By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
The elderly Ssebaana Kizito is former mayor of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala which has just got a new Lord Mayor; opposition firebrand Erias Lukwago. Ssebaana spoke to The Independent’s Mubatsi Asinja Habati about the challenges Lukwago, who has to work with an executive secretary appointed under the new Kampala Capital City Authority Act, faces.
What should Kampalans expect from Erias Lukwago as new Lord Mayor?
Lukwago’s victory was outstanding and it shows confidence the voters have in him. However, the new law under which he will govern as lord mayor will curtail a lot of his activities. According to the law the administration of the city will entirely be in the hands of a politically appointed Executive Director on whom the lord mayor will have no control whatsoever. Therefore I think the principle of decentralisation has been compromised by this law.
How has it been compromised?
The new position of the executive director who will be responsible for the day to day administration of the city will be appointed by the President of Uganda and that’s recentralisation instead of decentralisation.
So, what expectations should people have in Lukwago?
If he plays by what is written in the law, they should not expect him to do what is not in the law. But knowing the authority of such a job practically, I think he will be able to do more than what is legislated. He has even declared that he will not just be a figurehead as the law seems to make him. The law seems to make his post ceremonial; a person who goes to attend functions, goes to the airport to welcome dignitaries, I don’t think that with his energy he is a person who can confine himself to that.
But isn’t he expected to work within the limit of the law?
Well, the law is written but the practice maybe different even without breaking the law. I have worked with Lukwago in many capacities he is a person who does not enjoy sitting and waiting for things to come. He is a man who wants to stand up, walk around and see that things are done. I think he will have to strike a working relationship with the capital city authority executive director. He will do all these things in support of what he promised the people.
As former mayor of Kampala what advice do you give to Lukwago?
I would like him to study, first of all, the law and secondly the executive director who will be brought to work with him. He should befriend the executive director so that they can work for people of Kampala.
In your opinion, what impact will this new law have on the development of Kampala?
According to the new law, there will be more funds directly from the central government to the city. That’s a good thing because when I was mayor we used to get little money from government and we had to look for more money from other sources. The central government will take over the construction of roads and the expansion of the city would make it increasingly difficult for KCC to cope with the workload.
Basing on your experience, what useful role can the lord mayor play?
Apart from striking a relationship with Kampala City executive director, if they go as it’s provided in the law there will be very little he can do. But he will be the top politician of the city since the city has been divided into municipalities themselves headed by mayors. So it is these mayors who will take over the development or the administration of their divisions.
Do you think this new system of administration as provided by the Kampala Capital City Authority Act will work better than the old one?
I think it will be a big impediment on the work of the Lord Mayor because a lot of power has been taken away from the mayor. This law was mooted when I was still mayor. They asked for my opinion and I told them that we should not be seen as attempting to recentralize the city.
What challenges does the new mayor face that you contended with or perhaps those we are yet to see?
The new mayor faces the challenge of congestion; not only congestion of vehicles on the narrow roads but also congestion of houses, congestion of commercial activities. You find someone having a hotel here but next door there is a milling machine, some other person next door is welding, etc. He faces the big challenge to put the city to order. He and planners have to say this area is for this activity.
What solution can he apply to this challenge?
There should be some order in the city; order in trade, order in residence, order in transport and order in management. As long as there is no order, these challenges are going to continue because the people think they are free to do whatever they want in the city. The people should not look at the mayor to solve everything. They should not dispose of their garbage anywhere and build in disregard of city plans