Uganda: Mbale Council Meeting Turns Chaotic As Councillors Exchange Fists

The Mbale District council meeting on Friday degenerated into a scene of chaos as councillors exchanged fists following a disagreement on whether to relocate the district offices from Malukhu in Industrial Division.

A section of Mbale leaders wants the district offices relocated after Parliament on April 28 approved the creation of 15 new cities.

The first new cities which become operational in July are Mbale, Jinja, Gulu, Arua, Masaka, Mbarara and Fort Poprtal.

The Mbale district councilors who were invited to pass the budget for financial year 2020-2021 at Mbale Secondary school, asked the district council Speaker, Mr Muhammad Mafabi, to include the relocation of the district headquarters on the order paper.

The speaker kicked off the storm when he declined to grant their proposal prompting majority of the councilors to storm out of the meeting.

"Basing on the rules of procedures, we are not going to include that item on the agenda. Let's pass the budget,"Mr Mafabi said.

Busiu town Councillor, Mr Alfred Namasa, ordered his colleagues to get out of the meeting accusing the speaker of bias.

"Our speaker is biased and he wants the district headquarters to be relocated to his area in Jewa which is far from town. I brought the matter of public importance which we wanted included on the agenda and we discuss it but the speaker declined without a genuine reasons," Mr Namasa said.

He said he petitioned the speaker two days before the sitting to include the item on the order paper but in vain.

However, some councilors were not done yet as they confronted the district leader of government business, Mr Joram Matsysa and a few of their colleagues who were still in the hall debating.

Soon, tempers flared as the debate turned chaotic and degenerated into a fist-fight with some councillors hurling chairs at each other.

Mr Mafabi was quickly saved by the sergeant at arms.

Ms Milly Nabalayo, the Bumasikye Sub County councillor said the district headquarters ought to be relocated before July 1.

"Relocating the offices will allow the current offices to be renovated to host the city offices. We are shocked to see our speaker blocking the item on the agenda and yet we have no time," Ms Nabalayo said.

The Mbale District Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Esau Ekachelan, said the budget was more important.

"We are behind schedule to pass the budget because we were supposed to pass it last month. I request councillors to agree and pass it because whatever they are doing is simply out of the anger," Mr Ekachelan said.

He defended the speaker saying he has the right to block or include any item on the order paper.

"As CAO, I have not received any documents from the ministry of local government for the city. We don't know whether the city will come or not. I don t act on political pronouncements, "he said.

He told the councilors that they should not compare Jinja to Mbale.

"In Jnja they started planning to relocate long time ago and they have money. Jinja is not like Mbale. We don't have money at the moment to relocate the district headquarters, "he said.

As a result, two councillors were arrested and detained when police commanded by the DPC, Fred Ahimbisibwe intervened.

However, they were released after their colleagues protested the arrest.

The meeting later resumed with only 18 out of 50 councillors, in attendance.

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