Thursday, April 27, 2006

Balkanisation, Ugandan Style

Yesterday, I was trying to update my list of work contacts and when I came to the local governments section things became a bit tricky. I realised that I had just come round to adding districts like Amuria, Nakapiripit (very belatedly) to my address list and here I was faced with the task of looking for the contacts of many new districts most of which I was hearing of for the first time.

Sometime last year the government decided to increase the number of Uganda’s districts from 56 to 72. The parliament approved the increase to 69 and 3 other districts are awaiting approval.

The reasoning behind creating new districts from the larger ones made sense when it had just been started in the early 90s. The argument back then was that certain districts were very large and some of the subcounties in those districts that were furthest from the district headquarters were not receiving their share of resources due to their “remoteness” but now it has become a misused vote getting trick by the government and a weapon of blackmail for the electorate.

These days every time an election comes around the President promises somebody a district. Sometimes, as was the case in Tororo county last year, he was told not to bother seeking votes in the area if by election time they didn’t have a district of their own ( I forget what they called it).

It had come to a point where if you blinked you’d miss the creation of a new district. I have somehow managed to get a list of the districts and I am trying to place districts like Kabingo, Bukwa, Amolatar and Butaleja. None of them is on the maps yet and neither are they in the telephone directories.

Actually some will probably not appear in the directories for a while given the fact that telephone lines and thus fixed telephones are yet to make a debut on their soils. Some districts that have been in existence for years do not have telephones yet in their district headquarters. I was trying to set an appointment with the district leaders in Amuria sometime back and you have no idea what a hassle it was to get the mobile telephone number of the LC5 because it is the only means by which to contact him.

Many of these districts do not even have a half decent permanent structure to house the headquarters and other district offices. They are still being run from the offices of their mother districts.

Infrastructure problems aside, the creation of large villages and calling them districts has brought about some really petty quarrels. In Manafa, the people of Manjiya subcounty threatened not to be part of the district if Bududa subcounty was not declared the district headquarters instead of Bubulo (something to do the with the fact that the people of Bubulo always seem to get the good things). In retaliation one of the subcounties made its own letterheads because it could not have its official correspondence bear the address of another subcounty. Such petty quarrels plague almost all the new districts.

I will not even get into what each new district means in terms of costs. More district officials to be paid, more women parliamentarians to be overpaid etc.

To be fair, a district like Koboko (where I have been twice) stands a chance because it has had its own infrastructure (most of it privately built) for years. An amazing feat considering the entire town was razed to the ground and it was a ghost town for nearly 10 years following Amin's overthrow (Koboko was Amin's hometown). Koboko town is always abuzz with life and business to and from Sudan and Congo (Koboko is in the extreme northwest). The district is financially viable and it has promise. Ibanda had been a sub-district for over 20 years and should have been made a full district ages ago.

If this balkanisation goes on there will be a welcome to (insert district name) sign every 2 kilometers in the near future. We might soon have places like Bugolobi and Najjanankumbi districts.

For now, I guess every time I want to contact Kiruhura’s CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) I will call Mbarara and tell them to shout across the border and find out if the guy is in office.


Degstar said...

while new districts are falling outta the Parliament's chambers left, right and centre, the govt has yet to fix the road from Kabale to Kisoro - all and only 80 km of it.

check this out. thats the same distance from Kla to Jinja, yeah? well Kla - Jja is like 30 min, now dig this, Kabale - Kisoro is 2.5 hours! bloody idiots the lot of them.

Lovely Amphibian said...

Kiruhura?Kabingo? Bukwa? Amolatar?Butaleja? man i shudder. imagine what it is like to be a primary school pupil about to sit for SST exams. Back in the day, we knew all the districts and we thought we were all that!

Kaunda said...

Hello jay, I just spent about an hour linking from your blog. Great fun!

What I'm interested in knowing is whether there is a Ugandan blog Webring similar to the Kenyan Blogs?

I'm an American in the USA and keep in touch with a fellow Iganga way who's struggling to get a community based organization humming and doing great things on the ground.

A while back the organization had some static Web pages that were being hosted for a price: Next to usless, static pages don't generate dialog. Also the problem is limited access to the Internet by people in the community organization.

Recently I read a post Dave Winer entitled "The Internet as idea-processor" making the point that people are writing publically on the Internet because that's a way to solve problems quickly by using the power of networks. That settled that and I put up a blog

My friend Nathan is contributing posts and sooner or later other members of the group will too.

It's great if other muzungu read and comment on the blog. But one thing I really worry about is my posts. Man they've got white all over them. But the purpose of the blog is dialog, so don't want to scare off Ugandans because the whole point is to get people talking to solve real problems.

Sorry to go on so long. I subscribe to your blog, so that's why I began to look for other Ugandan bloggers from your pages. So is there an Ugandan ring-o-blogs that the Busoga Shining Light Association blog can hook up with?

Or is it just the sort of thing where if we hang out in approximately the right place on the Internet it will all come together?

Don't fret about answering me, I'm just asking. I do enjoy your posts and always happy to read them.

Jay said...

@degstar. Its a pity indeed. What pisses me off the most is that a useless hasbeen politician that the government is looking to dump is appointed as an RDC for each of these districts to do nothing but sit on his fat ass and be guest of honour at school drama festivals and such. Useless chap is being paid a salary and all manner of entitlements yet real issues can't be addressed.

@LA. I pity the poor kids. There are many of my friends who do not even know that there is a district called Mayuge and it has been around for years. What about all these new ones.
Ahh the good old days when I could tell you all the districts in under a minute.

Hopes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CountryBoyi said...

Jay, great post that one. While am aware blogs are about fun & KISS [keep it short& simple], I've been missin some real, didactic stuff. Most bloggers blog nothing but abt women, movies la, la... But looks like e fad is changin. Good. it's time we bloggged serious stuff but do it interestingly. Like u just did. Cheers man!!

baz said...

I am a huge Jay fan myself and, frankly, cannot wait for the book, butI must say that you, dennis, are missing the point of blogging. Blogs are about whatever the blogger wants to write. If Jay wants to be his usual eloquent, intelligent self that's great. But if he ever decides to write about a movie with lots of women in it, it is his prerogative.

Iwaya said...

uhm...what book?

jkb said...

Jay, thanx 4 your comment on voters' registers. Its a different story if you swear that disclosure was inconsistent. I just hope it was a consequence of logistics, mismanagement and incompetence on the part of EC and not outright electral fraud!!

However, the onus still remains on the voter to verify and initiate correction. The rhetoric of contributory negligence is certain on this issue.

I have linked your blog onto mine if u do not mind.

Jay said...

@JKB thanks for the link.

@Dennis, I agree with Baz. A blog can be whatever the blogger wants it to be. Thanks for the comment.