When media reports came in that the Kiruhura district council had rejected a proposal for creation of a third county out of the already existing constituencies of Kazo and Nyabushozi, my heart was filled with gratefulness. The significance of this decision is still so piercingly relevant, and so personal.
Kiruhura district is hardly 10 years since being carved out of Mbarara district in 2006. You are at liberty to call it a district with local leaders who are still experimenting how to be district leaders. To that end, preoccupation wouldn’t be about divide more and rule rather it would be about unite more and thrive.
A county creates one job. That of a Member of Parliament.The result of this is for such a leader to become bored and start on a campaign for further subdivision to create multiple sub-counties which at least have administrative units thereby proliferating administrative costs.
Therefore, why would the people of Kazo represented by one of the longest serving cabinet ministers Hon John Nasasira or the people of Nyabushozi represented by a bush war liberator Hon Rtd Col. Fred Mwesigye all of a sudden feel underrepresented in Parliament?
Before we investigate how we arrived at change of boundaries as a substitute for service delivery and basis for political competition in the case of Kiruhura let us first get the merits of this wider national debate.
In his letter to the minister of Local governments, President Yoweri Museveni makes a persuasive case for the new proposal as thus “the additional constituencies will help resolve complicated administration issues, the need to separate various ethnic groups and poor planning in some of the “one-constituency districts.”
Whereas I appreciate the president’s justifications for areas where the said conditionalities are prevalent, I will restrict myself to the familiar territory of Kiruhura.
To start with, we are not a one county district. Secondly we neither have nor ever recorded tribal clashes to the best of my recollection of 28 years as a resident. Political actors who have in the past attempted to use tribal cards have been rejected by the population.
There is peaceful co-existence between the two predominant “tribes” which I prefer to call “economic classes” namely the Bairuwho depend on growing of crops and the Bahima who predominantly depend on cattle keeping.
Since this debate came up, my sources have confirmed that in fact the proposed county to be constituted of the areas of Kanoni, Engali , Kashongi and Kitura among others have majority population of Bairu. This would consequently mean, among the 3 counties, the new one will constitute a dominant tribe, hence perpetuating the same disease which the proposal seeks to cure in this particular district. This is not to sound alarmist but the implications are profound either way: a division will seriously provoke tribal perceptions that can disrupt the status quo.
The issues of complicated administration and poor planning where they exist in the case of Kiruhura can’t be solved by creation of a new county. They can only be solved by LEADERSHIP. It would be a vote of no confidence that our leaders have found it administratively complicated to deliver services for Kazo County and Nyabushozi Countywith 328,544 people.
The prevalent challenges in Kiruhura far from another county are lack of access to quality health services, our women in Kanoni still travel to Ibanda to give birth.Declining education standards, where children used to come for education from far areas of Kashari to Kazo primary school, we now have majority Kazo pupils attending Mbarara Junior School and Ronald Ruta primary School in Lyantonde for Nyabushozi. Poverty.Community access roads. Agricultural extension services, Water, Cattle diseases and youth unemployment.
In the areas of service delivery, taking education as benchmarks, our schools have average performance. These areas benefit from transfers of the same head teachers therefore if our schools are to perform any better the solution will definitely not be found within the district.
The fact that the local council is still opposed to this proposal proves one point. A point that this top to bottom division of our people is weak, politically opportunistic, and elitist self-serving. A people trust its leadership for unity not division. If this proposal ever passes, it will create a job for one person; an MP – and none of our local people will become one, hence it can’t be a demand of a ‘people’ who will not benefit..
For now, majority would be vocal voices may be quiet in the face of 2016 elections, the “shy election” syndrome. They fear to be quoted. But some of us will rise above this fear; I think there’s something to that, because it’s a big, irrevocable decision. Division of a people is forever, so I think people might peer over the cliff but then pull away from it — intuitively, there’s something plausible about that.
It doesn’t matter that skeptics of this proposal we may be defeated. So the only powerful will take the day. I dare say when history is written those in support will be described as kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error?
Agaba Ronald Bills