Fort Portal Municipal Council to Remove Lion Effigy

On Wednesday, while appearing on radio the Mayor Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga, said that they are in the final stages of removing the effigy which symbolizes aggressiveness and courage.
The Lion effigy

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There is disquiet in Fort Portal Municipality as a result of a planned removal of a lion effigy that stands at the roundabout in the centre of the town.

The effigy was erected in 2016 after consultations between Tooro Kingdom and Fort Portal Municipality officials. It stands prominently in the centre of the town at the roundabout that connects four roads, including Lugard Street, Kasese road, Bundibugyo Road and Kibogo Road which connects to Kamwenge Road. Lugard Street is the main entrance to Fort Portal town centre from the Kyenjojo-Mubende-Kampala road.

Besides beautifying the town, kingdom officials chose the lion, Entale, as a symbol of royalty. The lion is part of the full royal title of Omukama of Tooro Kingdom. Traditionally, the lion symbolizes courage, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness and valour.

On Wednesday, however, while appearing on radio, Fort Portal Mayor Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga said that the municipal authorities are in the final stages of removing the “lion” to create room for the redevelopment of the town which is set to become a tourism city effective July 1, 2020.

According to Muhanga, the municipal council noted that the roundabout is keeping the road narrow and there is a need to replace it with traffic lights.

The plan has however attracted opposition from Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister Bernard Tungakwo who has asked Muhanga to refrain from removing the effigy without consulting the kingdom authorities.

In a letter dated June 4th and copied to Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, the Resident District Commissioner Kabarole and the Town Clerk Fort Portal Municipality among others, Tungakwo argues that the lion effigy symbolises Tooro heritage.

 “The purpose of this letter is to seek clearance from you and other relevant authorities on how such a decision was taken if it was, without our knowledge. As development comes in, we need to consult widely with other stakeholders,” reads part of the letter.

Herbert Mugisa, the Fort Portal South Division Chairperson, says that the mayor has never consulted about the matter. He reveals that the lion effigy has been attracting tourists to the town.

However, Robert Tusiime, a resident of Fort Portal, argues that the planned expansion of the road and the removal of the roundabout are long overdue. He says that the effigy should be erected at the entrance into the palace or any other place so that the road remains clear.

Mayor Muhanga explains that the municipal council has already gazetted the green belt on Balya Street where the effigy and other sculptures will be erected. The street was named after Aberi Kakyomya Balya, the first black Anglican bishop in East and Central Africa.

//Cue in: “So I wrote…

Cue out… a tourism city.”//

Besides the “lion”, Fort Portal has other historical statues of personalities who contributed its growth. They include that of Bishop Aberi Kakyomya Balya which was erected next to the street named after him. Bishop Balya was instrumental in spreading Christianity in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He died in 1979 at the age of 102 and was buried at St John’s Cathedral, Fort Portal.

The other prominent statue in Fort Portal is that of Sir Gerald Portal, a British colonial officer after whom the town was named. Just a few metres after the roundabout, along Kasese Road, the statue depicts Portal in a standing position holding a gun.

In 2010, Fort Portal Municipal officials removed the statue to pave way for the renovation of the roads. It was dumped in a municipal yard where it stayed for several months. Tony Duckworth, a British national living in Fort Portal then, retrieved the statue from the yard and renovated it with the help of other British nationals and the Toro Golf Club. He moved it to the front of his hotel, Rwenzori Travelers Inn, about 200 metres from the roundabout where the statue was initially installed.

The original statue from which the name originated was built at what became Boma Grounds in the early 1890s by Frederick Lugard, a British military administrator of Uganda. Lugard played an instrumental role in restoring Omukama Kasagama of Tooro to his throne in 1891.

Another prominent statue in Fort Portal is that of Commander Calwell, a British soldier and teacher who founded Nyakasura School in 1926. While a headteacher at Kings College Budo, Calwell met two students from Tooro Kingdom who encouraged him to start a similar school in Tooro. This happened in 1926 when Calwell left Budo. His statue stands prominently as one enters Nyakasura School. 

Last year, there was uproar in Mbarara when several metallic effigies that were erected obscured the iconic monument of the traditional long-horned Ankole Bull. The images that surrounded the clock tower in the middle of the roundabout had the shape of cow horns and were designed to light up at night.  However, the new metallic poles attracted public uproar in Mbarara and beyond on grounds that they were not in line with the cultural heritage and values of the Ankole people.    

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