BY JOSHUA KATO
The famous Masaka district could almost be gone following the agitation to split it up into small bits. The latest county demanding district status is Kalungu. Parliament had almost declared it a district, had it not been for the opposition from Bukomansimbi County leaders li
The famous Masaka district could almost be gone following the agitation to split it up into small bits. The latest county demanding district status is Kalungu. Parliament had almost declared it a district, had it not been for the opposition from Bukomansimbi County leaders like MP Lubyayi Kisiki.
Kalungu had been declared a district by the Ministry of Local Government, but controversy over the issue made the Government shelve the decision for further consultations.
However, two other areas may soon be carved out of Masaka to create Lwengo and Bukomansimbi districts.
The original Masaka
It is one of the traditional districts of Uganda and Buganda. Until the early 1990s, the district covered part of south-western Uganda. It bordered Tanzania in the south, Mukono and Lake Victoria in the east and Mubende in the north-west. The area had a population of about one million people.
Later, Rakai, Sembabule, Kalangala and Lyantonde were curved out of Masaka, but the district remained huge. For example, the district has 23 sub-counties, compared to a national district sub-county average of seven. If Kalungu, Lwengo and Bukomansimbi become districts, Masaka will be left with only three counties â€” Masaka Municipality, Bukoto East and Bukoto Central.
Arguments for new district
â€œI sometimes fail to do consultations because of the large size of the district. This is why I support a split,â€ says Sauda Namugerwa, the Masaka district Woman MP.
â€œDividing the district will create equality. We have bad roads and poor service delivery because of the large district,â€ argues Kalungu East MP, Lule Mawiya.
Similarly, Anthony Iga, the Kalungu West MP, is in favour of the new district because he envisages their own district budget and a council to take â€˜importantâ€™ decisions, and a road unit to repair roads and create jobs.
Status of Kalungu
A survey in the county shows that the infrastructure and services sector is not as â€˜neglectedâ€™ as the MPs claim. For instance a number of roads are tarmacked.
With a population of around 300,000 people, Kalungu includes areas like Lukaya, Lwabenge, Butenga, Kyamulibwa, Kitanda, Bigasa and Bukulula. However, there are still questions about Lukaya since some residents do not support the split.
Kalungu is bustling with development. Lush banana plantations dot the roadsides and hillsides. Meanwhile, Bukulula, which grows coffee is also one of the leading producers of pineapples in Uganda.
According to Yiga, they are lobbying Bukomansimbi to join Kalungu so they form one district. â€œIf Bukomansimbi accepts, we shall have a population of 450,000 people.â€ This population will be three times higher than the average district population of 180,000.
Bukomansimbi, however, wants to become a separate district. â€œWe should not move because our neighbours have moved,â€ says Lubyayi.
He argues that if the creation of a new district is a do-or-die affair, then Bukomansimbi should also become a district. â€œWe can become a district. We have over 200,000 people,â€ Lubyayi argues.
More ask to leave Masaka
Meanwhile, MPs in Bukoto county are calling for the creation of Lwengo district while Lyantonde is also asking for more from the fast-disintegrating Masaka. â€œWe want Malongo and Kyazanga sub-counties to join us because they are nearer to Lyantonde than Masaka Town,â€ says Fred Nayebare, Lyantondeâ€™s LC5 chairman.
Apparently, some councillors from the two sub-counties have already accepted to join Lyantonde, but the district council is still resistant.
Vincent Ssempijja, the district chairman, is struggling hard to keep the district together. â€œWe shall gain nothing from the split. We shall just be scattering our resources,â€ he says. Ssempijja thinks those pushing for a split are simply playing opportunistic politics.
The issue has since caught the attention of President Yoweri Museveni. When he toured the district in December, residents of Kalungu demanded district status. However, in Bukomansimbi, residents said they preferred to remain part of Masaka to joining Kalungu.
Consequently, Museveni advised all sides to â€˜consultâ€™ widely, before making the final decision. On January 6, Museveni met opinion leaders from Masaka at Rwakitura to solve the issue, but no conclusion was reached.
What are the benefits?
Do people get better services when areas gain district status? How was Kalangala when it was still part of Masaka? True, Kalangala has changed for the better, so is Sembabule, although the district leaders have spent most of the time fighting among themselves. Rakai and Lyantonde are also a force to reckon with. However, the difference is, all these areas were far away from the Masaka district headquarters, than Kalungu and Bukomansimbi are.
SHOULD WE SPLIT MASAKA?