Stage set for battle with Lukwago
Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE AND JULIAN SABIITI | KCCA officials and Kampala district MPs are anxious about whether President Yoweri Museveni will assent to the Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that parliament has passed.
The anxiety is partly because of the timing; the President has recently thrown back a number of passed Bills to Parliament.
The other reason is the law itself; it appears to give the Lord Mayor, the opposition stalwart Erias Lukwago, more powers – something the President might not approve.
“It is a good bill,” Jesca Ababiku, the Adjumani Woman MP who is also the Chairperson of the Committee on Presidential Affairs that drafted the Bill told The Independent on Sept.03. She added: “As Parliament, we are done with our part. The legal team of Parliament has to refine it before sending it to him [Museveni].”
Asked whether she thought the President would buy the bill, Ababiku said: “Whether the President assents to it or not, that is beyond my prerogative.”
The new Bill grants the lord mayor the responsibility of managing the budget of the authority and somewhat reduces the Executive Director (ED) to offering technical assistance to the lord mayor.
The law being amended had weakened the elected lord mayor’s office by creating a powerful office of Executive Director and buffering it with a Minister for Kampala all appointed by the President.
By altering the powers of the Lord Mayor, the ED, and the Minister, the Bill aims to avoid turf conflicts that have plagued KCCA for almost 10 years. At the back of the chaos lies Museveni’s wish to wrestle control of the city’s political leadership from the opposition, represented by Lukwago.
The Bill proposes the creation of an executive committee appointed by the lord mayor from amongst councilors. The committee would initiate key issues for legislation by councilors.
It further gives the lord mayor the authority to appoint his deputy and two other supporting members to serve with him on a full-time basis.
It also proposes a ‘State of the City’ address by the lord mayor to be held annually as an update to the public on the state of affairs.
Based on this, it is clear President Museveni will not like the reversal of power.
But the Bill has other changes that could compensate for that loss and convince Museveni to assent to it on the balance.
According to the MPs that supported the bill, it is expected to bring order in the city by creating working harmony between the authority’s three wings – political, technical, and executive.
Lukwago, the Lord Mayor enjoys popular support from Kampala voters. The Minister for Kampala, who currently is Beti Kamya was appointed by President Museveni. The ED, who is currently Andrew Kitaka, is a technical civil servant. Kitaka is more laid back than his predecessor, the all-powerful break-and- build Jenifer Musisi, but it remains clear that all three offices lay claim to running the city.
The Bill started as a means of targeting and clipping the clout of the current Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago. After failing on two counts to kick him out in a universal adult suffrage election and in the courts of law, a section of MPs from Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party devised a reform of the KCCA Act to get the mayor elected by division councilors from among themselves. Their calculation would base on the NRM having the most division councilors.
Another proposal aimed at getting a law that clearly stipulates that the lord mayor is not the political head of KCCA. There were also plans of creating a Metropolitan Authority to handle some city operations.
Some observers argued some of these clauses would further rouse fights between the lord mayor, ED, and Minister for Kampala.
After the passing of the Bill in Parliament, observers had thought it would usher in a good working relationship between Lukwago and Kamya.
But this may not be the case. Personal disagreements and egos appear to be still at play.
In separate interviews moments after the passing of the Bill, Lukwago and Kamya expressed divergent interpretations of it.
“The ministry of Kampala, I must state categorically, is redundant and should have been scrapped,” Lukwago said.
On whether the Bill benefits the people, Lukwago said, that if their [people] will is not upheld, they will take another decision on what to do next.
He said the office of Minister for Kampala is not necessary and has ‘no status’ and that the management hierarchy puts the ‘top position’ of Kampala as Lord Mayor.
Kamya clothes her claws in being soft spoken. She said she believes the Bill achieves its main objective; to separate the office of the lord mayor from the council.
She said contrary to Lukwago’s assertions, the power of the minister remains intact under Section 79 of the Kampala Capital City Authority Act of 2010.
“The power is to veto decisions of the Lord Mayor and of the Council if they are in conflict with the aspirations of the central government,” she said.
Faced with the renewed turf fight, Ababiku [the Adjumani Woman MP] told The Independent in a separate interview that running a city is not about demonstrating authority or power; it is about promoting good policies to spur development.
“The Bill has just separated the executive and the council power,” Ababiku said, “You cannot have the president chairing Parliament meetings; the lord mayor cannot be the same person to serve as the speaker. There are issues to do with conflict of interest.”
She said the Bill did not target anyone and was drafted to provide opportunities for city management.
“We did not look at individuals, we looked at the positions,” she said and added that ensuring that the lord mayor does not chair KCCA council meetings was deliberate.
“How would the lord mayor check himself as chair of council?” she asked.
Under the proposal, the KCCA Council will now be chaired by a speaker.
The Lord Mayor’s only hope of influencing legislation will be through the roundabout executive committee appointed by him.
Ababiku says this means the lord mayor and his executive committee will remain influential in legislation. This is possible as of now given that there are more opposition councilors at City Hall than those hailing from the ruling NRM.