Letter to Gulu city enthusiasts: Are you ready for a modern City

Morris Komakech

Warm greetings to a passionate people of Gulu and Acholi region as a whole in anticipation of a city status for Gulu. This letter is only my second to you in over 5 years.

I wrote this particular letter today to share with you my passion for developing Gulu not into just a city, but a modern and futuristic city for our collective pride! I must declare that I am neither a city planner, nor a structural engineer. I am a social architect, urban health and policy expert.

Cities are my thing. Urban spaces and space dynamics, whether for social repose or capitalist reproduction, cities offer me an object of reflection in a manner so profoundly enriching. It is for this experience, as a health policy person, a champion of urban space revitalization, beautification and promoter of urban livability, that I find the content of this letter contingent on a collective vision for a modern Gulu city.

A decade of working in a modern metropolis like Toronto, and visiting nearly dozens of world cities have certainly impressed upon me a unique sense of taste for what a modern city is, and what it is not.

With all the current streams of excitement about a city status to commence in July, residents of Gulu must be in great anticipation. The question is, are they ready?

A city is not a reward or source of pride if it is not made into one. A city could mean anything, from an administrative unit to a population, or an expensive place that alienates the poor. Certainly, the surging population and politics, more than the economy drove the elevation of Gulu from municipal status to a city. We must now embrace it!

Here are some description of how I have come to appreciate a modern city. A city, like towns, trading centres, and any human dwelling, is itself a living nexus. That is, it is like the living person. I hope you will give this city the life it deserves from birth.

Like you and myself, a city feeds, excretes, learns, expands, thins, decays, breathes, and dresses up for appearances just like you. It bleeds, has blood too! A city experiences joy, sleep, temper and temperament, when, for instance, disadvantaged or disgruntled communities turn to violence, drugs and self-destructing activities.

A city feeds and heals, it must have food supply and a sustainable food system. Urban food insecurity is one of the most humiliating and severe forms of starvation one could fathom.

A city excretes – wastes from human activities, sewers, dumps (garbage), bodies etc. A city also learns for itself and about itself – city schools and research institutes, inner city health research, social policy research and so forth, are all geared towards improving the competitiveness of the city. Most cities are wrapped around a University or several universities and colleges. Toronto city has three large Universities with several adjoining colleges and training institutions bustling with hundreds of thousands of students and professors. Most do have research facilities about the city, how to constantly learn about emerging patterns, such as inequities, and how to respond on time.

The city expands, as population rises, new people and cultures come into the city. The city also shrinks or thins when people leave neighborhoods, cultures die. When social spending and constant renewal efforts fall short, cities atrophy – become junk yards, dangerous neighborhoods and reservoir for criminals and monstrosity.

The city also needs fresh air to breathe. Most urban cities have become green cities by planting lots of trees and plants. Cities treasure green spaces for public recreation. Take for instance, the Kaunda ground right at the heart of the City to be. Left to my own device, no investment would be allowed there. The drainage redesigned and the space there transformed into a beautiful green public space to give the city a breathing space and character.

Every modern city has such a space. Industrial land would be allocated along the Pece River because the city needs Kaunda ground for its own renewal more than investors to pollute it with malls and bars.

The city also dresses up with neat roads, and grooms with clean neighborhoods, clean streets, a culture of respect of structures, instinctive response to garbage disposal. You can tell that you belong to a city when you do the following without being supervised: instinctively dispose your garbage in the right bin – sorting recycled materials from non-recycle; dumping your excreta in the right toilet facility; and maintaining the right level of hygiene.

A city must have a responsibility for its beautification – appropriately lit, well groomed, trimmed, shaved and designed. A city attracts top notch architectural designs to give it character and depth. The city art and decorations are deliberate to attract tourism as corporate entity in competition with other cities in the country.

A city must be hospitable with good customer service practices – polite, responsive service providers and civil servants; good hotels and world class restaurants to delineate taste and cultural fusion. A readiness for a city is a mindset issue – how to transform the row mindset to provide the needs of the city. Cities are self-sustaining, where inhabitants live, grow, work, enjoy life, die and are buried.

The bigger question then to ask is, are you or the city officials ready, with the right mindset, for a city? The answer to this rhetorical question is the key to you benefiting from the city status. The needs for the city is the source of your wealth!

Thank you for reading.

Contact me at mokoms0703@yahoo.com