The battle for creation of new districts finally came to an end after Parliament approved a phased plan for 25 new districts.The process has been one of the most dramatic episodes in the 9th Parliament’s plenary sessions.
Let me start from the beginning.
So, Minister for Local Government, Adolf Mwesigye, presented to Parliament a motion for the withdraw of the motion to create districts. Sounds confusing, right? But it is not, all he wanted was to withdraw Government’s request to create new districts. What Parliament had to do was either reject the withdrawal or accept it.
Either way Parliament would go, Government would win.
It would have made no sense for Parliament to reject the motion given that it was a Government motion, plus even if it had rejected it, it has no power to force Government to act on its own motion.
It is like someone asking you if you want food and before you can give them a response, they take their offer back. You have no right to demand that they give you the food.
When a motion is moved on the floor of Parliament, MPs are allowed to speak to it. Now this is where the trouble and drama was born.
‘Rebel’ MP Tinkasimire made an overwhelming plea to Government to divide up Kibaale district into more districts— branding the President a ‘fountain of liars’ over failing to deliver on the promise.
“When the president was addressing my constituency, he promised as a district, the president who is a fountain of honor has now become a fountain of liars ”, he said, as MPs cheered, stamped their feet in support of new districts. The August House had reminiscent of a market place.
And then came Ms Nabbanja the woman representative for Kibaale district. She accused the president of not fulfilling his promise of dividing Kibaale districts into two, then continued to threaten the NRM votes in their NRM code, note that all belong to the movement party. The woman representative, seated at the back of Parliament, matched to the front, while choking on tears and she asked Government not to go back on their own promise.
The Deputy Speaker, Hon Jacob Oulanyah, reading into the tension and mood of MPs, asked the minister for Local Government to go back to cabinet and ‘talk over’ their motion. The following week, Minister Mwesigye came back to Parliament with a new motion. “The motion to withdraw the motion for creation of districts new districts”
Yes I had your exact expression while reading it on the order paper.
Little did the minister know that he had opened a can of worms, iced with drama. Shadow minister for Finance MP Ekanya’s failed suicide attempt on national television graced the first glimpse of drama that was to unfold.
His voice slowly gaining momentum, he was now screaming at the Minister for local Government, when words failed, he undid his necktie and attempted to wrap it around his neck. Many watched in shock as some MPs’ cheered Ekanya, encouraging him to take his own life in protest of a district status; others were not amused by his childish behavior.
Opposition chief whip MP Ogwal soothed him, placing her hand on his back like a mother would do for a sobbing child. MP Mafabi escorted Ekanya out of Parliament after he engaged in a verbal exchange with the deputy speaker, while taking his off jacket and tie, the first steps when one is undressing.
The Deputy Speaker ruling in his wisdom asked MPs’ to respect the Parliament of Uganda, he was kind enough to direct Mr. Ekanya to the National theater, where drama rightful belonged.
“This is the Parliament of Uganda, one can only express what they feel, but to act on how they feel is taking it to another level, this is the parliament of Uganda, the national theater is across the street.” said Oulanyah. However, even with Ekanya’s drama, Tororo County did not get a district status.
The districts creation debate in Parliament stripped MPs of any alligence as many took on the battle personally, choosing to defend their constituencies and not political parties. Even cabinet ministers did not survive the chaos.
State minister for Local Government Alex Onzima made news in Parliament as he read to parliament a letter copied to his ministry from the Ministry of Finance informing the president that Finance only had monies for creation of only 4 districts.
He bragged to members of parliament as a person who “cherishes honesty”.
Mr. Onzima clashed with his Cabinet colleagues as many failed to stop him from reading the controversial letter, he accused Government of sneaking leaders to Parliament.
He boldly told Government Chief Whip, Ms. Ruth Nankabirwa, and State minister for Economic Monitoring, Mr. Henry Banyenzaki, who were trying to call him to order, that he was reading the letter from the secretary to the treasury in public interest.
“I cherish honesty in the interest of my country called Uganda. We must do the correct things all the time. I am reading this letter in good faith and it’s a government letter addressed to the permanent secretary (Local Government) and copied to me, including the Office of the President,” Mr. Onzima said.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah refused to cut Mr. Onzima, insisting that by reading the letter from Mr. Keith Muhakanizi (secretary to the treasury), he did not violate the rules of procedure, as the Government Chief whip had suggested in her point of Order.
“I cannot stop a member from speaking; it’s up to you to handle the situations as they arise. The Speaker is not a whip of the members and I don’t sit in Cabinet,” said Oulanyah.
Minister Onzima went on with reading the letter, the speaker asked for a copy of his controversial as he denied, informing parliament that the office of the speaker did not receive a copy of the letter.
Deputy Speaker ruled, interpreting the letter as a piece of informing from finance rather than a command for Parliament not to create districts.
It was a half full glass half empty perception.
Parliament was adjourned then called back again, for them to approve the creation of new districts, finally the districts were created, some MPs were happy as other were left cursing the Government.