Before the 2016 general elections, government plans to create at least 36 new constituencies largely to accommodate some unsettled NRM-leaning candidates.
The Observer has learnt that the minister for Local Government, Adolf Mwesige, unveiled the plan during a meeting with district leaders on Monday at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala.
Leaders who attended the meeting include Mugerwa Mamerito (chairman Kira town council, Wakiso), Benon Mugabi (LC-V chairman, Rakai), Abdu Kyabangi and Matia Lwanga Bwanika (LC-V chairman Gomba and Wakiso respectively). We have been told that Mwesige told the leaders that President Museveni had received numerous requests from people to create new constituencies during his tours to promote wealth creation, and had directed him to handle the matter.
He said the president was told that some of the old constituencies are too big and people feel underrepresented. Yesterday, Mwesige declined an interview for a comment. He said he was holed up in a meeting in Gulu.
He promised to get back before the end of the day but by press time he had not. The constituencies are to be carved out of existing districts in various parts of the country.
The affected districts include Wakiso, Rakai, Kamuli, Koboko, Gomba, Kalangala, Sembabule, Bukomansimbi, Kibaale, Kabale, Arua and Kasese. In Wakiso, there is a proposal to create two municipalities Kira and Makindye-Ssabagabo, while Kooki county in Rakai is to be split into two.
Similarly, Gomba leaders want another constituency to be carved out of Gomba county. Meanwhile, there is a proposal to elevate Kamuli town council to a municipality and split up Mawogola county, Sembabule district, into two constituencies.
As for Koboko district, there is a proposal to create Koboko municipality. There is also a proposal to create Lugazi municipality. While government says the new constituencies are aimed at ensuring effective representation, critics believe they are aimed at serving the political interests of the ruling NRM.
SHUT UP KADAGA CRITICS
For instance, sources told us that Speaker Rebecca Kadaga could contest in Kamuli municipality to shut up critics who say she has ridden on the women affirmative action seat for so long. Koboko municipality is reportedly aimed at accommodating the ambitions of Evelyn Anite (minister of state for youth and children affairs), who wanted to take on Margaret Baba Diri for the Koboko Woman seat.
By splitting Mawogola, we are told that NRM is trying to create an opening for Herman Ssentongo, the resident district commissioner for Kamuli, who wants to take on Mathias Mpuuga in Masaka municipality in 2016.
The affected district councils have been given up to May 11 to study and ratify the proposal, sources told us. After that, the matter is expected to be referred to parliament which has the ultimate power to approve new constituencies. Benon Mugabi, the Rakai LC-V chairman who attended the meeting, said he welcomed the idea of splitting Kooki.
“The people need to be represented well and if a big constituency like Kooki is represented by one person, that cannot be fair,” Mugabi said.
The MP for Kooki is Amos Mandela. The creation of an additional 36 new constituencies would push the total number of directlyelected MPs to 386, up from the current 350 (including district woman MPs). When you add affirmative action groups (youths, workers, PWDs and army), the total number will come to 411.
Creation of new constituencies could also pose new logistical challenges for the Electoral Commission which has already released a roadmap for the 2016 elections. Currently, according to the roadmap, the EC is updating the voters’ register.
Paul Bukenya, the deputy spokesperson of the EC, told The Observer yesterday that he had heard about the proposal but could not give a detailed comment until it is formalized. Nonetheless, he said that for any electoral changes that have financial implications, “government will have to foot the bill.”
However Betty Nambooze, the shadow minister for Local Government, said it was legally improper for Mwesige to lead the effort to create new constituencies.
“Under the law, the minister can only bring a proposal to create new districts or municipalities but not constituencies,” she said.
Nambooze said that by carving new constituencies from some counties, government is cleverly attempting to create new counties, which would contradict the Local Government Act. The Local Government Amendment Act (2012) abolished county councils, since district councils cover the same area as these councils.
Interviewed yesterday, a number of MPs spoke out in support and against the proposal. Nakato Kyabangi (NRM), the Woman MP for Gomba, said: “I support it because it will ease the service delivery and supervision of government programmes.”
Simon Mulongo (Bubulo East, NRM), said: “Ideally, Uganda should rationalize the parameters for creating administrative units as far as electoral areas such as population and area size and peculiarity [are concerned].”
He pointed out that Uganda has the highest number of legislators in the region, warning that new constituencies will create an additional financial burden. Kyadondo East’s Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC) said that Uganda does not have criteria for creating new administrative units, including constituencies, which is why Ugandans think that it’s the president to create them.
“As parliament, we need to create the criterion which is meant to create the constituencies rather than being given as gifts. If Kira [town council] is becoming a municipality, no one needs to lobby anybody,” Ssemujju said.
Source : The Observer