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Town battles of 2021

Voters during the Arua by-election in 2018.

Politicians making moves in Arua, Mbarara, Jinja, Masaka

Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Arua. Mbarara. Jinja. Masaka.  By 2021, these Ugandan towns could be cities if the ongoing developments in parliament are anything to go by. Cabinet discussed the issue of new cities last year and these major towns with a combined population of about 500, 000 could turn out to be major battlegrounds for individuals and political parties as the campaign season sets in mid this year.

Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on Public Accounts (Local Government), says the government has expanded and altered some boundaries of parishes and villages which have been added to the proposed cities but adds that parliament also has to pronounce itself on expansion and alteration of boundaries.

This gerrymandering by government has led politicians in some of these towns into frenzied early campaigns for positions that will be created.

Okumu says there should be nothing wrong with those campaigning early since those campaigning are the people who know the boundaries being carved out and the areas where the particular constituencies will lie.

“The only issue is that some people may be excited about becoming lord mayors and lord councilors not knowing what their roles will be,” Okumu said. “It’s typical of Ugandans to go into campaign mode when the Electoral Commission has not yet made formal announcements.”

Okumu who has been an MP since 1996 says there is no serious opposition to creation of cities in parliament. He adds “We are waiting for the government to table a bill on how these cities will be managed that is, the Local Government City Act.”

He says this because the current law only caters to the management of municipalities.

The plan is to have Arua, Mbarara, Gulu, Jinja, Mbale, Masaka as operational cities by July this year while the rest like Entebbe, Soroti, Hoima have been suggested for subsequent years.

Okumu says each city will have two divisions which will automatically be two constituencies.

“It’s a foregone conclusion,” Okumu says of the new cities.

But doubts remain. Members of the opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), tell The Independent that the decision of whether the party should take part in the 2021 general elections is yet to be made. This leaves the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM), and People Power, which refers to itself as a political movement, as the two political entities in early pre-campaign maneuvers.

Joel Senyonyi, the spokesperson of People Power told The Independent, about their plans. “We are not just going for the presidency. We have a solid number of MP positions we are going for.”

He said many of the candidates who want to vie as People Power are leaning on traditional parties and they think they might lose if they stand as such.  “We will have to zero down on one candidate which takes a lot of time,” he said.

In 2018, People Power leader and presidential aspirant Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine was vital in delivering wins for Kassiano Wadri in Arua Municipality and Asuman Basalirwa in Bugiri municipality. This time though Kyagulanyi will have his own presidential bid to attend to and People Power candidates will have to prove their own strength in their constituencies.

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