No Mr. Pres­i­dent, cre­ation of new coun­ties does not au­to­mat­i­cally trans­late into lib­er­a­tion

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

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.