The cre­ation of new dis­tricts chaos and the drama it brought with it

By: Jacky Kemigisa

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.