By Julius Odeke
Dr Ian Clarke aka Busuulwa is the LC III Chairperson for Makindye Division. He spoke to The Independent’s Julius Odeke about his political plans, the future of Kampala City, and the challenges of urbanization.
More Ugandans are moving into urban areas. What are the implications of this massive change?
Whereas urbanization is not as fast as in some cities in Africa like Nairobi and those in South Africa, Uganda’s urban population is 10% to 12%. Uganda is in for a major demographic shift.In rural areas, the living conditions are not so bad like in other cities.
As they say that Uganda is the ‘Pearl of Africa’; most rural areas have fertile soils that have attracted many people to live there. In Kampala’s 2.5 million dwellers, like in my division of Makindye we have 460,000 people probably 60% of them living in deteriorated conditions in my division.
Local authorities need to cope with providing accommodation for the rapidly increasing population not only in terms of shelter and service needs but also in providing means of livelihood and in ensuring inclusiveness and participatory governance.
In Kampala, in this city, of 10 hills not the famous seven that people know, it’s difficult to get space. People are now squeezed and that at times brings disease outbreaks like cholera and dysentery. At Namuwongo, people have moved into the railway reserves and there are flying toilets. In Uganda, we do not have urban planning and that is why Kampala city is poorly planned.
Unprecedented growth of towns in Uganda has brought undreamt wealth to some individuals and poverty to many more. How do you deal with this dichotomy?
The cash economy in urban areas attracts rural-urban migration of people because the rural areas are a fully cashless economy. The informal sector has now taken a big toll on Kampala; people are selling pineapples, Kabalagala [pancakes] and so on.
That is really quite good but in Namuwongo alone, there are tens of thousands of children who are semi-literate and that means that they do not have formal skills that will ensure that they can get substantive jobs. Tomorrow when they grow up they will begin shouting `get us jobs’; then the next thing is teargas like it happened in the Arab Uprising [like it was in Egypt].
It’s lack of jobs and proper qualifications that brings about dire poverty.We need a system change where proper education and vocational training colleges will absorb the majority of the unemployed youth.Not this politics of patronage; you cannot govern a country under patronage.
How different are the slums in Uganda compared to those say in Nairobi?
The ones in Kampala are like those in Nairobi; the only difference is that Kampala is in a tiny area when compared to Nairobi. The problem in Kampala is that some people build near water, others just reclaim wetlands. When it rains such areas tend to flood affecting the settlers. This is the case in Bwaise. That is the biggest challenge Kampala is facing; people want to preserve the wetlands as well as expand the city which cannot happen.
There is a challenge on how to raise and spend Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) finances. How can KCCA break out of this deadlock?
One of the problems we have is financial issues and this has come because of the dispute between the Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago and the KCCA Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi. The collection of taxes had not been ratified by the KCCA and Lukwago had not called for a council for a long time for the committee to bring a recommendation.
Then there was an argument between Lukwago and Musisi; Jennifer as a legal advisor said we need meetings but there was no quorum being realised. The minutes were never signed. KCCA is bureaucratic; one has to follow many steps in order to achieve what he/she wants.
It’s very difficult to manage an authority like KCCA where there is a lot of bureaucracy. Garbage collection has improved but in many areas, roads are in total disrepair, and there are fetid pools of stagnant water at Entebbe roundabout, in Bwaise, and Jinja Road.
Why can’t authorities do what they are paid to do?
I have eight trucks in Makindye Division, but the biggest problem is they breakdown and it limits us. We have a backlog where there are piles of garbage. I have offered my truck that I personally fuel to carry garbage within my area of jurisdiction and at times I pull out my own money to serve the people whom I lead.
Makindye Division has many street kids especially the Karimojong. How are you copying?
It’s a very big challenge for us. In Makindye alone, we have over 1000 Karimojong and they live like animals. The whole situation is terrible. These people do not want to go to school, and yet I am reliably told that the situation back in Karamoja is pretty okay.
How is the healthcare situation in Makindye where many people cannot afford to pay for medical care in big medical facilities like International Hospital Kampala (IHK)?
I think KCCA does not provide medical care. No more people go to KCCA and to Mulago. But as a politician, I am let down by the bureaucracy at KCCA. I am perturbed by so many politicians who want to behave like they are ministers or MPs.
They do not want to serve their people and that is why I am thinking that politicians should not be given any money because most often they use these monies to buy drinks for their people. At times people come asking me to help them with money for their children fees and at times for drinking. Such demands I don’t listen to because my purpose of being here as a leader is to ensure that there is service delivery to the people whom I serve.
The 2016 election is nearing; will you be seeking another mandate to lead the people of Makindye or you will seek another position?
It will depend on how I will see because Uganda’s politics is not for service delivery which hurts me a lot. But if all goes well I can stand for the Lord Mayor or as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Makindye.
What is your comment on what has sparked a storm in the country about President Yoweri Museveni wanting his son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him in what is now dubbed the ‘Muhoozi project’?
I don’t think that there is a Muhoozi Project but what I know is that there is a ‘Museveni project’. In Uganda, we still have democracy no matter how it is. So I don’t think President Museveni wants his son to be a president at the moment. If he wants one of his family members to succeed him then it will be his wife, Janet Museveni because she is already a politician.
Everybody in Uganda knows that Janet Museveni is an MP for Ruhama County and has been a minister since 2006, which can make her drive on her popularity besides being a wife to the president.
There has been a media crackdown in the country, and the Daily Monitor and others were closed after publishing a letter by Gen. David Sejusa. Do you think the closure was a justifiable?
I think the whole thing about General Sejusa’s letter is not purely the letter that they have been searching. There may be other ways that the opposition gets hustled but I don’t understand why Uganda Communications Commission and police closed the media houses.
To me the action that government took is just hopeless. Today, we are living in a global arena where you don’t have to do that. It damages the reputation of the government. What we need is accuracy and factual writing from journalists.
What would be your last messages to the public?
I like to see people go to politics with a heart of serving their people not for their selfish gains. I like seeing people focusing on service delivery. Politics is basically a sacrificial job. I have seen that on the local government level, there is a lot of self-interest among people who want to be leaders as politicians.
Generally in Uganda, we need leadership that can change our society. I don’t really want to get involved in opposition politics but what I want is to do the mundane job. We really want to see a change of mindset rather than what is happening among some of my colleagues in other divisions.