Kampala is fondly known as a green city in the sun as well as a city of hills. It is Uganda’s commercial and administrative capital covering an area of approximately 189 square kms with a population of over one million people. Kampala is reported to be one of the fastest growing cities in Africa with an annual population growth of 4.03%.
The history of Kampala city like many other cities in the world is based on both folktales(myths) and historical facts.
According to folktales, swamps and hills dominated much of the area where it presently stands. This made it an ideal habitant for Impalas and other members of the antelope family. These animals often grazed on the slopes of hills and went down to the swamps for water. The palace of the “kabaka” (king of Buganda kingdom) was located on the landscape rich in Impala herds so he turned it into his hunting grounds.Folklore merged with history when the British empire builders arrived at the end of the 19th century. Impala was the English name for that particular antelope family. So the British referred to the area as a hill of “Impalas” which the Baganda translated into Luganda as “kasozi k’empala” meaning the hill of Impalas . So whenever the kabaka left his palace to go hunting for his favorite game, the royal guards would say the king has gone to “Kampala ” to hunt thus the name was born.
Basing on historical facts, “the hill of Impalas ” specifically referred to the hill on which colonial victory was obtained by Captain Fredrick Lugard of the Imperial British East African Company from 1890 until 1894 when their headquarters we’re transferred to Entebbe . Later Kampala regained its status as the capital city of Uganda in 1962 when the country attained its independence.
Kampala was originally a city of seven hills that is to say Namirembe , Makerere, Nakasero, Kololo , Rubaga, Mengo and old Kampala. Although today the city stands on over twenty hills, the original seven hills remain important focal points topped by distinctive landmarks of religious, cultural and colonial significance.
TRANSPORT IN KAMPALA .
Transport is one of the major components of the tourism product.
It refers to the system or means of conveying people or goods from one place to another. The city of can mostly be accessed through road transport using various modes / means of transport as explained below;
The the most common way to get around Kampala city and it neighbouring towns is by using minibus taxis also known as matatus. This is the most efficient and cost effective method of transportation in urban centres. The fares are predetermined according to the destination where one is heading to and at times they are negotiable.
However shorter distances can be as low as 500 – 1000 Uganda shillings. These matatas are usually crowded , cheap , frequent and normally make alot of stopovers. They run along fixed routes picking up and dropping off people on allocated stages along the road. Matatus are normally accessed from major car/ taxi parks of Kampala where they are parked and marked according to their destinations. The major taxi parks in Kampala
include Old taxi park, New taxi park, Kisenyi taxi park, Usafi park among others . Just in case you are not sure where to catch a taxi going to your destination ,ask a nearby driver or conductor and they’ll probably be able to point you to the right direction.
The city of Kampala can also be accessed by use of buses. The buses operate in a similar system as the matatus only that they are more organized . Many bus companies offer direct lines between Kampala and its neighbouring districts as well as countries like Kenya, Rwanda among others. Kampala has a decent bus system with two classes of buses. That is the matatus taxis or commuter vans that were discussed earlier and the real buses which run less frequent ly usually leaving the city very early in the morning. Domestic bus travel is reasonable and cheap between major centres and it is a good choice for back packers though it may not run reliably on schedule. They have set bus stops all over town which eliminates the sudden stopping and starting.
These buses have a standard fare no matter how far or near you travel so long as it’s the same road or route . However it should be noted that both buses and taxis don’t run on fixed schedule but rather leave their terminals when they are completely full. They normally fill up easily on heavily travelled routes which helps the traveller to save time but on less travelled routes you just have to be prepared to wait a while for it to be full before departure. Some bus drivers and conductors of certain companies such as pioneer bus , link among others wear uniforms with ties and they offer services in a very professional and friendly way .
Special car hire or taxis.
You can hire special cars or vehicles to your destination. This is perhaps the safest and fastest way to travel for a group of of about four to five people. Local drivers have a good idea of how long journeys will take. The fares are not fixed but negotiable depending on the routes you are to take and the distance to be traveled. Today some of these car services for example Uber can be accessed online when you download their app. You can hire a special taxi in the comfort of your sitting room or wherever you may be. Generally , white or yellow or black and yellow seem to be the taxi sign on top or side of the car. There are many car hire stages around town and these include Garden city, National theater, Pioneer mall among others.
This is perhaps the most adventurous way of accessing different destinations within and around Kampala city. Their ubiquitous presence in the city is as a result of a number of including the increasing demand for public transit, the ability to buy motor cycles on credit as well as an influx of cheap imports from Indian manufacturers for example Bajaj. Boda bodas provide transportation options to riders and job opportunities. The name boda boda is synonymous to cycle taxis ( both motorized and bicycles) in many parts of East Africa. It iriginated from the small border town of Busia. Small traders in this Kenya -Uganda frontier town back in the late 1980s and early 1990s needed cheap transport to ferry their goods mainly cooking oil, soaps and other consumer goods from Kenya to Uganda. They came in handy as cheap, convenient means of ferrying the business people and their wares from one border to another hence the name boda boda ( border to border). Boda bodas can easily be accessed since they are readily available along different routes and stages. With the advancement in technology, one can book them online when she or he down loads a company app of his/ her choice for example safe boda,taxify , Uber among others. The riders of these companies are very decent, disciplined and respectfull of the traffic rules so it’s always advisable to use them for purposes of safety , convenience and affordability. The ordinary boda bodas may be quite risky to o use though they are very fast and they have the ability to get you to your next destination in a split of seconds. They have mastered the art of manoeuvring their way through the traffic thus a favorite for many especially those who may be time bad or late for different events or occasions. The charges or fares are not fixed but negotiable depending on the distance to be travelled and they can be as low as 1000 Uganda shillings for a distance of about 1 km.
The above are the major ways through which one can access Kampala and its neighbouring districts. However , the road transport of Kampala city has a number of challenges which include heavy traffic especially in rush hours, congestion on roads due to increased number of people, boda bodas and other vehicles, narrow and poorly maintained roads, increase in road accidents among others.
The good news is that Kampala Capital City Authority in partnership with other bodies such as the Uganda National Roads Authority are working hand in hand to solve the above issues in the following ways:
– Over 150 square km of roads are being constructed.
-Upgrading and expansion of major junctions across Kampala and urban districts.
-Re- construction of pedestrian walk ways .
-Dualing of several roads.
– Introducing solar street lights .
– Developing a city wide multi- modal transport master plan and detailed neighborhood plan among others.
All this is being done for a better city as the motto of KCCA is because a good road is one that is tarmacked with marked lanes ,a pedestrian walk way , street lights fitted with road signs and traffic lights at junctions and a good road should be connected to a robust road network and high ways to ease movement in and out of the city.
Other types of transport that are rarely used in Kampala include air transport which can be accessed from Kololo airstrip, water transport which can be accessed from Luzira which links Kampala to Portbell and railway transport which carries passengers on daily trips. One in the morning at 7am and another in the evening at 5:30pm. Passengers going between Kampala and Bweyogerere pay shs 1000 while those reaching Namanve pay shs 1500. Apparently this is the only route from which the train operates but plans to open up other routes are underway.
In a nutshell, transport plays a key pivotal role in the development of the tourism industry and good infrastructural development gives a memorable travel experience to travelers . Without transport , the tourism product is incomplete and non existent at all. Therefore transport infrastructure should be well developed and maintained to enhance the growth and development of the tourism industry of Kampala and Uganda at large.
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REPORTED BY: NAMANDA WINFRED
TOUR GUIDE IN KAMPALA UGANDA