and the billboards that were competing for the attention of passers-by would make you wonder why it took the authorities so long to work on the entry gates to the southern part of Uganda’s capital city. Many Ugandans welcomed the new developments anyway.

So, 11 years down the road, we revisit these developments, are Ugandans still benefiting from them? First, we take a ride to the gardens at the Kibuye road round about. The carefully groomed grass with the words CHOGM have since become unkempt.

The Katwe CHOGM gardens have since been allowed to become unkempt

Then we visit the famous Joggo hotel and leisure complex in Bwebajja, along Entebbe Road but the once beautiful structure now stands dilapidated. It has undergone several attempts at renaissance from being a university, training centre to supermarket without much success.

Munyonyo is one of the places that came up.

But all is not lost. Some of the hotels that were setup are still reaping big from the 2007 influx of cash ahead of the CHOGM summit. Among these are Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, Lake Victoria Serena Resort, and Imperial Royale.

So we ask, what happened to the rest of the hotels that were set up then and are now no more.  Former Kampala Mayor Hajji Nasser Ssebagala, who was the mayor at the time of the visit says Ugandans need to take responsibility for this infrastructure.

At about that time the Uganda Police Force introduced white uniforms for its traffic offices and have maintained this. The addition of white to police uniforms was a bright spot of colour from the regimental khaki.

Uganda Police in their white traffic uniforms

Traffic boss Dr Steven Kasiima remembers that the police first debuted these uniforms on the day Queen Elizabeth touched down in Uganda at Entebbe International Airport.

He recalls that maintaining law and order and traffic was especially challenging during the CHOGM function. Police often had to calm down an angry population when whole roads were closed off to ordinary traffic to enable quick transit of the many Very Important Persons delegations in the country.

During the image revamp, the Parliament of Uganda also received the famous CHOGM gardens. The gardens are not always accessible to the public but the greenery livens up the drab glass and concrete buildings that surround the House.

Sadly the tree that Queen Elizabeth II planted a memorial to visit eleven years ago has since dried up.

Story by Sheila Tusiime Mugisha