Following the completion of the relocation and reconstruction of the iconic clock tower at Queen’s Way, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is actively exploring options to ensure the clock is operational.
The monumental tower, which proudly stood tall for around 66 years, was dismantled amidst protests from city residents and heritage advocates to pave the way for the development of the Kampala Flyover Road project. Despite the controversy surrounding its removal, due to its historical significance, UNRA assured the public of its restoration at a new location just meters away.
Recently, the roads authority announced the near completion of the redevelopment of Queen’s Way, with the tower restored. However, this accomplishment has raised inquiries about the whereabouts of the famous Queen’s Clock, also known as “Saawa ya Queen,” and the significance of the reconstructed tower without a working clock.
UNRA communications manager says that the project is currently at a 97 per cent completion rate. He affirmed that the authority is actively collaborating with other departments to ensure the successful inclusion of a functional clock in the tower.
“In fact, when the project was started, there was no clock in the tower. However, various items were still intact, and these have been preserved. After the relocation and reconstruction of the tower, they will be seamlessly integrated,” Ssempebwa told URN.
Portions of the original Clock Tower that were salvaged have been already incorporated into the new structure, particularly the metallic elements, including the upper metallic section. These integrated parts are already evident on the new tower, currently painted in white (although this is not the original colour of the tower).
Nonetheless, there is a slight divergence in the design, particularly with the existence of eight holes beneath the space reserved for the clock on the new tower, a feature absent in the original structure. Regarding missing components, such as the clock itself, Ssempebwa stated that the authority is committed to ensuring the installation of functioning replicas to maintain the historical and functional essence of the clock tower.
As Ssempebwa highlighted, in 2022 at the commencement of the Kampala Flyover Road project sources at KCCA confirmed that the monumental “Sawa ya Queen,” was untraceable 11 years after its removal for maintenance.
“It was an empty shell; the clock was not there, and it’s difficult to tell where it is,” the sources told our reporter.
More interviews confirmed that the clock disappeared in 2011 when the newly established Kampala Capital City Authority, led by Jennifer Musisi, initiated a project to beautify the city. The missing clock was initially placed on the tower at the Nsambya-Entebbe road junction during the 1950s to commemorate the inaugural visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip to Uganda.
The queen’s visit occurred in 1954 when Uganda was still a British colony, marking the commissioning of the Owen Falls Dam in Jinja, located in eastern Uganda. For years, the tower served as a significant historical monument and a noteworthy tourist attraction in the city. It featured a distinctive bell that would chime at the top of every hour, captivating those visiting the town for the first time.
But where is the clock?
This particular clock has been a persistent concern, with our reporter actively seeking information from various sources over the past two years. Regarded as an antiquity, the ministry of Tourism and KCCA share the responsibility of ensuring the safety of this item. However, officials from both entities have been unable to provide clarity on its whereabouts. It was acknowledged, though, that the clock was previously stored at KCCA.
A reliable source, choosing to remain anonymous, suggests that there is a considerable likelihood that the clock has already left the country and may have been taken by illicit collectors.
“There are numerous valuable yet overlooked items that have vanished without a trace in recent times, and this clock is among them. I suspect it is in the hands of illegal collectors, possibly smuggled out of Uganda,” expressed the source.
The source further explains that considering the clock has been missing for over 12 years, there is no other plausible explanation for its disappearance. Across the globe, individuals passionately collect artefacts or items of cultural heritage, driven by the desire to acquire and preserve pieces with historical, cultural, or artistic significance. Similar to any industry, there are also those involved in illegal collecting, and participating in the illicit trafficking of antiquities.
Simon Musasizi, the team leader of the Heritage Conservation Trust of Uganda, a project managed by CCFU, acknowledges the positive aspect of restoring the clock tower but emphasizes the importance of preserving such items, even during extensive projects.
“We were pleased that the tower is back, and some items have been saved from the original clock tower,” he stated.
Musasizi added that there is a necessity for relevant government entities to thoroughly investigate the truth behind the disappearance of the clock or its components and hold those responsible accountable. He further highlighted the significance of Uganda placing greater emphasis and importance on heritage and antiques due to their considerable value.
Musasizi expressed concern that numerous items, including significant ones, are continuously being stolen, sometimes by individuals who are supposed to be their custodians, even within government institutions. He believes that new legislation, such as the ordinance by KCCA and the recent act, will play a crucial role in putting a stop to such occurrences and safeguarding the country’s historical items.
Recently, Uganda enacted the Museum and Monuments Act of 2023, with the primary goal of fostering the development, management, and maintenance of museums and monuments. The legislation also aims to formalize, regulate, and safeguard both tangible and intangible heritage, as well as collections of art.
The new act makes it illegal for individuals to engage in or assist in the trade, storage, or transportation of illicit antiquities and protected objects. Convictions under this act carry severe penalties, including a seven-year prison term a fine of Shs 20 million, or both.