The Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) has called for the establishment of a committee to lead the return of Ugandan artefacts from foreign museums.
Herbert Byaruhanga, the President of UTA made the call on Tuesday, 30 August 2022, as he and association members appeared before the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industries chaired by Hon. Mwine Mpaka.
According to Byaruhanga, who was presenting on the Museums and Monuments Bill, 2022, several artefacts were taken from different archaeological and historical sites by different entities like the British, and to date, these have never been returned.
The Museums and Monuments Bill seeks to repeal the outdated 1967 Historical Monument Act. It among other things seeks to provide for the development, management, and maintenance of museums and monuments and formalise, control, and protect tangible and intangible heritage and works of art collection.
Byaruhanga said that it was a great achievement for several countries including DR Congo (DRC) that are returning their furtively taken or stolen items – and besought that the Ugandan authorities do the same.
“We only have pictures in museums. The bill should start the process of bringing these artefacts back. We need to constitute a committee to survey, investigate and bring back the artefacts that were taken from places like Bigo bya Mugenyi, Ntuusi, Bwogero, and Nshogezi among others,” he said.
On specific provisions of the bill, Byaruhanga proposes that the administration and management of museums or sites should be done at district, community, and supervised levels by a government department.
He is also against the proposal to have the tangible and intangible heritage managed by different ministries and departments.
“The management of imbalu site is under the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and management of rituals is under the Ministry of Gender, this confusion will affect tourism promotion and development.” He said.
Byaruhanga said that every city or district should have a monument for instance the Bull in Mbarara and the Elephant in Gulu among others.
Hon. Hannington Musoke Wakayima the Nansana Municipality MP questioned whether it is not pricy to repatriate the artefacts.
“It is expensive to maintain these artefacts when they are brought back, there are several items that were once returned and some of them are still in boxes, how can you help the committee to see how we can work on them despite these challenges?” he asked.
Hon. Ronald Afidra, the Lower Madi County MP said it is important for the association to begin by sharing the profile of the heritage that could have been taken away by colonialists. He says that as legislators, this will help them in the process of searching for the artefacts.
“What are some of the heritage that has been taken by the colonialists? We know these things were taken but what is the profile of those artefacts?” he asked.
For the only Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, it is reported that over 300 artefacts were taken by the British including the traditional nine-legged stool, a symbol of the throne.