By Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi
Cabinet recently came out with a programme of elevating some of our municipalities into cities.
According to the Minister of Local Government Capt. Tom Butime, the first phase of the cities to start in 2020 and it will include, God willing, Arua, Jinja, Gulu, Fort Portal, and Mbarara.
The second one that will have Mbale, Hoima, Lira, and Entebbe will be 2021 and 2022. The third, which has not been much talked about, will have Soroti, Nakasongola, Moroto, Masaka, Kabale, and Wakiso.
The Minister was quoted in New Vision as saying that Arua, Mbarara, Gulu, Mbale, Lira, Soroti and Masaka, Kabale and Wakiso will be regional cities. Then Jinja, Moroto, Hoima, Fort Portal, Nakasongola, and Entebbe will be strategic due to their tourist attractions, the concentration of industries and the existence of minerals.
The minister said that some ministries, departments, and agencies shall be relocated to those cities to decongest Kampala.
The Minister said that the move is part of the government’s plan to implement Vision 2040 by addressing the current levels of rapid urbanisation, which requires serious attention.
The move is overdue but in my view, ministries, departments, and agencies should not just be relocated to any regional city for routine purposes or to appease the region and its people, but a city like Nakasongola, which shall be more strategically located in the centre of the country, should be planned and developed as a future political capital, just like Dodoma in Tanzania, Abuja in Nigeria, Pretoria in South Africa. Thus relocating ministries, departments and agencies there will be justifiable.
As for regional capitals, under the 1995 Constitution, as amended in 2005, districts are tagged under regions and are allowed to co-operate and form regional governments. However, districts under regions of Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, Acholi and Lango are deemed to have agreed to co-operate and form regional governments that were supposed to start operating on July 1st, 2006.
Like how every district has, at least a town council as its capital, the regional capitals for regional governments were mentioned in the Constitution. Mengo municipality for Buganda, Jinja Municipality for Busoga, Hoima Municipality for Bunyoro, Gulu Municipality for Acholi and Lira Municipality for Lango. Other regions in mentioned in the constitution include Bukedi, Bugisu, Sebei, Teso, Ankole, Kigezi, Tooro, Rwenzori, West Nile, Madi, and Karamoja.
Therefore, in anticipation that, sooner or later, the Regional Governments Bill that was tabled in Parliament in 2006, and has never been debated and passed, will be done so in the spirit of developing
power to regions, as a way of enhancing decentralisation of power to local governments, will look queer when other regions have cities as their capitals and the Buganda region has Mengo as a municipality.
Various attempts were made to curve out Rubaga Division from Kampala City to the then Mpigi District, in exchange for the then Kira sub-county. That was due to the fact that Kampala is not listed among Buganda districts since it is the national capital.
There was also an attempt to restore Mengo district. In colonial times, Buganda was divided into Mengo, Masaka and Mubende districts and after the 1966 crisis, Mengo was divided into East Mengo and West Mengo and from 1974 and Amin’s regime had Mengo district, which was named Mpigi by UNLF Government in 1979.
In 2005, the then Rubaga South MP John Ken Lukyamuzi moved a motion in Parliament that wanted to amend a Government proposal, instead of restoring the Mengo municipality, Mengo district should be restored comprised of Rubaga Division and the then Makindye Ssaabagabo Sub County now municipality, but it was defeated.
Now that Entebbe and Wakiso will be separate cities, both historical names; Entebbe, which was our political and administrative capital in colonial times and Mengo, which was Buganda’s capital, should be retained as cities.
The writer is a journalist and a communications assistant at the Government-Citizen Interaction Center (GCIC) under the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.