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Notes on the Geography of Uganda: Kampala: Photo 15

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Time for economic development! In 1907, an ebullient Undersecretary of State for the Colonies named Winston Churchill arrived on an inspection visit. He shortly wrote: "Let me make my message brief and unclouded, and as before expressed in three words, 'Build a Railway.' Till then all civilized government is extravagant and precarious, and all profitable commerce practically impossible" (My African Journey, 1908, pp. 143-145.) What was he complaining about? The British in 1901 had already opened the Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Port Florence (now Kisumu), on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria. From there, ferries crossed the lake in 12 hours to Entebbe. That's how Churchill arrived. Apparently he didn't like ferries. By 1929, however, the Uganda Railway had been extended round the north shore of Lake Victoria to Jinja, and a year later it crossed the Nile just below its outlet from the lake. That same year, the line reached Kampala, 756 miles from Mombasa. By the late 1950s the railroad had been extended still farther west to Kasese, 20 miles from the Belgian Congo. The British hoped that the line could be pushed another 300-plus miles to Stanleyville (now Kisangani) to create a rail-and-water route across equatorial Africa. It never happened.

From the colonial archives, here's Governor William Gowers speaking in 1929: Kampala should not be seen as the intended end of the line but "merely as a strategic point for further extensions... It has for many years been recognised that the ultimate objective of a line westward from the Coast must be the Congo, and the question is what part of the Congo. The answer can only be Stanleyville... which is obviously destined to become the main centre of communications in North Central Africa, of which the southern connection [from Cape Town] and the western connection to the Atlantic are already established" (Mirams, p. 111).

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