President Museveni has ordered the relocation of the headquarters of Abim District from Abim Town Council to Abuk in Ofoyaro Parish, overruling technical and legal advice that such relocation without parliamentary approval was “illegal and unconstitutional.”
In various correspondences between March 2007 and April 2011, the Solicitor General, Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesige and technocrats in his ministry separately said neither Abim District Local Government nor any authority, other than Parliament, had the mandate to site the headquarters.
Mr Patrick Mutabwire, on behalf of Local Government ministry permanent secretary, wrote to Abim District chairperson Norman Ochero, informing him that shifting the headquarters to Abuk “will mean changing name of the district and this may create uncalled for complications”.
The district council resolved to move the headquarters to Abuk, according to the chairman. Mr George Okello, the Abim town councillor to the district, went to court to challenge the relocation, but the suit was dismissed on technicalities. He then petitioned the Solicitor General.
In a February 4, 2008 letter, F. Mawanda, citing Article 179 of the Constitution, on behalf of the then Solicitor General Billy Kainemura, advised that the July 20, 2005 parliamentary resolution creating Abim District provided it be headquartered at Abim, which was subsequently gazetted a town council.
“Our considered legal advice is that the district headquarters should remain at Abim …, the letter read in part. “Shifting the headquarters to Abuk as proposed by the district council is illegal and will be in contravention of the parliamentary resolution.”
When the problem persisted, Local Government ministry’s Charles Katarikawe wrote on October 3, 2008 to inform Abim Chief Administrative Officer that: “Shifting the district headquarters has constitutional implications because the district is named after the area where it has been headquartered.”
Officials have begun erecting an Administration block, a building to house the office of the Resident District Commissioner and a multi-purpose hall at Abuk to effect the headquarter relocation.
Investigations by Daily Monitor show that the construction works in Abuk commenced after President Museveni in an April 13, 2011 letter said he had, in a meeting with NRM leaders drawn from the entire Karamoja sub-region, agreed to move the headquarters.
The political decision, according to Mr Okello’s lawyers, aims to circumvent a constitutional petition on the headquarter dispute, which has not been heard for a year.
Adolf Mwesige, the Local Government minister, in an earlier 3-page February 25, 2011 letter outlined three reasons and cited six provisions of both the Constitution and Local Government Act to stop relocation of the headquarter. He, however, made a U-turn two months later, citing Mr Museveni’s intervention. “In keeping with His Excellency the President’s guidance, I wish to state that the headquarters of Abim District will be at Abuk.”