In May, Cabinet approved the creation of nine cities where seven would become operational effective July 1 next year.
Later, the President directed that Masaka and Mbale municipalities be included on the list of those to be operationalised next year given their historical and cultural significance.
While the approval received overwhelming support from multitudes of residents in Greater Masaka area, it has since left a bitter taste in mouths of some local politicians since some of their constituencies have been split and some parts annexed to the proposed Masaka city.
The most affected are parish and sub-county chiefs and Members of Parliament.
The expansion of the boundaries of Masaka was one of the conditions government gave municipal leaders upon the approval of the planned elevation to city status.
This implied that the city would stretch to parts of Kalungu and Lwengo districts in order to attain prerequisite requirements in terms of land and population size.
The mandatory population requirement for a city status is at least 300,000 people and a land size of 100 square kilometres.
For example, Kalungu Rural Sub-county in Kalungu District where Mr Joseph Leo Kizito is the chairperson has already been annexed to the proposed city. The same sub-county was also part of Kalungu West constituency, represented by Mr Joseph Ssewungu.
Kingo Sub-county in Lwengo District was also annexed to the Masaka, meaning that Mr Dick Muwanga, the current chairperson, will have to look for another area where to contest in the 2021 general elections. Kingo Sub-county also forms part of Bukoto South constituency and the current MP, Mr Muhammad Mbabaali, is equally affected.
“Following the annexation of my area to Masaka, it is crystal clear that both the sub-county and the constituency [Kalungu West] are no more. We just ask the Ministry of Local Government to swiftly come on the ground and show us the new demarcations and we start warming up for 2021 general elections,” Mr Kizito observes.
Mr Ssewungu says he has been part of the processes to push for Masaka city and can win an election in any constituency where he chooses to stand.
Initially, Kalungu and Lwengo were counties in the original Masaka District until they were carved off to become independent districts in July 2010.According to the Masaka Town expansion plan, four more parishes, which were initially part of Masaka District, have been annexed to the proposed city.
These include Kitengeesa and Ssamariya parishes in Buwunga Sub-county, Kirimya in Kabonera Sub-county and Kalagala in Mukungwe Sub-county. Parts of these areas form Bukoto East constituency, which Ms Florence Namayanja represents in Parliament.
According to Mr Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, the proposed city will have three constituencies, which will also serve as divisions. The proposed new constituencies include Masaka Central, Kyabakuza /Kingo and Kitovu /Kako. The divisions are Katwe/Butego, Nyendo /Ssenyange and Kimaanya/Kyabakuza.
“Demarcation of new constituencies and other smaller administrative units will be done by the Local Government ministry and we expect the team to come soon,” Mr Afaayo says.
Although municipal authorities argue that the geographical area of Masaka Municipality and the already annexed parts of Kalungu and Lwengo districts are enough for the proposed city to expand, other politicians such as the district chairperson, Mr Jude Mbabaali, and the municipality MP, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, insist the entire district should be turned into a city.
If government adopts the proposal to have the entire district as a city, this would mean constituencies such as Bukoto East and Bukoto Central, currently represented by Ms Florence Namayanja and Vice President Edward Ssekandi respectively, will be absorbed in the new city.
Ms Namayanja says she is ready to return to Parliament even if part of or her entire constituency is annexed to the proposed city.
“Basing on what I have done for my people, I can defeat whoever comes up to stand against me even if my constituency is annexed to Masaka city,” Ms Namayanja says.
Mr Muhammad Mbabaali says although he was not part of the initial progresses to demand for a city status, he will abide by whatever decision government takes on demarcation of new constituencies.
Last week, a consultative meeting on the proposed city, which the Ministry of Local Government organised in Masaka, turned chaotic as leaders failed to agree on whether to turn the entire district into a city or only consider the current municipality boundaries and some parts of Kalungu and Lwengo districts. Mr Afaayo clashed with the district chairperson, Mr Mbabaali, after the latter claimed that all local leaders had unanimously resolved to have the entire district turned into a city.
Mr Mpuuga says no one will stand in their way to push for what is good for the people of Masaka.
“Some politicians are selfishly frustrating the idea of making the entire district a city, forgetting that it supersedes individual interests. The people of Masaka will only be satisfied when new city boundaries meet their expectations,” Mr Mpuuga adds.
Mr Justinian Nuwagaba, the commissioner of urban planning in the Ministry of Local Government, says they are yet to decide on the actual boundaries of the proposed city.
“I have captured what is on ground and I am taking a full report to the ministry. We shall give feedback about our final decision in the shortest time possible,” Mr Nuwagaba says.
Last month, Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the Electoral Commission (EC) secretary, while addressing a regional workshop on demarcation of electoral areas and reorganisation of polling stations for central region, said the Ministry of Local Government had not yet officially communicated to them about plans to elevate Masaka to a city. He advised the line ministries to speed up the process to enable EC incorporate the new administrative units in their planning.
Area. Masaka District has a land area that is above the minimum of 50 square kilometres required under Section 2 of the National Urban Policy, 2017. It also has a population density above the minimum of 6,000 per square kilometre required for an area to become a city under the same provision of the said policy.