From a single city, created at independence in 1962, Ugandans in seven more towns woke up Wednesday as city dwellers, as the government plan to create secondary cities took effect.
The government elevated to cities the municipalities of Arua in the West Nile region near the DR Congo and South Sudan borders, Gulu in the Central North, Mbale and Jinja in the east, Mbarara in the Midwest, Fort Portal in the west and Masaka in central region.
“The Uganda Vision 2040, the overarching 30-year national vision, identified creation of regional and strategic cities as one of the key drivers for the development agenda of the country’s long term aspirations and projections for the future,” said Raphael Magyezi, the Minister for Local Government.
He spoke on Tuesday in Kampala as he announced guidelines for the operationalization of the cities.
There will, however, be no major fanfare due to restrictions imposed for the containment of the coronavirus pandemic.
Police shut down plans by the new cities to have fireworks displays.
“Your application to blast cracker fireworks in Gulu, Fort Portal, Mbarara, Jinja and Mbale cities are acknowledged,” wrote police director of operations Edward Ochom to the new cities. “Be informed that fireworks blasting was suspended due to Covid-19. The same will resume once lockdown is fully lifted.”
Mr Magyezi on Tuesday added that the regional cities were planned as a response to the high urbanisation growth rate the country is experiencing. The plan is to create a total of 15 regional and strategic cities with seven taking effect on July 1, 2020.
Hoima, Soroti, and Lira are planned for 2021/2022, while Entebbe, which was the first seat of the colonial government, will be operationalised in the financial year 2022/2023. Nakasongola, Moroto, Kabale and Wakiso will become cities in 2023/2024, according to the government plan.
The aggressive city creation effort comes 57 years after the elevation of Kampala from a Municipality at independence to city status as the national capital.
Kampala City has an estimated day time population of 1.6 million people and the larger Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area, large swathes of which have grown organically without proper planning, has a combined population of about 6.7 million people according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS).