22 April 2010

Uganda: Government Names 14 New Districts

Kampala — THE 14 new districts approved by the Cabinet this week have been named and take effect July 1. These are in addition to another 10 new districts currently before Parliament for approval, which would bring the total number to 111, up from the current 87.

State minister for local government Perez Ahabwe tabled the new list in Parliament yesterday, following a Wednesday Cabinet meeting chaired by President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe, which endorsed it. The list includes four new districts curved out of the counties of the present day Bushenyi, the fifth largest district in the country.

They are Sheema, which becomes Kibingo district, Ruhinda, which has been named Mitooma district, Bunyaruguru, which becomes Rubirizi district, Buhweju, which becomes Nsiika district, while Igara will remain Bushenyi district.

The resolution to split Bushenyi was arrived at after a lengthy persuasion by President Museveni for the ministers to heed to the aspirations of the people, in which he criticised ministers opposed to the split of Bushenyi despite council resolutions backing the move. Other new districts tabled yesterday are Ngora from Kumi, Napak from Bokora, Kibuku from Pallisa, Nwoya from Amuru, Kole from Apac, and Patongo from Agago.

Those from Masaka district are Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, and Lwengo, while Gombe will become its own district from Mpigi. Parliament last year approved six new districts, Zombo, Amudat, Otuke, Lamwo, Kyegegwa and Buikwe, which took effect July 1, 2009.

A schedule of 10 other proposed districts of Namayingo, Luuka, Kiryadongo, Ntoroko, Serere, Alebtong, Gomba, Buvuma, Butambala and Bulambuti is pending before Parliament, and is also expected to become effective July 1.

MPs react

Many MPs, whose requests for districts had been forwarded to the Ministry of Local Government, yesterday demanded to know why they had been left out. Dr. John Yekko Arapkissa from Kapchorwa district said the ministry should have included Kween district on the list, despite a dispute over the positioning of the headquarters.

Johnson Malinga (Independent) said his district, Amuria, passed a resolution to create another one from Kapelebyong, but he was shocked that it was not considered. Opposition chief whip Kassiano Wadri said the matter for Maracha/Terego district was in court and the district should not have been included.

But Ahabwe said the matter in court was on the location of the headquarters, while what is included in the schedule was alteration of the boundary.

Dr. Francis Epetait (FDC) whose constituency, Ngora, is now a district, demanded that the matter of districts be concluded before the House is prorogued in May. Odonga Otto (FDC) said the people of Pader wanted a new district of Agago with headquarters at Padibe and not Patongo as indicated in the schedule.

Makindye East MP Michael Mabikke (Independent) amused the House when he said: "I am under pressure from my people in Namuwongo to have a district." However, Speaker Edward Ssekandi said Kampala was not a district but a capital city that cannot be divided.

"Mr. Speaker, I have read for my people all the statutes but they insist they don't want to be conscripted to Kampala, they want Namuwongo district." Ahabwe said the people of Kween, and those of Tororo had consistently failed to agree on the headquarters of the district, which is why they had not been approved.

He said the creation of Kapelebyong district from Amuria and the split of Kabale was being assessed by technical people. "We are handling the other districts that have submitted their requests. They should not feel that we have left them out," he said. MPs will debate the resolution for the newly-created districts next week.

Ministers speak out

Cabinet ministers from Bushenyi who have been strongly opposed to splitting it conceded defeat. Health state minister Richard Nduhura, whose Igara constituency will remain Bushenyi, said the Cabinet decision is binding. He was happy his constituency remains Bushenyi. "I am bound by collective responsibility despite my position. I don't support the splitting of Bushenyi district," he said.

Asked whether he opposed the split in Cabinet, Nduhura, who said he had just returned from abroad, said he would have stood by his position. "But the world will not come to an end because Bushenyi has been divided. My constituency of Igara will remain Bushenyi district and it will not affect my votes," Nduhura said.

"I would have loved the people of Bushenyi to remain together and united, but it does not matter anymore since Cabinet has decided," he said. Tarsis Kabwegyere, the disaster preparedness minister and Sheema North MP, who will now fall in Kibingo district, said the world will not end after the split.

"I am not going to jump into the lake because Bushenyi has been split. I loved my mother so much because she educated me and brought me to where I am but when she died, I still continued to exist. If creating districts means extending services closer to the people, let's create 10,000 districts," he added.

Trade and industry minister Kahinda Otafiire, who has been the most vocal against the split, sounded upset. "It's a Cabinet decision that I cannot discuss now." Most vocal among cabinet ministers opposed to the split was finance state minister Ephraim Kamuntu, supported by MPs Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (Sheema North) and Deus Bikasizehi (Buhweju).

When contacted, Prof. Kamuntu said: "The decision has been long overdue for the people of Bushenyi. I feel great that the President has heard and agreed to the demands of the people in that part of the country." Experts say the creation of new districts is likely to increase the number of MPs and the cost of public administration.

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