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More districts is the opposite of effectiveness

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th June 2009 03:00 AM

For decades, many American politicians and officials admitted to a failed Cuba policy. They understood that it made no sense to continue isolating the island, even as Washington fostered close relations with communist nations, authoritarian states and for

For decades, many American politicians and officials admitted to a failed Cuba policy. They understood that it made no sense to continue isolating the island, even as Washington fostered close relations with communist nations, authoritarian states and for

By Adyeri Kyomuhendo

For decades, many American politicians and officials admitted to a failed Cuba policy. They understood that it made no sense to continue isolating the island, even as Washington fostered close relations with communist nations, authoritarian states and former enemies — moreover, they had Cuban-American voters to soothe.

The proposed creation of 14 districts is a contradiction similar to the American one, given the challenges of existing districts. For Bunyoro, creating Kiryandongo district opens a new chapter in dismemberment of Masindi district and of Bunyoro.

In 1974, Bunyoro was split into north and south Bunyoro, later renamed Masindi and Hoima. In 1991, Buyaga and Bugangaizi in Hoima became Kibaale district. Masindi contracted because of these rearrangements. After the 2006 elections, Buliisa, one of four counties of Masindi, with its two sub-counties of about 70,000 inhabitants and 30 schools, became a district. Buliisa mostly lies within the national park, game reserve, Budongo forest and Lake Albert.

Recently, the cabinet confounded many by proposing another chunk out of Masindi to create Kiryandongo district. It is a virtual certainty it would incorporate sizeable tracts of the national park and most, if not all of Kibanda County and reduce Masindi to just two counties. At this rate one wonders whether this is about taking services closer to the people and whether this is the most reasonable plan. Bunyoro has been generous and humble.

Migration into Masindi has occurred along similar paths as elsewhere in Uganda, but also partly driven by the myth of free land in the region.

Kiryandongo refugee camp, the smaller of the two camps in Bunyoro measuring 60 square kilometres is home to refugees mostly from northern Uganda and Sudan. They are accused of trying to change the character of the area by among others, renaming villages and wrangling for land with locals who lack land titles.

Others have left the camp and taken possession of land in the area. Bunyoro’s generosity has been abused and the continued loss of land is eroding its foundation because there is no culture without land. Creating a district here smacks of dispossession.

The ranches’ restructuring scheme. set-up by the NRM, dispossessed many Banyoro of their land in Kibanda County. Land in this area continues to change hands under dubious, cruel and degrading circumstances. Massive uncontrolled migration into Bunyoro has intensified, despite cries by local politicians and elders.

The creation of a new district out of Masindi is indefensible on the premises promoted by a government functionary and published in local media on June 1.

The local government minister, Adolf Mwesige, presented an anachronistic argument because new districts are now being created from smaller ones and transport today is not what it used to be.

Contrary to Mwesige’s assertions, a new district is harmful to Bunyoro’s cultural identity. The administrative units in Europe are not comparable to ours. As an example, in Belgium, France and Norway, where I have experience, there is neither an equivalent nor room for a regional district commander. The communes he referred to revolve around centuries-old municipalities led by a mayor. They wield enormous power and have substantial means at their disposal and merge into provinces or the like, led by an elected official. These then form constituencies for proportional representation in regional and national parliaments.

A commune is not equivalent to a district. It is political chicanery to mention them in defence of new districts. New districts are no solution to lack of infrastructure or incompetence. Current districts are battling a cocktail of problems like inadequate funding and a myriad of other encumberances unrelated to the population.

From a rational perspective, many new districts are unviable entities which, with hindsight and some self-admonition, should never have been created without serious efforts to achieve efficiency under the old ones. Besides, whether accidentally or not, these districts break-up regions that were culturally, politically and economically coherent.

It is perplexing to think a new district will find resources where old ones failed. A people-centred policy should focus on infrastructure development rather than expanding government.

The decades-old infrastructure that exists in Bunyoro is collapsing around the resigned population. Before engaging in populist talk of taking services closer to the people, emphasis should go to improving those services already provided by Masindi to avoid suspicion of cynical pre-election politics.

The colonialists denied Bunyoro its land ownership rights. Before this issue, and the small matter of royalties on mineral wealth, are resolved, it is unreasonable to further the fragmentation of Bunyoro.

Conventional wisdom suggests a new district in the region is a drain on national resources, erodes unity and collective ideology and plunges Bunyoro’s long-term survival into mortal jeopardy.
The writer is a Ugandan working in Norway

More districts is the opposite of effectiveness

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