The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has appealed to government to expedite the process of amending the Historical Monuments Act, 1967 to enhance protection of heritage and historical buildings in the country.
The call was made by the Uganda National Commissioner for UNESCO, Daniel Kaweesi during a half day workshop in Kampala organized by the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) under the theme; “Rediscovering buildings of historic importance”. Kaweesi said that there are certain challenges that need to be addressed in terms of legislation if the country’s historical buildings are to be protected.
“Uganda doesn’t have the best legislation in terms of heritage preservation. The current law that is operational is the Historical Monuments Act of 1967 which is outdated because it does not address certain components of heritage in view of the conventions Uganda has ratified,” Kaweesi said.
Kaweesi added that, “It is very important if government comes out to address the issue of legislation, despite ratifying several conventions, these can’t be implemented without an enabling law.”
He noted that the legislation will help to domesticate the conventions which will enable everybody to begin working within the legal framework.
“We understand that the process is underway to revise the Historical Monuments Act, but it is taking too long and as a result, a lot of heritage is being destroyed. We ask government to work on the amendments as soon as possible so that we should be in position to safeguard what we have been keeping for the good of the future generations.”
On her part, the CCFU Executive Director, Emily Drani said that the weak laws are affecting the country’s heritage since there is no awareness creation on the importance of historical buildings.
“The laws are not up-to-date, the penalty of destroying a historical building or property is almost negligible and that is why in Kampala, it is very easy to demolish a historical building and nothing is done,” Drani said.
She noted that civil society organizations can make a lot of noise about preservation but as long as the problem of the legal frameworks is tackled, not much can change.
“The law is supposed to provide technical and financial support to the preservation efforts, but currently, there is no list of the historical buildings that are considered treasures in Uganda and once a building is listed, the owners would be getting support.”
She added that CCFU is in the process of setting up a Heritage Trust, a body that will be responsible for supporting heritage preservation in Uganda which is currently looking at the historical buildings mainly.
“The idea behind it is that where we fail to get technical advice and support, the Trust should be able provide the relevant support”.