Friday, October 21st, 2022
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities tabled the Museum and Monuments Act before parliament which was aimed to repeal and replace the Historical Monuments Act, Cap 26. The bill has recently been passed by parliament, but not without objections from concerned parties.
The law provides for the development, management, and maintenance of museums and monuments and formalize, control, and protect tangible and intangible heritage and works of art collection, however, museum operators have expressed that this appears to be slowing them down.
There have been various developments that have happened over the years, some of which have been detrimental to our heritage as a country. If you have followed the news lately, you might have paid attention to the fact some historical sites have been affected by rapid demolition, fires and war encroachment that has led to the loss of cultural heritage across the country. Other developments, nationally, regionally and internationally have necessitated reviews in the policy, legal and institutional frameworks, conventions and protocol (which to some Uganda is a signatory to) but are no longer supported by the current Act, rendering some of its tenets obsolete.
“Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to own our problems and solutions and write our story”.President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, 2013.
OBJECTIVES OF THE ACT
a) To ensure the protection of cultural and natural heritage resources and the environment.
(b) To give effect to the UNESCO Convention of 1972 on the Protection of Cultural and Natural heritage.
(c) To strengthen the legal and regulatory framework through the conservation, preservation, protection, and management of cultural and natural heritage resources.
(d) To strengthen and provide set up of an institutional structure of effective management of the museums and monuments subsector including through enhancing the capacity of the Department for collective governance of the subsector.
(e) To prohibit illicit trafficking of protected objects, to Local content of cultural and natural heritage.
(f) To provide for progressive rehabilitation of heritage sites; to promote regional and international cooperation.
g) To promote research and development of natural and cultural heritage.
(h) To promote and guide public-private partnerships in the conservation and preservation of cultural and natural heritage.
OBJECTIONS TO THE ACT
Several parties concerned with the enactment of this law have come out with their concerns. To be more specific, the impact the new law has on the private museums which are provided for under section 18 of the Act.
Section 18 of the Act provides that any person wishing to establish a private museum must apply to the Commissioner for a license that allows them to operate a private museum made under the Act. However, Section 98 of the Act states that only those museums with a license issued under the old Act would exist on day one of enacting the bill into law.
Unfortunately, this does not put into account any of the non-state museums as the repealed law did not recognize non-state museums since no one envisaged in 1967 that Uganda would one day have more non-state museums. The repealed law therefore only recognizes the Ugandan Museum as the only museum.
Section 6 of the Act which provides for the management and administration of museums places this responsibility upon the Department of Museums and Monuments. This department is responsible for overseeing, managing, and regulating museums and monuments under the general policy direction of the Minister. This, therefore, places private museums under government administration which would be impossible to maintain.
Section 16 provides that the Minister may, by statutory instrument, declare an area within the jurisdiction of a community museum that serves the interest of the history or culture of the community or an indigenous group. However, it was noted that one area may have many museums that may specialize in different aspects of heritage which makes this particular section difficult to enforce.
Section 34 which provides for the protection of burial grounds and sites was found to be exclusive of some areas. The Uganda Law Society suggested that clause 8 should extend its protection to burial grounds and graves of victims citing the Lukodi graveyard in Gulu District where at least 60 civilians were massacred by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2004 as the owner of the land wanted his property back yet it would count as a significant memorial sits on it.
We agree that it is important for us to preserve our historical heritage. These amendments, even with the current objections do not take away from this necessity.
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