By Agather Atuhaire
Museveni likely to wholly take over 10th parliament
When Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesige presented a motion for parliament to approve the creation of 39 new constituencies on July 15, many were shocked that President Museveni ignored public outcry over the bloated parliament which is putting an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer. But others say those who get shocked by Museveni’s manoeuvres do not know what really matters to him.
Museveni’s only concern is regime survival,” says Godber Tumushabe, the executive Director of Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank on governance.
Indeed, all those trying to make sense of Museveni’s decision to add 39 more members to a parliament that is already the biggest in the region point to regime survival. With the creation of 39 more constituencies, the number of parliament during its 10th term will increase to 425.
Some say the move is one of the many tactics he is employing to trounce his rivals, who now include his hitherto confidant and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi in the upcoming elections.
While Mwesige said the creation of new counties was necessary for effective representation and streamlining administration, observers have dismissed this view. That these new demarcations are made towards elections does not help matters.
The newest districts were created in the run up to the 2011 elections.
Research done by the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in 2009 showed that Museveni has always performed well among newly created districts during elections.
“Analysis of the voting records shows that Museveni obtained substantial electoral advantage from new districts created before elections or in areas where he promised to grant district status,” says the report entitled The Ugandan tax payers’ burden.
For instance it showed that in 1996, Museveni got 89.2 % of the vote in the newly created districts. He garnered 72.5% in 2001 and 73.6 in 2006.
Others say Museveni is looking for a way of settling the disgruntled NRM supporters who have been thrown out of parliament by strong opposition candidates. He also wants to create blue skies for party loyalists who face strong competition in the upcoming election.
Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze, who is also the shadow minister for Local Government says the move is absolute gerrymandering, aimed at giving party cadres “safe seats”.
For instance the splitting of Koboko County is looked at as a manoeuvre to get a slot for Youth and Children Affairs minister Evelyn Anite. Anite is currently in Parliament on a youth ticket representing the youth from Northern Uganda and was contemplating running against Koboko woman MP Margaret Babadiri who is a strong candidate and also a loyal member of the NRM party. Anite is seen as the architect of the Museveni sole candidature project having presented in February 2014 a motion “beseeching” Museveni to be the party’s sole flag bearer.
Museveni has always rewarded party cadres with positions like Resident District Commissioners, ambassadors and presidential advisors but now it seems he realises these cadres will be more useful in parliament.
Nambooze also questions where the executive gets the powers to create constituencies since the law that Mwesige quoted talks about only districts.
Article 179 of the constitution stipulates that parliament may alter the boundaries of districts and create new districts with the support of the majority of the members. But clause 3 talks about creation of any other administrative units based on the necessity for effective administration, the need to bring services closer to the people and it may take into account the means of communication, geographical features and the means of the people.
Indeed, those were the justifications that Mwesige gave to parliament, and Museveni gave while writing to the minister about the proposal.
Museveni said that while many of the issues raised by the people were frivolous and insignificant, said there was need to streamline administration and governance, sort out issues of sub-colonialism, and make it easy to plan for economic development.
He said administration and governance is complicated in districts with one constituency because you end up having three leaders over the same unit of administration and political representation-the LCV chairman, the Woman MP, and the constituency MP.
He also said there was a need to continue with the process of internal emancipation.
“The old colonial districts used to lump together the different groups of our people without paying attention to their identities.” Museveni said in the letter. “In such situations,” he adds, “the bigger group would dominate not only the local government but also the education system and the representation to parliament and other elective bodies.”
“Hence in Kotido, the Labwor who are Luo-speaking would be eclipsed by the Jie, who speak a branch of the Akarimojong.”
“The Pokot of Amudat would never feature in the leadership in Karamoja. The Baruuli of Nakasongola would not easily feature in leadership. In Arua, you would imagine that all the people there are Lugbara–not knowing that there are Kakwas, Jonam, Alur, etc…”
But many have seen that practice as a bad practice which breeds ethnicity and disunity in the country. Research has shown that Museven’s policy and practice of decentralisation has intensified ethnic tensions and violence rather than promote national cohesion.
But there is also another theory. That Museveni wants to increase the NRM numbers in parliament to make it easy for him unravel the age limit bar from the constitution to enable him contest again in 2021.
“I am sure Museveni wants to have as many members on his side as possible,” said a source in parliament who did not want to be named, “he needs enough members to overwhelmingly vote against age limit when the constitution is brought to parliament for amendment.”
Article 102 of the constitution says that a person shall not qualify for election as president unless he or she is above 35 years of age but less than 75 years of age.
Museveni is officially 71 years old now which means he will be 77 in 2021 and ineligible to stand.
Even the most objective commentators, like researcher and policy analyst Frederick Golooba Mutebi who cautions against jumping to conclusions about Museveni and his new constituencies, says they possibly have nothing to do with service delivery. “It has zero impact on service delivery,” he says, “Instead it means more public money being spent on MPs and less for the benefit of the ordinary Ugandan.”
Golooba says they are in line with Museveni’s “management” style. He says Museveni feels the need to bring as many into the political process as possible.
An official in the ministry of Local Government, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the fear of losing his job, told The Independent that creating new administrative units has an impact on service delivery but in the manner the architects either do not expect or do not care.
“That actually cripples service delivery,” he says, “the resources that would improve service delivery instead go into maintaining an unnecessarily big administration.”
He also reasons that there will be a lot of time wasted waiting for the consensus of a 500-member parliament on important projects. The `Ugandan taxpayers’ burden’ report makes the same point.
“Increased representation alone doesn’t lead to significant changes in human development indicators,” says the report. “On the contrary, the increased expenditure on the number of legislators diverts public resources required for investment in key social services such as health and education.”
Indeed, the budget of parliament has increased significantly over the years. For instance, the institution’s budget was Shs112 billion in the financial year 2003/4 but it was allocated Shs360 billion in FY 2015/16 and the clerk still lamented over “funding gaps”.
The report says that the main beneficiary is the sitting President who uses administration engineering to dispense political patronage and secure support from an unsuspecting electorate.
With the creation of 39 more constituencies, the number of parliament during its 10th term will increase to 425.
The number might be higher if the reports that more municipalities will be created are true. When the Members of Parliament asked Mwesige why he had not brought the motion to approve the municipalities together with that of the constituencies, he said he would do that when Cabinet approves them. Even at the current number of 386, Uganda has the largest Parliament in the region even when it’s not the biggest in size or by population or by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). ACODE’s report on parliament’s size says shows that Uganda has the lowest per capita representation. At about 90,000 persons per MP, it is lower than Kenya which is at about 165,000 persons per MP and Tanzania with about 123,000 persons per MP.
While the report advises that Uganda increases representation to at most 200,000 persons per MP, in a March letter to Minister Mwesige, Museveni said he was putting the yardstick on population so that each constituency has 80,000 people