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Lukwago’s test

By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi

How will Lord Mayor’s star fare after he is done fighting his wars in KCCA?

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi Kiwanuka on Nov. 17 met journalists to review her first six months in office. Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago had held his weekly press conference the day before.

Lukwago told the press that the city authority, which he says comprises the Lord Mayor and Lord Councillors, neither approved nor has been updated about the programmes Musisi is implementing. The most controversial ones in Lukwago’s view include the demolition of illegal buildings, the eviction of street vendors and the demolition of Wandegeya market.

Lukwago says the demolition of city buildings is being carried out selectively, leaving out buildings belonging to influential people.

It is no longer a surprise for the two principals at KCCA to either go about their business in total indifference to each other or publicly voice disagreement on issues concerning the city. But these meetings were special. High Court Judge Eldard Mwangushya, only a week earlier, had stayed the hearing of the case filed by Lord Mayor Lukwago against ED Musisi concerning their respective roles to allow the two sides to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

Musisi says it is Lukwago’s side that requested to settle the case out of court. “I am still waiting to hear from them because I would very much like to hear what the grievances are,” she said, adding, “We were surprised because we were ready to proceed.”

In September, Lukwago appealed to the High Court seeking a legal interpretation of the terms of reference of the Lord Mayor and the ED. He accuses Musisi of “making it extremely difficult” for him to execute his duties as well as developing strategies and programmes for the city. Lukwago wants court to order Musisi to stop interfering in his activities.

Lukwago argues that the ED is supposed to implement policies passed by the Authority, and that most of what is being implemented in Kampala did not go through this process. On the other hand, Musisi argues that the city is managed under the President’s Office through the minister for Kampala and the policies she is implementing were contained in the Budget Framework Paper and the Ministerial Policy Statement approved by KCCA on June 21.

The differences in interpretation seem too wide to bridge, especially given that the take-over of Kampala by the central government was mostly influenced by the desire to wrestle the management of the city from opposition politicians, who the ruling NRM appeared unable to beat at the polls.

When Lukwago’s side requested for time to discuss an out-of-court settlement, observers say they might have been biding time since Lukwago was away on pilgrimage in Mecca when the hearing was scheduled to start. An alternative view is that Lukwago could have sensed a danger in the possibility of being made to pay high costs should he lose the case. Musisi engaged prominent Kampala lawyer Andrew Kasirye after Lukwago successfully challenged her use of KCCA lawyers in a suit which is against her personally.

Lukwago’s woes

Lukwago, who stood on the platform of anti-corruption and improved service delivery in a city that had experienced massive break down of social services, a dilapidated road infrastructure and heavy traffic congestion amidst financial mismanagement, seems increasingly frustrated by the failure to take part in the action.

A month after taking office, he appealed to Parliament to amend the KCCA Act to streamline the roles of the Lord Mayor and the ED and “ensure smooth running” of the city. In October, Lukwago threatened to resign, citing frustration of his functions by the central government.

But Kabakumba Masiko, the minister in charge of the presidency and Kampala, will not relent. Kabakumba has blocked Lukwago’s appointment of Sulaiman Kidandala as deputy lord mayor, citing non-compliance with the KCCA Act during his appointment. “The position of deputy lord mayor is still vacant,” she summarily told The Independent.

Lukwago took over five months to name Kidandala, a Democratic Party (DP) member, his deputy, reportedly weighing up the likely reaction of a council dominated by NRM members. NRM members wanted one of them to be appointed to the position, something Lukwago appears unwilling to entertain.

Kabakumba and Musisi cite section 19 (g) of the KCCA Act 2010 to block Kidandala’s appointment, arguing that his approval as deputy lord mayor was illegal since “there was no quorum” when Kidandala was approved. KCCA Director for Physical Planning, George Agaba, who was acting ED then, stormed out of the session that approved Kidandala’s appointment citing this clause.

The whole argument surrounding the appointment of the deputy lord mayor has largely been drowned in legalese, with each side citing the provisions of the relevant Act that back up its case.

Lukwago, for example, faulted Agaba on the walk out and the subsequent blocking of the swearing-in of the deputy lord mayor, arguing that Agaba had no capacity to appoint himself the advisor of the lord mayor, and that his functions as director in charge of physical planning have to be determined by the authority under clauses 1,2,3 of the 5th schedule of KCCA Act 2010.

But of more concern to Lukwago, observers say, should be his political star. Being a member of DP, even if he run for lord mayor on independent ticket, appointing a fellow DP member as his deputy would auger well for any ambitions he may have within his party.

But what happens when such an appointment becomes a divisive factor that threatens any hopes he may have of galvanising the NRM-dominated authority around his political programme?

Musisi moves on

If Lukwago has arguably lacked a pet project with which to be associated during the half year he has been in office, the same cannot be said of Musisi. Lukwago was the first to demand that the coordinator of security services Gen. David Tinyefuza vacates the KCCA house on Plot 2 Mabua Road, but it is Musisi who took the kudos for the eviction because she has what Lukwago lacks – enforcement powers.

Again, whereas Lukwago kicked up the dust against taxi operator Utoda, it has increasingly become clear that for anything to be implemented, the ED has to approve of it.

Lukwago’s continued squabbling with Musisi, observers say, would eventually hurt him more than benefit him. And by so doing, he could be falling in NRM’s trap.

Musisi has cleared Kampala streets of vendors, has since turned against Utoda, is repairing some city roads and starting on the construction of Wandegeya market. She says Kampala roads require about a trillion shillings to fix, but the Authority’s roads budget this financial year is a mere Shs 43 billion. But she hopes for a much bigger allocation next year.

To streamline the Authority’s finances and ensure accountability, Musisi has instituted an audit by international firm KPMG and consolidated KCCA accounts, which were several and spread across almost all banks during the KCC days, making expenditure tracking difficult, into one account in Bank of Uganda.

She also promises to embark on the construction of bus terminals and shelters, remove heavy trucks from the Central Business District, has already started a crackdown on illegal buildings, with 200 illegal buildings served with contravention notices and 11 already razed down. The Authority has also released kiosk placement standing guidelines and Musisi says they are working on taking back public toilets.

To achieve her ambitious programmes, Musisi says there is need to amend the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act to enable faster procurement of materials and other requirements to ensure responsive service delivery. “It took almost three months to procure murram, aggregate and bitumen (to fix the city roads under construction),” says Musisi, to underscore the need for reforming the law.

Going by President Yoweri Museveni’s public praise for Musisi’s ‘good’ work, there is no reason to think he won’t bend over backwards to help her. When she decried the delay in naming directors to the Authority, Museveni appointed them in September. Museveni sometimes takes years to appoint people to vacant posts, including judges and justices.

Asked to clarify on Lukwago’s accusation that some of her activities are illegal because they are not approved by KCCA councillors, Musisi is dismissive.

“I don’t want to respond to statements that are made without research,” she said.

So Lukwago, who has the challenge of carving out a role for the lord mayor under hostile circumstances, has his job cut out. When his term is done, he may find himself having to motivate his supporters to vote for a leader who they know would not do much if Museveni stayed in power. Their only consolation, probably, would be that any improvements happening in the city would have been motivated by Museveni’s desire to undermine the relevance of Lukwago and other opposition politicians in Kampala.

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