opinionBy Dr. Cris Baryomunsi
The Observer has given Members of Parliament this forum to express themselves on national issues and address their constituencies.
In this issue, we begin with Dr. Cris Baryomunsi of Kinkizi East
Kinkizi East constituency is one of the two constituencies that make up Kanungu District in South-western Uganda. When I made a decision to contest for the parliamentary seat to join the 8th multiparty Parliament of Uganda, my major intention was to make a contribution towards the development of my home community.
Kanungu District is one of the geographically disadvantaged, hard-to-reach areas but with a population that is hard working and always struggling to succeed. The biggest challenges that confronted Kanungu District as I embarked on the not-so-enviable responsibility were mainly poverty, poor road infrastructure, a high disease burden, poor access to safe water and poor quality of education, among others.
Working together with other leaders, we have tried to change the face, not only of Kinkizi East, but of Kanungu District in general. Kanungu has largely been known because of the tragedy that occurred nine years ago when over 1,000 people died in an inferno in the name of faith.
My first activities as a Member of Parliament were to address issues of health and education. I personally purchased thousands of text books and distributed them to all primary schools in the constituency.
Because of intense lobbying, some schools and health centres have been built or upgraded. For instance, with resources from the Ministry of Health, Kambuga Hospital is currently undergoing a facelift. Communities like Mishenyi that had poor access to health services now have a health centre that was constructed in 2008. One of the major activities that were undertaken was the indoor residual spraying to curb the Malaria problem.
A lot of improvements have been registered in the area of road infrastructure. Starting with next financial year, maintenance of several roads in the constituency will be taken over by the central government, hence enabling the money available in the local government to be used on the remaining roads. We have also secured resources for the tarmaking of Rukungiri - Kanungu road. Beginning March 27, 2009, Eagle Air flies regularly to Savannah airfield, making communication and movement to Kanungu very easy.
During this term of the 8th Parliament, Kanungu for the first time got electric power. The power line now extends to Kambuga, Kihihi, Kayonza tea factory, Kanungu town, Rugyeyo tea factory, and other satellite towns and trading centres.
Although poverty levels are still high in Kinkizi East and Kanungu District, a lot of efforts are being put in to mobilise people for development. Using the Constituency Development Facility (CDF), I have distributed over 10,000 chicks in the constituency in order to ensure that incomes of the poor are raised. Indeed, nowadays eggs are more available in Kanungu. I have also introduced new varieties of cassava and sweet potatoes in the constituency to address the challenges of food security.
There have been tremendous improvements in the education sector. When PLE, O-level and A-level results were released, it was refreshing to note that Kanungu District remains one of those whose performance is not the poorest. Analysis done by the print media always shows that Kanungu District is always among the best 20 districts in terms of performance. The major challenge remaining is how to further improve the quality in UPE schools so that they also perform as well.
Despite the developments that taking place in the area, we still have a number of challenges that need urgent redress. For instance, we must further strengthen the mobilization for Prosperity for All programme as well as improve the performance of NAADS so as to intensify the fight against poverty. It has been difficult to attract doctors and other professional health workers to Kanungu. This is due to poor pay and the view that Kanungu District is "too rural" for most of the young doctors. Incentives need to be introduced for professionals not only in Kanungu but for other disadvantaged communities as well.
What I have realised as a Member of Parliament, is that the population still needs civic education in order to understand what the roles of the different leaders are. For instance, most voters think that a Member of Parliament is responsible for all the development that should take place in communities, including their individual homes. That is why they will expect you to contribute to a baptism party, bride price, school fees, and hospital bills, among others. Yet, the cardinal roles of an MP remain legislation, representation, budget appropriation and oversight over the executive, among others.
Many constituents do not appreciate that funds meant to cause development are managed by the ministries and local governments. The pressure exerted on district councilors who directly oversee these resources is far much less than that put on Members of Parliament. It therefore poses a challenge for Members of Parliament to do their rightful constitutional duties as well as the "politically correct" duties that the electorate appreciates.
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, MP, Kinkizi East