a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit

Benard Acema* whipped up quite the storm this week with his post The Racism Behind Kampala; most of the responses being the “What? How Could I Not Have Seen This Before?!” kind that satisfied the mind of a person who yearns for social change out of consciousness.

Some of the responses, though, ranged from those stating there could NOT have been racism in Uganda to others who claimed to have read all six thousand (6,000) words and taken away just one sentence in summary.

My favourite response came from Frank Morris Matovu, an Architect whose reaction was to calmly upload onto his Facebook wall more than ninety (90) pages of a 1955 book titled, ‘Town Planning In Uganda; A Brief Description Of The Efforts Made By Government To Control Development Of Urban Areas From 1915 to 1955‘, by Henry Kendall OBE, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I, Director of Town Planning, Uganda.

Benard Acema’s intellectual and literary effort has proved̀ invaluable in many respects, including possibly causing a change to our education curriculum if the noises made by some of the people in charge are anything to go by.

Benard Acema tells me he had not read Kendall’s book by the time he wrote his thesis.


Those with literal minds and short fuses should go with the first dictionary definition of the word above, when dealing with Benard Acema’s work. The young man did what few others essay (no pun), linking his observations to thought and realisation and a little bit of research and then leading the rest of us to discovery.

Benard Acema’s thesis will be further dissected, proven or contested by various others in the worlds of social media, academia and even public administration, all of which will exclude me for now.

I only came here to share a few pages from Kendall’s book to aid your reading of Benard Acema, and to tell you to get a soft copy of the same directly from Frank Matovu. (He does not sell the book, but to aid his work compiling and storing such works, please feel free to make a modest contribution by way of Mobile Money to his number – 0758 483 934.)

But before you read the book, don’t be afraid of words like racism, colonialism and imperialism. Acknowledge the fact that they were a reality back then when the colonialists first took over Uganda. Nothing about that should be surprising. What we need to do, as many of the commenters said, is get rid of those ‘isms’ and their negative impacts where they may exist which includes dealing with both the big and the small items. 

define-colonialism define-imperialism

Do all three ‘isms’ still exist in Kampala, or Uganda? Benard Acema had valid points to make in that regard, that led to all that debate.

And now, on to the historical facts about settlement in Kampala (and other urban centres), and the question of racism or otherwise:


Of course there was land reserved for Africans and other land for non-Africans.





Read that one again, please?

And then take these:




Mind you, the mere mention of race might not necessarily prove that there was racism afoot, but again that was the reality of those times, as stated later on in the book from the actual Minutes of a meeting of the Central Town Planning Board:

the-principal-of-racial-segregation racial-segregation-again

Naguru, for instance, was reserved for Africans:


And even if race was not the only consideration there was a way, for a while, of working the formulae out that kept zones racially distinct using economics – since certain professions or trades seemed to be restricted (I said ‘for a while’) to particular races. The restriction of construction styles in some residential areas meant that if you couldn’t afford to build a certain type of house you couldn’t live in a certain neighbourhood…

the-development-of-kampala-viii This planning was neither restricted to Kampala alone, nor Uganda as a country.

In Jinja:



And, again, economic reasons were part of the equation:


The same applied elsewhere, in many different ways, but as thousands of Ugandans have declared this week: It WASN’T OBVIOUS!

Which is why I still applaud for Benard Acema, because he tells me the thought occurred to him and kept niggling till he had put his thoughts down in writing – and they appear to be quite accurate. THIS is the stuff that academic study and problem solving is made of. The man clearly did not waste his education, and my hope is that he will continue with it at the same pace while the rest of us play catch up or raise younger children to be like him.

In the time being, all history, social studies and political science teachers, please make some small changes to your teaching texts?

*Benard Acema – Note that I use his name in full so as to ensure it is never forgotten, such that we all strive to educate our children to these heights so they are known for good work such as this.

7 thoughts on “a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit

  1. This is very satisfying to read Simon, and is really where the meat of the issue is (the planning of it all). Thanks for putting this up because it fills in so many gaps that I could not put together for lack of access to actual written records like this. Everyone who has read the first article NEEDS to read this to get the perspective from the actual planning stage as opposed to just getting it from the already executed plan as was in the first article. (Reading the minutes of the meetings made me feel like I was really seating in that room :), it’s the closest I’ve gotten to using a time machine)
    Thank you Frank Matovu for sharing this, as we continue to learn more and free ourselves (as Ugandans) from a history we never got to learn in school but constantly have to dig ourselves out of. (Man is this Satisfying) Thanks again Simon…for EVERYTHING.


  2. Professor Simpson! However, what if that is how the African was at that point in time? He/She could have been the modern day maid in our homes? Few respect these helpers. Yes, it was meant for Kampala, through planning, to segregate from the reads above. We can start by changing the names of some of these roads as Bernard proposed. I doubt we can change it in a generation- my opinion.


  3. It is of course a good thing that we are beginning to examine these issues. However this one and the previous one left me a little underwhelmed to be honest. The issue is a failure to get to the root of the issue: Empire. And the British Empire was one. All empire systems have a similar structure. They have those that are ruled over, the soldiering classes, the co-opted (usually the merchant classes) and they have the owners. In our case, the white (usually British) people were the owners, the asians as the co-opted, etc. The racism of which you write was a mere consequence of this system. So I submit that it is more useful to spend time understanding this thing called empire and its long-term effects on those who have lived under its boot/sandal. The rest are mere details.

    I would, in that vein, consider it more useful to talk about, for instance, the loss of identity suffered by the ruled over. When a people are conquered, the first thing empire does it erase their sense of identity, of history. That way, empire can tell them a new story about who they are or should be, because if you control the minds, then controlling everything else is pretty easy. So it is that you create an educated african class that thinks it greater (or ‘cooler’) to know the latest Premier League scores, than to have a working knowledge of the rise and fall of Bunyoro Kitara Empire, and how that relates to President Museveni’s recent comments about Uganda being “peaceful for the first time in 500 years” — and what that means when a self-proclaimed revolutionary now wishes to re-style himself as a fulfiller of a certain ancient dream! The greatest trick Empire ever pulled is to implicitly convince the educated african that if he works hard enough at it, he too could be British (or white, or whatever you want to call it), and that that is a good thing. The truth of course is that neither of those things is true: We will never be white, and even if we could, it is not necessarily a good thing. Once we understand that, we will spend less time trying to resurrect the cocktail culture. Or stealing so much in the hope of owning a Kololo home. Or choking our quality of life by building ever more massive copycat skyscrapers because we lack the imagination required to re-think what a kibuga should mean. We will then spend more time trying to define a new country out of the ashes of Empire. In part by understanding our past of course.

    I think Simon and others need first to look farther in the past, and more generally at our old culture and way of thinking, and then think more fundamentally. These discussions of racism are surface discussions. Apparent racism is always a consequence of something else. Both on the part of the perceiver and on the part of the perpetrator.


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