Few people stop to give it a glance today. But in 2013 when the KCCA fountain was opened to the public, it was one of the most exciting public spaces to visit in Kampala.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi had opened it with much fanfare. Musisi described the fountain as a public space Ugandans could stop and relax in the middle of the maddening babble of the city.
Musisi promised that the total cost of shillings 1.5 billion spent on the fountain would be justified as the public congregated and used this latest resource to a Kampala the authority was working to give a fresh face. She further defended the expenditure by explaining that over shillings 700 million had actually come from donations by individuals and companies.
With water throwing graceful arches in the air as the fountain revolved, lights of all shades but mostly blue and royal purple, it did seem like the KCCA fountain would be a magical stop in Kampala. For days afterwards, crowds lined up to gain entry and take photos at the fountain.
Head over heels lovers monopolised the green coloured benches as they whispered sweet nothings to each other for hours. With the former City Square now cordoned off as Constitutional Square under guard by the Uganda Police Force, there had hardly been a public space for a Ugandan to while away an hour or two. The KCCA fountain seemed like the answer.
In addition to the fountain itself, Musisi had instructed that the area be reconstructed in such a way that road traffic could not stray into it. There were raised stone fences, long benches nailed into the concrete so that they could never be taken away. A person seated in the fountain area could be entertained by a giant digital screen that Musisi and KCCA anticipated would attract advertisers and from time to time show entertainment features.
Eight years down the line, the KCCA fountain is a shell of its former glory. The fountain no longer splashes graceful arches of water into the air to relieve the tedium of evening travellers trapped in traffic in taxis and their cars. Or on boda bodas trying to find an opening between the bumper to bumper traffic. In fact, the fountain has not worked for years.
As many skeptics had anticipated, the fancy technology that made the fountain whirl and run, was responsible for the impressive light show has long been vandalised. KCCA attempted to install security lights and cameras to monitor who could be responsible. Those were stolen too.
Ibra Kalema (27) who works in a building adjacent to the fountain bemoans the downfall of the structure. He hopes that one day, KCCA will prioritise maintaining the space because, “Even in its state, people still come around.”
Daniel Ogola, a driver, says he misses the times when he used to seek shelter under the greenery that KCCA had planted in the space. He says the fountain area was perfect for spending time while waiting for his employer to run errands in the vicinity.
Today, “Rarely do people take photos like in the past. Since the year began, this is my fourth time here. Some people you see here you don’t feel comfortable because sometimes your phone can be taken,” Ogola chuckled.
However, KCCA spokesperson Daniel NuweAbine says the authority has not given up on the fountain. He insists, “We are going to revamp all public spaces in the city. KCCA is adopting a parish model in service delivery and economic empowerment. It is through this that we shall ensure that all requisite interventions are accomplished.”
Hard to believe with KCCA complaining that it has been underfunded since the departure of Musisi. Kampala residents can only hope they will get to see that fountain spray a squirt of refreshing water into the air once more, if they ever get it working again.