WHETHER someoneâ€™s name is Madhvani or Wafula Ogutu, the charter recognises him as a Musoga as long as he has a home in Busoga,â€ explains Rebecca Kadaga, Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
By Joachim Buwembo
WHETHER someoneâ€™s name is Madhvani or Wafula Ogutu, the charter recognises him as a Musoga as long as he has a home in Busoga,â€ explains Rebecca Kadaga, Deputy Speaker of Parliament. The charter in question was painstakingly developed over the last five years and is due to be deposited with the Parliament of Uganda as required by law so that the legislature passes a resolution over it.
It was adopted and signed by all the district chairpersons and speakers last month at a solemn but colourful ceremony witnessed by the First Citizen of Busoga, the Isebantu Kyabazinga Wako Muloki, as well as the First Citizen of Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni.
On that historic day, October 25, the entity called Busoga came into existence. Previously, Busoga did not exist in law and was just a verbal description of the area traditionally inhabited mostly by ethnic Basoga. Today, it is the largest legally recognised area and grouping of people inside Uganda, with at least 2,586,000 people; the only recognised geographical administrative unit larger than a district in Uganda.
The new entity of Busoga covers the districts of Jinja, Kamuli, Iganga, Mayuge, Bugiri and Jinja Municipality. Represented by their chairmen, Fred Gume, Karoli Baligeya Isabirye, Asumani Kyaffu, Baker Ikoba Tigawalana, Siraje Lyavaala and Mayor David Wakudumira respectively, they gave birth to the new unit, as empowered by Article 178 of the Constitution and in accordance with Section 9 of the Local Government Act.
But it has been a long journey, as recalls Kadaga, who co-chairs the Busoga Peopleâ€™s Forum with Dr Specioza Kazibwe, and it was sometimes dogged by unforeseen frustrations, since it started at the remote location of Naminage in Kamuli during August of 1997.
â€œFor instance, the local council and district elections of 1998 were a great setback,â€ Kadaga says. â€œAll but one of the district chairmen lost office and yet they had helped conceive and internalised the dream. Yet the district chairpersons are the ones empowered by law to sign and commit their districts to agreements and contracts. We had to start afresh sensitising the new leaders and the entire population.â€
While this was going on, the Busoga Peopleâ€™s Forum remained busy with developmental work, building 22 primary teachersâ€™ houses in the process. They also commissioned the teaching of Lusoga at the university, and last year nine students offered it as a subject. And with the Busoga Cultural Foundation, they are developing more Lusoga literature.
But not everybody was happy with the charter idea at first. Some cultural leaders in the Kyabazingaâ€™s court thought their power was being eroded: â€œBut the Kyabazinga was very supportive and together we convinced the elders and even secured them places on the council, which reassured them that they will not be mere observers, but participants in the new inter-district management team.â€
The many Samia in the new district of Bugiri were also suspicious, fearing that the dominance of the indigenous Basoga was about to be institutionalised: â€œSome people said the Basamia were going to be forced to speak Lusoga,â€ Kadaga says. â€œBut we assured them that they can even bring their traditional leader and we incorporate him in the council.â€
On the opposition being voiced by some people like ex-Iganga chairman Patrick Bageya, Kadaga said the root of their problem lies elsewhere, not disagreement with the charter: â€œBageya was very enthusiastic over this during the Constituent Assembly.â€
And why do women occupy the top two positions? â€œIt is just a historical accident,â€ explains Kadaga. â€œI was leading the Basoga MPs in the NRC while the VP led us in the CA. And these are the two groups that pioneered it all. But with the coming into force of the charter, all the posts shall be open to election.â€
Moses Kizige, the Secretary of the Busoga Peopleâ€™s Forum organising committeeâ€” also secretary for Busoga Parliamentary Groupâ€” says the very important post of Secretary General is about be occupied. This will be the chief executive of the new structure.
Asked about the qualifications, Kizige says the successful candidate will be qualified to work as under-secretary in the central government.
â€œIt does not matter what tribe or nationality the person is,â€ Kizige stresses. Already, the head-hunt is on. And the successful applicant need not worry about the package for the job: â€œThere is already some for salary and to ensure his secretariat runs,â€ says Kizige, the Bugabula North MP who has been deeply involved with the job to get the charter off the ground.
The main reason that has brought the districts of Busoga together is to co-operate in areas of infrastructure, energy and water development, promotion of health, education, tourism, trade, communication, physical planning development, planning employment, mobilisation and cultural development.
The pioneers have gone beyond just floating and selling an idea. An impressive five-year development plan has been drawn up. Sectoral studies and master plans have been made, especially in the fields of education, horticultural development and road construction. During the launch of the charter, President Museveni charged the leaders of the new Busoga with an additional assignmentâ€” the eradication of sleeping sickness.
Kamuli, then the main town of the poorest district in Busoga, was chosen as headquarters. Jinja was already relatively well off and in any case had the Kyabazinga. There are liaison offices in all districts for the new Busoga.
The mobilisation potential is enormous. For instance, many ethnic Basoga overseas are ready to make annual contributions: â€œSix years ago, our brothers and sisters in North America had offered to contribute $100 each per year for an education bursary scheme,â€ Kizige says. â€œBut we could not collect the money before we became a formal entity. These people number over 5,000 and you can work out how much money per year that is.â€
Even locally available money can be better utilised under a co-operative arrangement. For instance, it is estimated that money released for road maintenance of all the districts for two months is enough to buy tarmacking equipment to cover the whole region.
â€œThen money for the remaining 10 months can develop other sectors,â€ argues Kizige. At present, some districts have excess equipment, while others have none, but there is no provision for one district borrowing equipment from another. Under the new charter, all that will change.
In one classic example of the advantages of inter-district co-operation, the road distance between Kamuli and Kaliro was reduced from 64 to 30 miles by constructing a 14 mile stretch through Iganga District.
â€œThe road had not been a priority for the Iganga administration, but the neighbouring districts of Jinja and Kamuli that needed it came together and lobbied the central government for it,â€ Kizige explains.
The charter could be one way of watching over district bureaucrats and councillors. Leaders of one district cannot stand by as officials from another district steal their money. Co-operation by districts could in fact improve on accountability without taking the power back to the central government.Ends
BUSOGA GETS ITS â€˜FEDEROâ€™ FIRST