Uganda: 7 New Cities Outline Development Plans

Seven new cities, which were inaugurated last week, have started work.

The new cities are Masaka, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Gulu, Arua, Jinja, and Mbale.

Mbarara City was officially inaugurated on Friday, with the minister of Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, laying its foundation stone at the White House, which has been housing Mbarara Municipal Council offices.

The transition ceremony was held at Lake View Resort Hotel and graced by former and current council leaders, businessmen and other stakeholders.

Mr Robert Kakyebezi was decorated with a black gown to assume the role of interim city mayor.

Mr Magyezi handed to Mr Kakyebezi a booklet of the guidelines made by the ministry and asked him to use them alongside the Local Governments Act and the Constitution of Uganda.

"This is interim, he is simply caretaking, that's why he has not been sworn-in," the minister said.

The city mayor will choose a deputy mayor and three secretaries from 59 councillors, including 10 that came from the district council.

Mr Magyezi announced that Kakiika, Biharwe, Kamukuzi, Kakoba, Nyamitanga and Nyakayojo ceased being divisions. Instead, they have been turned into Mbarara North and Mbarara South municipalities.

Kakiika becomes headquarters for Mbarara North and Nyamitanga for Mbarara South and their two leaders become interim municipal mayors.

"We have considered centrality, availability of land for expansion and infrastructure," Mr Magyezi said in reference to the two municipal headquarters.

Each municipal mayor will choose a deputy and three secretaries from the former two division chairpersons and councillors.

"We have created these cities so that people don't have to go to Kampala for city services. We expect orderliness and a well-lit city," Mr Magyezi said.

He added: "The cost of land will increase, and the population will increase. We are establishing this city to build inclusiveness."

Finances

The population of Mbarara City is estimated at 250,000. The minister said the city will use the budget for the former municipal council of Shs43 billion while the two municipal councils will operate a budget of the respective merged divisions.

"By November, you should have made development for the city. We shall keep giving you money from the centre," Mr Magyezi said.

He warned the leadership of the city against increasing taxes and challenged them to adopt to modern practices of revenue mobilisation. The minister also warned them against selling and leasing public property.

"Let's as much as possible to protect the public property," Mr Magyezi said.

The city has inherited property of the district, including buildings of administration headquarters. Mbarara City also inherited liabilities of Mbarara District whose headquarters are being shifted to Bwizibweera Town Council in Kashaari South Constituency.

Mr Kakyebezi urged his colleagues to put their differences aside and work for development of the city.

"I don't want conflicts, let's work together; I'm ready to ask for forgiveness from those I wronged and I expect you to do the same," he said.

Masaka's resolve

Masaka City was also officially inaugurated at the weekend, with leaders promising to work together to turn the new establishment into an agricultural urban area.

At the official launch, speaker after speaker said elevation of the town to city status has been long overdue.

The new interim mayor, Mr Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, said Masaka is historically known for growing coffee, bananas and other agricultural products, which they need to promote and brighten the sub-region's economic prospects.

"We are going to make sure that we get agro processing industries in the city that will add value to agricultural products in the region to improve people's financial strength and their standards of living," he said.

Mr Kayemba assured the city dwellers that no one will be harassed in the name of development but they will work closely with them to implement trade and other orders.

"Both the city dwellers and leaders need each other in the development of the city," he said.

The mayor urged business people hailing from Masaka, who are currently living in other parts of the world to return home and participate in developing the new city.

According to guidelines issued by Mr Magyezi last week, the current mayors of elevated municipalities automatically became the interim city mayors. The mayors will nominate from among members of the council an interim deputy city mayor and interim executive committee. The mayor and deputy mayor will also serve as the interim city council speaker and deputy speaker, respectively. Mr Majid Batambuze, the chairperson of Urban Authorities Association of Uganda, asked the central government to give the newly created cities all the necessary support to enable them improve service delivery.

"The reason why we have for long been agitating for new cities is to have development extended to the countryside since urbanisation is a major tool in development," he added.

State Minister for Local Government Jennifer Namuyangu handed over instruments of power to the leaders of the city. "We expect Masaka to be a well-planned and organised city. So leaders should be strict on following the city structural plan to avoid congestion and unplanned structures," the minister said

Mr Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, the vice president who was the guest of honour, thanked government for considering Masaka to be elevated to city status in the first phase.

"Government is aiming at driving the country to middle income status by accelerating people's standards of living through the cities," he said.

In Gulu, the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, tasked the city authorities to mobilise more revenue to develop cities.

He said making cities entirely dependent on government funds would deter their development.

"A city is about people who must be empowered because by nature it must be sustainable and that calls for network all over the world to have people who can partner," Mr Oulanyah, who is also the Omoro County MP, said.

He said besides good infrastructure, "the business community in the city must have access to development credits so that the tax generation capacity of the city is on its own."

Gulu District chairperson Martin Ojara Mapenduzi said the development of Gulu airfield into an international airport is targeted as one of the strategies to develop Gulu City.

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