While attending the first sitting of the 10th Parliament on 19th May 2016, President Yoweri Museveni justified the creation of the new counties. The President attended the sitting in his capacity to administer oaths to both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker elects of the 10th Parliament. In his speech, he congratulated the MPs on passing the test, in this case, voting the preferred NRM candidates.
The President later declined to apologise for his role in creating a bloated Ugandan Parliament. This came after Rt Hon. Rebecca Kadaga asked the executive to avail the Parliamentary Commission with more funds to construct new chambers in the northern car park. The proposed chambers will be able to accommodate about 500 MPs and other staff since the available one can barely accommodate the current 427 new MPs.
In his defence he said the more he traverses the country, the more people he realises need liberation. The urgent need for liberation is what caused the creation of new counties and constituencies for marginalised, minority and vulnerable communities. He gave examples of some liberation units like the Ik and Tepeth. He added that he had read about the Ik people in 1960s as a people facing extinction due to diseases and the Tepeth as a people being subsumed by the Matheiniko. They needed to be represented at the District Local Government.
There is more to the liberation of a thousand minorities or vulnerable and marginalised people than assigning an individual or a small group of people to represent them. One cannot liberate a group of people who are facing extinction from diseases by creating a county which by the way is no longer an administrative unit as it was repealed by the Local Government Act of 2013. It should be noted that a member of parliament is neither a development Agency nor he/she a service delivery unit.
It goes without saying that all Ugandans ought to be given platforms to voice their concerns and demands, however, also avenues to build their capacities ought to be created. It is in the interest of these communities that they receive well-functioning social infrastructures like schools, hospitals among other things from the government as this would empower them to compete equitably with other tribal groups. The once marginalised people can assume leadership positions in areas from which they don’t originate on the basis of merit and not because there is a godfather looking out for them always. What happens in the event that the godfather is no longer around, can they stand on their own?
The president’s comments also raised a number of underlying issues for instance gerrymandering, tribalism, the fusion of roles of different arms of government. He said, “I created Ik and Tepeth counties to liberate….,” even when it is only parliament with the constitutional right to approve the creation of counties proposed by the Executive. These units were also created close to the general elections and as it appears there were other ideas aside from liberation of inducing voters. Ik county was formerly a Constituencies, the legal administrative unit requires an MP because of the populace. Having an MP for such a small group of people equates to having a sub-county Councillor in Parliament.
The government needs to follow the established procedures of creating areas of representation. Article 63 (5) of the constitution which states that subject to clause (1) of this article, the Electoral Commission shall review the division of Uganda into constituencies within twelve months after the publication of results of a census of the population of Uganda and may as a result re-demarcate the constituencies.
This gerrymandering tendencies have cost the country heavily in the past and will continue if it is not checked, socio-economic affirmative action policies are more likely to liberate minorities than the vice of gerrymandering.