Commentary

Let’s work together and agree on an appropriate mayoral system

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By Dr Solome Najjuka

Posted  Friday, December 13  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Arguably, no state in America or elsewhere has completely solved the problems of the lacuna inherent in each one of these systems of city administration. City upon city, oscillate between these systems, some doing better than others.

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In some parts of the world, the mayor is often more honourary than active and in essence, the mayoral post is a part-time position held by a respected member of the community (Patterson 2008). Such a mayor is often a senior citizen, who can easily value and appreciate this symbolic role and would indeed bask in the honour, that s/he would believe has been earned by years of remarkable service.

I am reminded of all the senior citizens that populate the distinguished positions and activities carried out in the United Nations headquarters in New York. Many of these volunteers and sometimes paid servants, men and women in their late 70s, are more than happy to attend a series of development meetings as part of their retirement plan.

However, the daunting question lurking on our roosters here in Uganda, is whether we can really find justice in an honourary post of mayor. How can we credibly envision any, bearing in mind the latest contestants in their full-strength, consonance in assigning an honourary mayoral title to the young leaders that we have employed? Both the present controversial mayor Erias Lukwago and the lately defeated contestant Peter Ssematimba, are men who are still dynamos of constant and remarkable innovations.

Can we afford paying off an honourary mayor where we confess meagre resources to the whole world? Can we afford wasting our gifted leaders in such honourary posts in the noon time of their careers?

It is important to note that cities in various countries have chosen and tried out several systems of urban local government administration. In countries like the United States, we see that each state has had its turn to tease out what they deem workable for them. Of the types of mayors that are lined up for consideration is the strong mayor-council system, the commonest type, consisting of the mayor as chief executive and the local council as the legislative body.

In this setting, the mayor has veto power and responsibility for budgetary and other policy actions. The second form is the weak mayor-council system where the mayor’s policy-making powers are less substantial than the council’s. Here the mayor has no power to veto the council’s actions and has no role in the activities such as budget making (Patterson 2008:541).
The next type of municipal government is the Commission system where the executive and legislative authority is given to a commission, with each commissioner working as a member of the local council, the last one is the city manager system, like what we have in Kampala today; this is a form of municipal government that entrusts the executive role to a professionally trained manager (like Ms Jennifer Musisi), who is chosen and can be fired-by the city council or the powers that be (Patterson 2008:541).

Arguably, no state in America or elsewhere has completely solved the problems of the lacuna inherent in each one of these systems of city administration. City upon city, oscillate between these systems, some doing better than others.

My belief is that Uganda is facing the same liminality and will, therefore, have to go through the same processes trying out the different systems of city governance until one workable system of city administrative reigns.

In this understanding, the present standoff should only be envisaged as a period of uncertainty that may be resolved by getting all concerned to desist from all forms of frays and revisit the reigning mayor system, while considering other forms that may be found most appropriate at this material time.

There is no need for all the rioting and tear gas episodes, for this is time to reflect together and agree on a more appropriate mayoral system.

Dr Najjuka is a lecturer, Uganda Martyrs University,
Nkozi. snajjuka@umu.ac.ug