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Entebbe hoteliers accuse churches, bars of chasing away tourists

by Editorial Team
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By Julius Luwemba

Hotel owners in Entebbe municipality, Wakiso district are complaining about what they call high levels of noise emitted by some pentecostal churches and bars. 

This, according to the hoteliers, is driving away tourists who have always preferred to sleep in Entebbe town given its proximity to the airport. The municipality largely survives on income from the hospitality industry, notably, hotels, guest houses, and beaches.

Known for its serene environment due to its proximity to Lake Victoria, Entebbe, which was once Uganda’s capital city, also has special installations, such as the Statehouse, zoo, army barracks, government ministries, and Uganda’s only international airport.

Andrew Otage, the chairperson of the private sector on Entebbe Municipal Development Forum, noted that the shoreline of hotel and tourism developments has had a disruption of operations across the chain of its service industry as a result of the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising water levels and the recent outbreak of Ebola.

As the hospitality industry strives to recover from the effects of recent pandemics and the current outbreak of Ebola, stakeholders are still faced with another challenge of noise pollution, which is reported to have chased guests to other areas such as the Kajjansi town council. 

“The problem is not only for hotels, but also for the nearby health centers,” Joy Nyirinkindi, a resident of Entebbe municipality, said.

“Katabi health center III, which mostly accommodates pregnant women, is surrounded by four bars playing music from Monday to Monday. The nurses and doctors have complained, but zero action has permanently been taken,” revealed Nyirinkindi, pointing out other disco clubs in areas of Bunono, a vastly residential area. 

“Other churches are next to a residential area in Canaan estate, Busambaga, which conducts 5:00am prayers daily, with zero regard to noise. The list is endless,” she further expressed.

Rema Kanyange who manages Karibu Apartments showed this reporter several letters and phone chats made with some of the authorities in Entebbe municipality, which she says, have yielded no permanent results to the noise pollution problem.

“After writing several letters to the office of the town clerk and messages to the area DPC, I made efforts and physically met some of the pastors who only went defensive. They seem to be enjoying a lot of immunity for their impunity,” Kanyange said.

She, however, lauded the office of the deputy Inspector General of Police, which, she said, has always swung into action. 

“There was a time when officers from the deputy IGP’s office spent a full week camped at one of the churches to make sure, all praise and worship were not done with loud musical instruments,” Kanyange said.

Another source who preferred anonymity revealed that the enforcement officers from Entebbe municipal council have always shielded bars that emit noise. 

“We have to pay officials to even consider coming to check, especially in the evenings, with the money in their pockets,” the source intimated. 

Another hotel proprietor of Indian origin said the whole issue boils down to who gives the license. 

“The same authority that thrives on our hotel tax jeopardises our very existence by giving licenses to an entity that has the potential to destroy our businesses,” he said.

Charles Magumba, the Entebbe municipality toen clerk attending one of the business forums in Entebbe

Another resident wrote: “After yet another sleepless night in Lunyo due to this bar that keeps playing loud music throughout the night, especially on Wednesdays and weekends, I’m thinking a lot about all those children in nearby schools who come to learn and stay at the hostel to rest but have music pounding their ears throughout the night.”

What bar owners say

Some of the bar owners acknowledged that their colleagues in the entertainment industry make a lot of noise. They, however, noted that Entebbe municipality has some advanced clubs that were constructed with sound-proof equipment. 

“Authorities need to withdraw licenses from clubs and bars that do not have sound-proof equipment because they taint the image of the rest of us,” managers of two-night clubs that are operating in Entebbe town, agreed.

Pastors respond

Pastor Aaron Mutebi of Miracle Centre Cathedral, Entebbe said his neighbours have never raised any complaint against his church for the past 33 years he’s spent in service. 

“I’m aware that my immediate neighbour owns a hotel and another neighbour runs a hospital, whereas the third immediate neighbour is also constructing a hotel, but they have never raised any complaints or pinned my church for making noise for them,” Mutebi argued, wondering who was complaining.

Earlier, several pastors held a press conference where they expressed their disgruntlement when the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) started arresting some of their own (pentecostal preachers) over noise pollution. 

Led by self-proclaimed Bishop Daniel Wadimba, pastors claimed that NEMA was simply “witch-hunting Pentecostal churches.” 

He said, “In Uganda, we are known to be loud people. Therefore, before NEMA comes for us, it should first go for people who are constructing in wetlands,” Wadimba retaliated.”

NEMA Speaks out

NEMA public relations officer Tonny Achidria said environmental management is decentralised, where local governments are mandated, empowered, and financed to regulate noise pollution in their respective jurisdictions. 

“Because they are the ones that issue operational licenses to businesses in their respective localities.” Nonetheless, NEMA comes in for support occasionally,” Achidria explained.

Municipal Authorities respond

When contacted about the matter, Entebbe municipal town clerk Charles Magumba said, “We are doing our best.”

Meanwhile, Fabrice Rulinda, the municipality mayor, expressed concern over the matter, saying, “Noise pollution shall not be tolerated in a town that “survives on tranquility and serenity.” “I have called for a meeting involving all bar owners and church proprietors to find an amicable and sustainable solution to this,” Rulinda said.

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