Do more wins for NRM in New coun­ties prove ger­ry­man­der­ing?

On 15th July 2015, Adolf Mwe­si­gye, Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment moved a Mo­tion for a Res­o­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment to ap­prove the cre­ation of 39 coun­ties un­der Art 179 (4) of the Con­sti­tu­tion and Sec­tion 7(7) of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act Cap 243. On July 29, 2015, the Min­is­ter amended the mo­tion to add one more county to bring the num­ber to 40. Later on Au­gust 4, 2015, he amended the mo­tion again to add 3 coun­ties, to­tal­ing up to 43 new coun­ties, con­se­quently ap­proved by par­lia­ment.


This notwith­stand­ing, on 20th Au­gust 2015, par­lia­ment con­sid­ered and ap­proved a Mo­tion for a Res­o­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment on the cre­ation of 19 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties; with 12 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to start ef­fec­tive 1st July, 2015 while the re­main­ing 7 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will be ef­fec­tive come 1st July 2016. Al­though the cre­ation of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties was not highly con­tested by the op­po­si­tion, there were ques­tions about fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tion of these units from the civil so­ci­ety. Par­lia­men­t’s ap­proval of coun­ties was, how­ever highly con­tested by the op­po­si­tion within Par­lia­ment and by civil so­ci­ety out­side par­lia­ment. The op­po­si­tion, led by Shadow Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Betty Nam­boze, based their ar­gu­ment on Sec­tion 45 of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (Amend­ment) Act 2013, which stip­u­lates

‘…there shall be a coun­cil at each level of the ad­min­is­tra­tive units ex­cept for a county.’

They de­scribed the cre­ation of these new coun­ties as not only an il­le­gal­ity ac­cord­ing to law but also as “a case of ger­ry­man­der­ing on the part of gov­ern­ment in fa­vor its syco­phants be­cause the coun­ties were be­ing cre­ated in the Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment (NRM) strong­holds.”

Is it re­ally a ques­tion of ger­ry­man­der­ing one would ask? As ev­i­denced by the 18th Feb­ru­ary 2016 Par­lia­men­tary elec­tion re­sults, the op­po­si­tion reg­is­tered dec­i­mal per­for­mances not only in old coun­ties but worse in the newly formed coun­ties. Out of the 12 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, NRM won 6 seats while the op­po­si­tion; Fo­rum for De­mo­c­ra­tic Change (FDC) had one, De­mo­c­ra­tic Party (DP), two seats and the In­de­pen­dents got three seats most of whom are NRM-lean­ing. Out of the 43 coun­ties, with the ex­cep­tion of Dokolo South County were elec­tions were post­poned and Ik county whose re­sults I can­not trace, the NRM reg­is­tered 31 wins while FDC- 04, DP- 02, In­de­pen­dents (04)- still with most them be­ing NRM-lean­ing.

Se­nior op­po­si­tion mem­bers lost five coun­ties to the NRM af­ter di­vid­ing their coun­ties into two. For in­stance, Ge­of­frey Ekanya, Shadow min­is­ter for Fi­nance lost the Tororo North County which was curved out of Tororo County to an In­de­pen­dent NRM lean­ing, An­net Nyake­cho. Amuriat Oboi, Shadow Min­is­ter for Phys­i­cal In­fra­struc­ture was also de­feated in Kumi County by NRM. This was af­ter curv­ing 2 coun­ties out of Kumi county,  Kanyum County and Kumi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity- both the mother county and the new one were taken by NRM while the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was taken by NRM-In­de­pen­dent lean­ing. The chair­per­son of the Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Gov­ern­ment As­sur­ances, Kasiano Wadri also lost in Terego East to the NRM, the county was curved out of Terego County.

Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters also won in five new coun­ties, Min­is­ter for Pres­i­dency, Frank Tumwe­baze won the Kibale East seat, Chua East County was won by Okello Oryem, Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs, Koboko County and Koboko Mu­nic­i­pal­ity were won by James Baba, Min­is­ter of State for In­ter­nal Af­fairs and Eve­lyne An­ite, Min­is­ter of State for Youth and Chil­dren Af­fairs re­spec­tively. Sam Ka­hamba Kutesa, Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs won the newly cre­ated Ma­wogola North county curved out of Ma­wogola county and Min­is­ter of State for De­fence, Jeje Odongo took the Orungo County par­lia­men­tary seat.

While con­sid­er­ing the mo­tion pro­vid­ing for cre­ation of new coun­ties, mem­bers queried the cri­te­ria used by gov­ern­ment to cre­ate these new coun­ties. They ar­gued that there a num­ber of ar­eas which needed to be di­vided due to their high pop­u­la­tion but they were not. For in­stance, Nathan Nan­dala Mafabi, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Bu­dadiri West made men­tion of ar­eas like Busi­iro County East and Bun­gokho North which de­spite be­ing densely pop­u­lated were left as is. There­fore, bas­ing on the fact that coun­ties which are in dire need of di­vid­ing were not while those less de­serv­ing were, could only prove the no­tion of ger­ry­man­der­ing by the gov­ern­ment.

Go­ing for­ward, Gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment should en­sure eq­uity dur­ing cre­ation ar­eas of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the leg­is­la­ture so as to pro­vide a level play­ing ground for all po­lit­i­cal par­ties in or­der for democ­racy to pre­vail.