Amazing what the brain does to the information that’s uploaded during childhood. It becomes rather hard to erase and replace it. For example, my Uganda remains a country that is still divided into 15 districts. Well, alright, 16 districts. That is the count that I think we had at independence in 1962, though I am not sure when Mengo became two districts.
I concede that it took me a while to get used to the new districts that came on board in the early years of independence, namely, Sebei (curved out of Bugisu) and Madi (curved out of West Nile.) Our record keeping challenges make it hard for one to establish the exact dates of these districts’ creation. (Perhaps a reader can direct me to reliable references.)
My Uganda, then, remains composed of:
- West Nile
- East Mengo
- West Mengo
Quite striking how neat the arrangement was. Four districts in each province. Easy for the lads in my primary six class to recite them and their capitals in our civics lessons and to pass exams without a sweat. I pity today’s student who is subjected to an inquisition about Uganda’s ever-increasing number of districts, (and municipalities, parliamentary constituencies, Anglican Church dioceses, universities) and so much else that has undergone exponential growth in the last 25 years. I do not clutter my brain with the numerous subdivisions of our small country. The confusion created by the colonialists who did not care about the population makeup of their new conquests was bad enough.
We even knew the entire list of cabinet ministers by heart. There were only 17 (seventeen) of them in 1962, including the prime minister. The equivalent of today’s minister of state was called a parliamentary secretary. There were only 11 (eleven) of those. Most names of the MPs were familiar. I think there were 90 of them, including the “specially elected” members. The MPs sat very comfortably in the parliamentary chamber that was designed to accommodate a maximum of about 120 legislators.
At the last count, Uganda had 124 districts in 2017. By July 1, 2019, the country will be divided into 137 districts. The most recent additions to the count were Kagadi, Kakumiro, Omoro and Rubanda in 2016, and Bunyangabu, Butebo, Kyotera, Namisindwa, Pakwach and Rukiga in 2017. Bugweri, Kapelebyong, Kasanda, Kikuube, Kwania and Nabilatuk become districts on July 1, 2018; and Karenga, Kazo, Kitagwenda, Lusot, Madi-Okollo, Obongi and Rwampara join the ranks on July 1, 2019.
Each of these districts has a large political and bureaucratic leadership team; a woman MP and “regular” MPs; the president’s representatives; security operatives; and host of other appointees of the president. Some little districts have more than one parliamentary constituency. Today’s parliament has more than 400 MPs, still accommodated in the same chamber that we had at independence. There are 31 cabinet ministers and 49 ministers of state. (Give or take a couple, for the numbers keep changing.)
Obviously, I did not expect things to remain static. The population has increased from 7.2 million in 1962 to about 44 million in 2018. However, telecommunication and other technological advances that have occurred in the last thirsty years have shrunk societies and offered more efficient means of managing and serving the citizens. We know that the territory itself has not changed in size. Motorized accessibility has improved. One would have expected that Uganda would need fewer, not more, administrative units, governors and representatives.
I am not in favour of this balkanization of our country. However, I do not delude myself that this will change or can be reversed. Once people have established their own little empires, very few are willing to let go. So, I accept the reality as it is. That is why I am passionate about working with people from my little district of Rukiga to help it develop.
I must share with you a stunning figure that Dr. Alexander Kampikaho, the LC5 Chairman of Rukiga District, shared with us in November last year. He told us that Rukiga County’s tax revenue in the previous financial year was Sh. 28,000 (twenty-eight thousand shillings.) That is less than $8 (eight dollars). Yes, like you, I thought he had made a mistake. I still think it was a mistake, though he assured us that that was really the tax collection by the county, which became a district on July 1, 2017. Even if one multiplied that figure by 100, it would still not be enough to pay for the district administration’s stationary requirements.
According to Uganda’s Secretary to the Treasury, this reconfiguration of Uganda’s political structures has been very expensive. To what extent it has benefited the citizens is highly debated, though I have not seen scholarly studies on the social, political and economic outcomes of these creations. Again, I would value help that directs me to such references.
One readily evident outcome is that by creating these mini-districts, the current ruler of Uganda has reconstructed the country and created many small fiefdoms, led by people who are indebted to him. From a strictly personal political strategic perspective, this may have been one of Yoweri K. Museveni’s smartest measures. Time will tell whether or not it is good for Ugandans. What I am sure of is that my Uganda will remain a four-province, eighteen district arrangement. It’s easy on the grey cells.
Then we have the ever-increasing number of universities. I remember a time when Makerere was the only university in the country, serving East Africa, and enjoying very high regard in the world. No doubt the country needed more universities to support a growing population. However, I would like to read a scholarly, evidence based argument that justifies the dozens of universities all over the country. Perhaps there is.
As for the Anglican Church dioceses …………….