On Tuesday, August 4, Parliament passed a law allowing for the creation of 43 new constituencies in Uganda. The act is not only unconstitutional, but also not based on any known principle of good governance.
The minister of Local Government, Mr Adolf Mwesige, is without any mandate, trying to help President Museveni fulfil some of his campaign promises of creating new constituencies largely based on tribal or sectarian criteria.
Although the government knows that counties no longer exist in our law books, the minister strangely brought a Bill reading “creation of new counties” yet the same minister is the one who moved in Parliament in 2013 to do away with counties as administrative units.
His ministry of Local Government also does not have the powers to create new constituencies. That is the work of the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs who have those powers.
Mr Mwesige knows that the counties passed have nothing to do with facilitation of any sort of service delivery or local administration because there is no such thing like counties in our local government administrative structures. Parliament was rushed to formalise these so-called counties simply because government wanted them as new constituencies.
What we do not know is why government did not choose the constitutional channel by using the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the EC who have the mandate for the creation of new constituencies. That approach would have reduced the number of objections we in Opposition had in the Bill.
Article 63(7) of the Constitution of Uganda provides that the total population of Uganda shall be divided by the number of constituencies to establish a “population quota” which then determines the creation of new constituencies.
“‘population quota’ means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Uganda by the number of constituencies into which Uganda is to be divided into this article,” says the Constitution.
Within 12 months after every national census, the Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs are expected to use that census report to determine which constituency needs to be created and where, basing on the population quota.
Unfortunately, while the Constitution provides for a formula for arriving at the necessary number of constituencies and therefore MPs, this is not followed by the NRM government.
The current configurations of constituencies were arrived at from no known formula whatsoever. It is all about the best-lobbyists-have-it or the interests of the President who fixes it arbitrarily as campaign rewards.
Before the Bill was tabled in Parliament, we were told that President Museveni had proposed a formula of 80,000 people per constituency as his preferred quota formula. If this was fairly implemented, Uganda would have about 433 direct constituencies.
On this, we would add the interest group representations in Parliament of a woman per district, five each for the youth, disabled, workers and 10 for the army, and the total number would shoot to 569 MPs. This would mean almost 200 MPs more on top of the current number. It would be ridiculous.
Currently, there are 239 constituencies, meaning that in the quota system, given a national population size of about 35 million Ugandans, each constituency should averagely have a population of about 146,000 people.
However, if the minister wanted to add on the new number of constituencies, the total number would be 277 constituencies. The quota then would be of 125,000 populations each.
Unfortunately, this logic is also strange to them. From what they passed, some constituencies still have very huge population sizes while others would not even qualify to be parishes in the larger ones (in population terms).
For example, a place like Yumbe which has more than 485,000 people has one MP while Ntungamo District with a population size of 489,000 has four MPs. Why the disparity?
Yet if you used President Museveni’s political quota of a constituency for every 80,000 people, Mbarara for example, with a population of 474,144 should have six MPs instead of four and Wakiso with a population of two million should have 25 MPs instead of eight.
President Museveni should leave the job of creating constituencies to the mandated organs of State.
The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Electoral Commission should be allowed to do their job so that Parliament can assess them appropriately and fairly.
President Museveni’s policy of forming tribal constituencies to get jobs for his cadres must stop.
In the Bill that Parliament passed, such constituencies include Kibale in Butebo Pallisa which has a population of about 35,000 people and lying about 5km from Pallisa District headquarters.
We also know that some of these are meant to reward his supporters by finding safe constituencies for them like in the case of Koboko.
The Bill was also designed for gerrymandering constituencies like the UPC government did in the 1980 elections against candidate Museveni in Nyabushozi constituency.
Owing to the outcry about the already unnecessarily large size of Parliament, it is embarrassing that anyone would be increasing them without any sensible justification. The 9th Parliament would instead done better downsizing Parliament.
We would support constituencies based on population and geographical terrain of an area not tribes.
What was passed by Parliament last Tuesday is actionable in court.
The writer is the Bukooli County MP and Leader of the Opposition in