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District Leaders, Mayors Bicker over Interim Leadership of New Cities

In the petition dated June 18, the mayors propose to the minister that the transitional city council is comprised of district councilors in the new city area, and the transitional city executive be comprised of the municipality mayors and their executive members.
21 Jun 2020 08:20
Fort Portal municipality will become a tourism city effective July 1, 2020.
The row between district chairpersons and mayors over who should take over the interim leadership of the new cities has deepened.  

Parliament in April this year, approved the creation of 15 cities that will be operationalized in a phased manner starting with Jinja, Mbarara, Gulu, Mbale, Arua, Fort Portal, and Masaka that will start effective July 1, 2020.   

As a result, the mayors under their umbrella, Urban Authorities Association of Uganda – UAAU, wrote to the Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi proposing that they should be the interim leaders of the new cities. The mayors include Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga (Fort Portal), Majid Batambuze (Jinja), Isa Afeku Kato (Arua), Afaayo Kalemba (Masaka), George Labeja (Gulu), Mike Ogwang (Lira) and Robert Kakyebezi (Mbarara).   

They premised their proposal on an assertion that the cities are new in Uganda and there is no law guiding their operationalization. They also added that the new cities are elevated municipalities and therefore municipal councils should be left to form the interim leadership until elections are held.

However, on June 10,  District chairpersons from the elevated municipalities also wrote to the Minister opposing the proposal by the mayors. they argued that cities are an equivalent of a district, and as such, they are legally mandated to take over the transitional leadership.  

They rubbished the claim by the mayors that the new cities are elevated municipalities, citing Nakasongola city that will be operationalized in 2023 but was not a municipality. They add that the Local Government Act empowers the Local Government Minister with the approval of parliament to declare any urban area, and not necessarily a municipality, a city.  

“So it is not the elevation of municipalities to cities but the creation of new local governments called cities” reads part of their letter. But the mayors have now petitioned the minister again, reiterating their earlier stand and calling for a new law that is specific to cities.  

In the petition dated June 18, the mayors propose to the minister that the transitional city council is comprised of district councilors in the new city area, and the transitional city executive be comprised of the municipality mayors and their executive members. 

“The transitional city division councils shall constitute the current Municipal Division Chairpersons, municipal division councilors, Sub County chairpersons and Sub County/Town council councilors as the case may be. In other words, LCIII chairpersons and councilors,” reads part of the petition.  

The mayors also note that the budget approved by the parliament, as well as the appropriations bill signed by the president, have no provision for the operationalization of new cities in the financial year 2020/2021 and they presume that the cities will be run using the current municipal budgets as approved by the municipal councils.  

“Therefore, we wonder how the proposed district councilors will come to implement budgets they never participated in formulation and approval,” reads the letter.  

Earlier, during a meeting about the role of the central government in the development of Fort Portal tourism city held between leaders and residents of Kabarole district, Minister Magyezi, acknowledged shortfalls in the legal framework to guide the operationalization of cities.  

Magyezi said that they had consulted all the stakeholders including the mayors and LCV chairpersons on how the interim leadership should be handled and were finalizing with a draft of guidelines on the same.  

However, in a phone interview, Magyezi has told URN that even though they are through with the guidelines, they cannot release them due to hindrances whose details he could not divulge, bust hastened to add that the guidelines will be out by the end of next week.

But the mayors say that they will seek legal redress if their demand is not met.