The government will soon table before Parliament a request seeking the approval of the creation of 20 new districts, among them Kilak and Omoro, which has already been endorsed by the Cabinet, bringing the total number of districts in Uganda to 132, from the current 112.
An overview of the number of districts over the last decade indicates a progressive increase that has had no meaningful impact on the lives of the local population, because they have always been created as a result of presidential pledges prior to or during elections.
For example, between 1986 and 1997 11 new districts were created. In 2000, again 11 new districts were created while in 2005, the year preceding the 2006 elections, 22 new districts were created. In 2006, the year following the elections, 9 districts were created, and the total number had grown to 112 by the end of 2010, up from 79 in 2006.
With the creation of the new districts, local government expenditure will have to jump up by about 30%. The overall annual cost of paying district council and municipal executives, resident district commissioners, councils’ sitting allowances, new MPs salaries, new structures, vehicles, office equipment and salaries for the district bureaucrats will not be less than sh60b for all the new districts.
The more we increase the number of districts, the more we increase the amount of money spent on local administration only, this is not an extension of services to the peasants.
It is feasible that for as long as the NRM’s old negative bureaucratic measures continues to undermine the integrity of governance, democracy in Uganda will continue to be undermined and will never take off.
Were the government to be more disciplined and mindful of the sentiments of the people for whom the new districts have been created, it would have found better ways to extend services nearer to the people at the grassroots level; the government has lost face on this issue.
It is pathetic that the government won’t factor the expectations of the people into its governance scheme. What has been happening over the past 26 years in Uganda, in so far as the creation of districts is concerned, has been nothing but a gross disrespect for the people at all levels.
The NRM government is simply creating more supervisory centers instead of funding actual services and ensuring the efficiency of existing districts. The result is a great many salaried supervisors with very little to supervise.
So why does the Museveni government continue "granting" districts despite opposition from progressive thinkers in the country? Besides its well-rehearsed rhetoric of "bringing services closer to the people", the government sometimes creates a district to give autonomy to people of a particular ethnic group. Other districts may be too big and need splitting up to make government administration easier. But there are now few such cases.
Some analysts believe Museveni creates districts to widen his net of political patronage. Without the ability to support its administrative units without support from Kampala, leaders of such districts will know better than to fraternise with the opposition. This fits in well with Museveni's strategy of wooing political leaders from areas that generally vote against his government, with the hope that their supporters will follow.
This approach seems to be paying off, as most elected leadership positions in the newly created districts – even in opposition strongholds – have gone to the ruling party. For instance, out of 23 chairmen and chairwomen of new districts elected on July 6 2010, 15 belonged to Museveni's National Resistance Movement. Also a 2008 study showed that in the 1996, 2001 and 2006 general elections, Museveni averaged more votes in the newly created districts than the old ones.
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