As seven municipalities gear up to become cities next week, a leadership wrangle has broken out between mayors of the urban authorities and chairpersons of the host districts.
On July 1, Arua, Fort Portal, Mbarara, Gulu, Mbale, Jinja and Masaka municipalities will assume city status.
However, district chairpersons where the urban authorities currently belong have petitioned the Local Government minister, opposing the proposal that the current municipal mayors become interim leaders of the new cities.
The municipal leaders under their umbrella body, the Urban Authority Association of Uganda (UAAU), had written to the Local Government minister, suggesting that come July 1, all the seven municipal mayors during the transition become city mayors. UAAU also suggested that division chairpersons become division mayors. They also proposed that the interim city mayor should appoint the city executive committee that will bring on board the district councillors who will have joined the city council.
What district leaders say
However, the district chairpersons, in a June 11 letter to the minister, said it is unconstitutional to elevate the leadership at the municipality to a city.
The chairpersons also argue that the interim leadership of the cities should be treated like that of other newly created administrative units as per the Local Government Act, Cap 243 since a city is equivalent to a district.
“A city is a local government at the level of the district and regulated under the Local Government Act, Cap 243. The same provisions also clearly show that a municipality is a lower local government below a city or district,” the petition reads in part.
The district chairpersons also argue that the formation of interim city leadership, according to Section 180 of the Local Government Act, shall be after the election of council members.
In response, UAAU have also petitioned the Local Government minister, objecting the proposal by the district chairpersons on the formation of the interim councils of the new cities.
“We as mayors struggled and developed and upgraded these municipalities and have been advocating for their elevation to city status and creation of strategic cities due to prevalent locational competitive advantages,” the mayors argue.
“Having succeeded in convincing the government of the need for the new cities, it is a travesty of justice that the ministry is now considering handing over the interim city leadership to district chairperson and councillors. We are, therefore, putting you to notice that we shall proceed to court to challenge the unfair guidelines which we feel were intended at failing the development of our cities,” they add.
The mayor of Fort Portal Municipality, Rev Kintu Willy Muhanga, said the current standoff is being created by the ministry, which he said has delayed to release guidelines on how the new cities will be governed.
Rev Muhanga says they will not allow district leaders to decide on the leadership of the new cities.
“We are not objecting the operationalisation of the new cities but we are objecting the formation of interim leadership by other people other than the mayors. We want the minister for Local Government to consider our proposals not district chairpersons who have their own interests,” he says.
The chairperson of UAAU, Mr Majid Batambuze, while in Fort Portal early this month, told journalists that they completed the consultations and proposed a win-win situation for all leaders whose term of office is soon expiring. He said the current elected municipal mayors will be given the opportunity to become city mayors during the transition as they wait for the general elections.
The Local Government minister, Mr Raphael Magyezi, while in Fort Portal last week, said they are working on guidelines on how the new cities will be managed.