Kabaka’s Lake in Ndeba Rubaga division, Kampala is one of the greatest treasures of Uganda yet it remains under-utilized and largely unexplored. The small man-made lake was dug out by the King of Buganda, Kabaka Mwanga in 1880 using the labour of his subjects. Measuring about 2km Sq. and 20 feet deep, it remains one of the greatest assets of Buganda Kingdom. It is the largest man-made lake in Uganda. Legend has it the that King made this lake purposely for his leisure purposes. The lake is adjacent to the King’s Palace (Twekobe), is located about 500 Meters. The King therefore wanted to use the lake for his pass time like swimming.
Although Buganda Kingdom still treasures the lake, it has largely been neglected for some time now. Some people have encroached on the land of its shores with private developers fencing off part of the shoreline with private homes. The lake is heavily polluted and has visible algae allover. The lake doesn’t have any inlet but it has one outlet which helps release waiter especially during rainy seasons. The lake has one small island in the middle which was specifically used to perform cultural norms of the king. One can only imagine the beauty of the lake immediately when it was completed. It must have been quite a marvel to look at. The kingdom has a few young men who look after the lake. They regularly clean it of debris and other materials that are thrown in it but nevertheless the rate of pollution is far higher than the manpower tasked to do the job. The lake is located in a very poor neighborhood. All areas of the lake apart from the northern part is surrounded by ramshackle, dilapidated houses. People living around the lake are possibly the poorest in Kampala. There is high crime rate around the area with people openly smoking marijuana and other types of drugs. Some areas around the lake have been turned into car washing bays with young boys getting water directly from the lake to wash the vehicles. Al lot of garbage is dumped into the lake which partly explains why the water is not clean.
The kingdom may not currently be in position to rehabilitate the lake due to financial constraints. Efforts by the writer to get a comment from Kingdom officials were futile. Some sources we contacted said it’s a deliberate intention of the kingdom to keep the lake in such a condition since they are optimistic that they shall appropriately develop it in future when they are fully in charge of all kingdom assets. It was also not clear as to whether the kingdom is the one that hired the young men to take charge of cleaning the lake or it is rather a voluntary exercise by individuals who are doing it out of good will. It should be noted that the King’s subjects love him and the kingdom to such an extent that they can almost sacrifice anything, including their lives to protect both. The Katikiro (Prime minister) of Buganda some years back called on people living in the area to protect the lake jealously. He is quoted to have said that the land around the lake was much bigger but had been encroached on and stolen by dubious people. He therefore charged the people around the lake to protect and preserve the remaining land and the lake itself as it is part and parcel of the rich heritage of the Kingdom culture.
Some private investors have approached the kingdom requesting for a partnership such that they can improve the lake and develop it into a modern resort but the kingdom remains adamant insisting that time is not ripe yet. As the clock keeps ticking, Kabaka’s lake remains a white elephant that that is completely underutilized but also neglected. The lake if well harnessed could generate a lot of resources for the kingdom but would also go a long way to alleviate poverty for a big number of people around it living in abject poverty. Kabaka’s lake is the only inland lake in Kampala city and there is not likely to be any other in the near future. The next nearest lake is Lake Victoria which is located some 20Km away in southern part of the city. If people flock Lake Victoria which is far away in search of good beaches, wouldn’t they patronize this lake which is located within the city if it was well looked after.
It requires innovation and business acumen to turn the lake into a great business venture that which would automatically become a cash cow for the developer. In its current form, the lake is not financially useful to either the kingdom or the people and the country at large. The Kingdom needs a lot of convincing by a genuine investor who should be able to inject in capital to beautify the place to make it paradise that was meant to be. King Mwanga was such a foresighted leader that he made something of great importance long time ago. The present generation has not only failed to take care of this asset, they have betrayed his dream of having a beautiful resort which would serve as a great tourist attraction but also create an income source for the kingdom. The current kingdom administration ought to loosen up and allow private investors to take charge of this lake if they have failed to develop the lake themselves. When one visits the lake they cannot fail to realize how much potential this lake has in terms of income generation but which has unfortunately not been tapped for centuries.