Cleaning might not be your idea of fun but Kampala City Yange wants to change all that. Monthly cleaning exercises are taking on a party feel in Kampala. The people who initiated the programme are still holding their breath hoping that this, like many other start-up activities in the city, will not die an early death. But with growing participation and attention Kampala City Yange (My City), could be the next big activity to attend in Kampala.
Modeled on Rwanda’s monthly clean-up dubbed, Umuganda, City Yange aims to get everyone in Kampala to drop everything one Saturday of the month to clean the city.
City Yange’s premise is that it takes more than just the city authorities to keep Kampala clean. Even with garbage trucks to take trash out to the dumping area in Kiteezi, Kampala still suffers from excessive rubbish strewn on roadsides and in open areas. Cleaning it up will take everyone’s participation – and prevention.
KCCA do have regular cleaning teams who start as early as 4am. Unfortunately, their hard work is usually completely undone by midday from those coming into the business districts. The three million people who descend on Kampala each day to trade are simply too much for the cleaning programmes. A more enduring initiative is clearly necessary to get people to maintain and pick up after themselves.
This is where City Yange comes in. Participation has been steadily growing since the exercise was launched in November 2011. Last weekend, the latest clean-up effort by City Yange was based in the Bwaise suburb and it attracted the biggest gathering so far.
KCCA has fully embraced City Yange and at the events KCCA workers provide gloves, masks, hoes and rakes. T-shirts and aprons are also in abundance for everyone involved.
In previous months, the cleaning has centred on other areas – such as the New Taxi Park. Drivers were encouraged to take a few hours off to clean up the place where they do their business.
Isaac Rucci, a former member of the 1990s boy band, Limit X and a few friends of his are the brains behind City Yange. According to Rucci, it is designed to instill a sense of belonging in Kampala dwellers. “If we can start thinking differently about our environment, it could lead to greater development for the city,” Rucci says.
Festive music and ‘celebrities’ working alongside others who attend seem to be two of the biggest drawing forces. Social media sites are alive with invites to the next programme just before the date and media newsmakers all saying they shall be there cleaning which helps to attract a larger crowd.
City Yange make sure to emphasise that it is easy to get involved as well as participate. Rucci says it is a throwback to olden days in Buganda where a similar programme, Bulungi Bwansi (Beauty of the Land) was a normal fixture on the calendar. No one was ever forced; people just knew when it was time to get cleaning. “That is what we want to see in Kampala,” Rucci states.
On the cleaning days the action starts at 8am and goes on until 1pm. Each event focuses on a different area and the volunteers involved unblock drainage pipes, sweep dust off the roads, dig up weeds and cleaning up garbage or the mess left by animals. There is no flinching; the dirtier the garbage, the more honourable it is to clean it up.
The plan for the future is to promote the programme so that Kampala residents take it up on their own. While the organisers take the action to different parts of the city this won’t be sustainable unless a city-wide movement to clean-up – and prevent littering – is embraced without reliance on KCCA or City Yange. However, with the excitement around the event, it might not be too ambitious of KCCA’s Sandra Natukunda to wish that, “Soon, every last Saturday of the month will be a public holiday in Uganda, so as to have everyone actively involved in the exercise.”
Getting involved depends on how connected you are on the social networks. Facebook and Twitter are the best places to start. From journalists to preachers to social activists, anyone who is anyone on the social scene is co-opted to push the agenda. If you want to get involved go to either City Yange’s Facebook site: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CityYange or their website: http://www.cityyange.com/. If your school, company, or group is looking for a great way to give back to the city this is it!