Monday September 1 2014

District boundary disputes should have been resolved before census

By Antes Oyemy Asedri

The ongoing National Population and Housing Census in Ewanga Parish, Rigbo Sub-county in Arua District is [being] done by officials from Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) as the parish is said to be a disputed area between Arua and Yumbe districts. On August 26, Security minister Muruli Mukasa in a letter referenced NS. 48/03 stated in part: “…It has, therefore, been decided that an independent team carries out the exercise in Ewanga Parish.”

And UBOS executive director Ben Paul Mungyereza, in another letter dated August 26, referenced UBOS/40/4, stated: “… the chief administrative officers from the districts of Yumbe and Arua should not appoint enumerators to deploy in this disputed area (although they may have been trained).”

On closure look, Ewanga Parish, in fact, had already been ‘transferred’ by the Minister of Local Government Adolf Mwesige with effect from September 30, 2009. This was done in a letter referenced ADM/327/328/02 – Creation of Ariwa Sub-county in Yumbe District. The letter stated:”…under Section 7(5) of the Local Governments Act, approve the division of Odravu Sub-county (New) comprising of the following:- Ikafe parish, Awinga parish, Ewanga parish, Rigbonga parish, Okuvo parish, Roga parish,…”

I find this move disheartening. Ever since West Nile became part of Uganda in 1914, Ewanga has been part of Madi land. The genesis of this matter is the erroneous mapping by the Cartographic Section of the then Statistics Department in the former Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (later known as Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development).

The map of Madi Okollo was drawn to make Madi Okollo County boundary stop at River Ari ‘nga in the middle of Gbalala swamp. During this period, I was working in Statistics Department and asked an official to explain why the section had developed an unfamiliar map as opposed to what used to indicate the political and administrative boundaries of Uganda. The official put it to me that River Ari ‘nga and Gbalala swamp were impassable hence field officers would not access Ewanga Parish from Rigbo Sub-county. The ministry, therefore, took an administrative position to draw a working map to access Ewanga Parish from Kulikulinga in Odravu Sub-county of Aringa County.

Despite the twist in mapping in 1991, the National Housing and Population Census was done amicably by enumerators from Rigbo Sub-county and the result as it had always been since the census of 1969, reflected the people of Ewanga Parish part of Madi Okollo County. Even the 2001 population and housing census in Ewanga Parish were done by enumerators from Arua District and the result tallied under Rigbo Sub-county.

Since the genesis of this territorial dispute, no minister has come to resolve this matter. Arua District continues to provide social and economic services to the people in this area. We need to be informed if the political and administrative powers from Arua District and instrument of power have subsequently been legally transferred to Yumbe District. Does a minister have powers to transfer a parish from one district and create a sub-county in another district?

What would be the mandate and legal position and the legitimacy of the reduced territorial size, socio-economic activities of Madi Okollo County? Do we have to accept every other map without it being put on gazette? Is there no instrument established by the Parliament of Uganda designating a specific ministry to resolve cartographic and mapping of the borders and the boundary matters in Uganda?
Our people have a right to be heard.

Mr Asedri is former vice chairman of Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRFII) and hails from Madi Okollo County.