Government, Watoto church at loggerheads over demolition of Uganda’s first Cinema

Government, Watoto church at loggerheads over demolition of Uganda’s first Cinema

Government and the management of Watoto church are locked in a standstill over the planned demolition of its historic Norman Cinema building.

According to reports, Watoto wants to replace it with a 12 storeyed building, three star hotel, 3000 auditorium, a shopping centre and youth centre.

Earlier Watoto church through a multinational architectural firm, symbion Uganda Limited released a plan that would see the building demolished to pave way for the construction of a 2000 seater conference centre, retail space and a 3 star hotel among other buildings and recreation functions.

However this was a surprise move of some the preservationists who later on launched a campaign dubbed “ Don’t demolish our heritage “and # save Watoto church.”

Through the campaign they asked Watoto to review its development plan to preserve the architectural uniqueness of the site and leave parts of the intact.

According to the directorate of physical planning at Kampala Capital City Authority also declined to approve the design demanding the the developers submit a plan that caters for the preservation of some aspects of the historical structure.

However the acting deputy director of physical planning at KCCA Ms Kusiima Anita was hesitant to share updates on the negotiations with Watoto management.

She was however reaffirmed that Watoto had submitted its redevelopment plans and that the matter of the preservation of the building was being handled by the authority’s legal directorate.

“ I don’t want to comment on Watoto church but yes they submitted plans and it’s handled by our legal departments,” said Kusiima.

According to Nyiracyiza Jackson’s the acting commissioner for museums and monuments at the ministry of tourism said that the government’s position still remains with that of Watoto management of preserving part of the structure.

She also hoped that the current bill on historical sites and monuments although returned to parliament by the president shall help in their bid to preserve such sites.

Earlier in 2022 , parliament had passed the museums and monuments bill which sought to provide for formalisation, control and protection of tangible and associated intangible cultural heritage.

There was some hopeful that Watoto which was listed as item 213 of part 3 which lists historical and cultural in the new bill would be saved though it was later returned by the president questioning some of the listed sites.

However with both government and the managing Watoto church seemingly resolute on their decision to preserve and redevelop the contested premises and no law to settle the haul between them, the future of Norman cinema remains hanging which could join the list of lost buildings such as the ivory tower of Makerere University and Kasubi which were all brought down by fire and pioneer mall which was demolished for another bigger and modern mall.