On 15th July 2015, the minister for Local Government, Hon Adolf Mwesigye presented to parliament a Motion for a Resolution of Parliament to approve the creation of 39 counties under Art 179(4) of the constitution and Sec 7(7) of the local government Act Cap 243. The motion was referred to Sectoral Committee on Public Services & Local Government for expeditious consideration and thereafter report back. Subsequently, the committee reported to the house with a recommendation to create 65 counties. And on July 29 2015 and August 4, 2015, the minister amended the motion to add more one and three counties respectively to bring the number to 43 from the earlier 39. These counties raise a lot of legal and public administration questions but we shall only attempt to address the legalities while the variation in the cost of public administration will be for next time.
In her minority report, a descent from the majority report, Betty Namboze MP Mukono Municipality described the minister’s legal basis as illegal by citing Sec 45 of the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2013, which states that there shall be a council at each level of the administrative units except for the county. This implies that the amendment abolished counties as administrative units- this appears that the intention of the minister is to create constituencies but disguising with counties. It is the Electoral commission (EC) which could have been the appropriate agency to champion this process under Art 63 (5) of the constitution which states that subject to clause (1) of this article, the 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. We should remind ourselves that the Uganda Bureau of Statistics has only released provisional results for the 2014 population census which the EC can’t base on to re-demarcate constituencies.
While appearing before the committee, Hon Mwesigye gave the criteria he used in creating these counties as; one-county districts- the one-county districts make administration and governance complicated and, therefore, the decision to split them into two or more counties using the yardstick of at least 80,000 people; cultural diversity due to cultural diversity, there is need to empower and emancipate the people of small cultural groups in an area; local economic diversity; there are administrative units or counties which encompass different economic activities, which are sometimes mutually exclusive. Planning for diverse areas is very difficult, therefore the need to create different units; Wishes of the People; the wishes of the people are expressed in the resolutions of the district council.
This criteria raises more questions. For example the committee report observed that some counties proposed by the Minister consisted of only one sub-county as in the case of Kachumbala County consisting of Kachumbala Sub County; Bulamogi North West County consisting of Nawaikoke Sub County; and Ik County consisting of Kamion Sub County. Is the minister creating positions for sub-county Councillors in parliament – I believe this is a question worth asking.
Secondly, going with the cultural diversity criterion should the nations of Acholi, Lango, Busoga and Buganda for example, seek for a state status because of their cultural difference from one another? And on addition to that is government just realizing these cultural diversities now in a long period these people have stayed together? Will a one position (Member of Parliament) have the capacity to foster economic empowerment and emancipation in the whole county? Why create an administrative unit for only one person?
Therefore a proper procedure which won’t leave room for ambiguity should have be followed, that is the population quota procedure as recognized under Art 63(7) of the Constitution which states that for the purposes of this article, “population quota” means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Uganda by the number of constituencies into which Uganda is to be divided under this article. And not the ones given by the minister like economic diversity because it’s our uniqueness that brings us together to depend on one another.
These questions are far too many – and they need to be answered so that we, the populace understand the role of these new counties in the country and why tax- payers are paying for 43 new members of Parliament.