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Govt drops proposal on councilors electing Kampala mayor

By Moses Walubiri, Moses Mulondo

Added 1st August 2019 07:36 AM

legislation Government contends is meant to harmonize operations at City Hall has stirred controversy since it was tabled in May.

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State minister for Kampala Benny Namugwanya speaks on the floor of Parliament during the debate on the Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday. Photo by Timothy Murungi

legislation Government contends is meant to harmonize operations at City Hall has stirred controversy since it was tabled in May.

The people of Kampala will continue having a mayor elected through universal adult suffrage after the Executive dropped a proposal in a piece of legislation currently before parliament that had sought for an electoral college of city councillors.

Minister of state for Kampala, Benny Namugwanya Bugembe on Tuesday confirmed the position of the presidential affairs committee report to that effect.

Dubbed the Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the piece of legislation the government contends is meant to harmonise operations at City Hall has stirred controversy since it was tabled in May.

And as Parliament prepares to pass the Bill, MPs across a usually fractious political divide on Tuesday impeached the rationale of amending the principal Act, saying the Bill is borne of bad faith.

MPs Richard Othieno, Mukitale Birahwa, Odonga Otto and Nandala Mafabi described a proposal for city councillors to elect the Kampala mayor as a sly attempt to disenfranchise the people of Kampala.

“Why should the people of Pader elect a mayor but you do not want those in Kampala to have an elected mayor?  I urge this House to adopt the committee position and reject this proposal,” Otto said.

MPs Jonathan Odur and Nandala Mafabi had described the proposal for councillors to elect a mayor as going back against the core democratic principles that bestow ultimate power in the hands of Ugandans.

When considering the various proposed amendments, Otto made a case for lawmakers to balance Government concerns at City Hall vis-à-vis the need to protect the right of people of Kampala to elect their mayor.

“Government can decide to deny the city resources as the case was during Ssebagala and Ssebana’s reign,” Otto said.

Enacted in 2010, the principal Act was informed by the need to harmonies the operations at City Hall by delineating the roles of the different centres of power – the Lord Mayor, the Executive Director and the minister in charge of the city.

However, what followed was a near paralysis at City Hall as a protracted power struggle between Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago and former executive director, Jennifer Musisi Ssemakula spawned a toxic atmosphere.  

At some point, Lukwago was ‘impeached’ by city councillors over incompetence leading to energy-sapping litigation as he challenged the legality and fairness of the process.

During an interface with the Presidential Affairs Committee which has been scrutinizing the Bill, Lukwago was explicit that the piece of legislation has been informed by the need to emasculate his office.

Musisi has since left City Hall but, according to MPs Betty Namboze and Mukitale, all seem not to be well at City Hall as evidenced by the high attrition among senior technocrats who are well remunerated.

Another provision that MPs want the Executive to reconsider is one that bestows political leadership at City Hall upon the minister instead of the Lord Mayor.

“Political leadership can only be attained through an election. If the minister wants that power, let her subject herself to an election. Making resolutions of council subject to the whims of the minister will render councillors useless,” Santa Alum said.

Bugembe and Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana made a strident defence of the Bill.

To Rukutana, the Bill is informed by Article 5 of the Constitution which makes it explicit that Kampala City shall be administered by the central government.

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