Kampala Central Division MP Muhammad Nsereko kicked up dust in Parliament on Thursday after the House voted on the motion to create 47 new constituencies.
The legislator raised his voice and ignored commands from the Speaker to yield the floor for a point of order as he boiled over what he called unfairness in the splitting of constituencies.
Mr Nsereko argued that Kampala Central, the constituency he represents, has well over a million people by day but has one MP, and Kampala District, which has over three million voters, is to be represented by just 10 MPs after one more was added in the latest demarcation with the splitting of Nakawa Division into two.
In contrast, he said, Sebei Sub-region, with a population of about 350,000, will be represented by nine MPs, with four of those slots having been created in the latest demarcation exercise.
During the moment of madness that Mr Nsereko created in the House, a number of MPs raised their voices in support of his ideas, throwing Parliament into confusion. The issue was eventually put to a vote anyway, and the majority carried the day, paving the way for the creation of the 47 constituencies.
Mr Nsereko made a similar case for Wakiso District, which is also densely populated. He claimed that Busiro East in Wakiso District, which is represented by the Democratic Party’s Medard Sseggona, has one million people. It is not among those that were split.
Mr Nsereko’s central argument, which is shared by most of the MPs in the area, is that the primary basis for demarcating constituencies should be population size, and that basing on that, there should have been a fresh demarcation of boundaries around the country using this criteria.
Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi says, however, that population is only one of the factors. Other factors, like geographical size and accessibility of the areas concerned, he said were also prime considerations. In any case, Mr Magyezi said, the people of the area need to send in a formal request for a fresh demarcation to be considered.
Mr Nsereko, however, scoffs at Mr Magyezi’s reasoning, saying that it is an attempt at skirting around the issues.
Mr Nsereko insists that the creation of new constituencies the way they it has happened is aimed at giving the ruling party electoral advantage in the coming parliament by shielding party bigwigs who are prone to defeat at the polls and creating winnable constituencies for others.
“This is gerrymandering; that is what Obote used to do,” Mr Nsereko says.
The creation of the new constituencies will affect the constituencies and perhaps the electoral fortunes of eight ministers and other ruling party bigwigs.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has confirmed he will remain in the old Buyanja County in Kibaale District, from which Buyanja East has been created.
“My county has been split into two. I reside in the original Buyanja and that where I am ready to vie for another term of office,” said Mr Kasaija, who insisted that he did not originate the demand for splitting the county, which he has represented since 2006.
Sunday Monitor has learnt that Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Minister Mr Hilary Onek has in what looks to be relieving of a burden opted to go to Palabek County, which has been carved out of Lamwo County, Lamwo District. The new county will comprise of only six of the 19 sub-counties that made up the old Lamwo County.
Our efforts to get a comment from Mr Onek were futile as he did not answer our repeated phone calls. He has represented Lamwo County since 2001.
Other Ministers that have had their constituencies split but it is not yet clear where they seek to represent are: Michael Werikhe (Trade) of Bungokho South in Mbale District where Bungokgo Central has been created; Simon Lokodo (Ethics), whose Dodoth West has been split; Peter Lokeris (Works), whose Chekwi County in Nakapiripirit with new Chekwi East, and Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi, has Kyaka Central has also been split.
In Isingiro District, State Minister for Animal Industry Bright Rwamirama will have to choose either to remain in Isingiro North or contest in the new Isingoro West, which has also taken part of Isingiro South that is represented by Mr Alex Byarugaba.
Mr Kasirivu Atwooki, the State Minister in the Office of the President, has had his Bugangaizi West in Kakumiro District split into two to create Bugangaizi South, whereas State Minister for ICT Mr Peter Ogwang will reportedly seek a second term as MP for Usuk County, which has been reduced after Ngoriam constituency was carved out of it.
Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister for East African and Regional Affairs, is seeking to bounce back after losing Ruhinda County to Capt Donazio Kahonda in 2016. A new constituency named Ruhinda South has been created in Mitooma District.
While tabling the motion for the creation of the new constituencies, Local Government Minister Magyezi said there were several other requests on his table but the ones he presented had met the procedure outlined in the Constitution and the Local Governments Act.
“There are still other applications or requests. They are still work in progress. We are still in consultations for harmonisation of the boundaries. We consider population quota, the means of communication, geographical location and wishes of the people” Mr Magyezi said.
Constituencies represented by NRM were the most split overall, with at least 38 MPs having the option of seeking re-election in new areas or remaining in the original constituencies.
On the other hand, five constituencies currently represented by FDC members have been affected in the creation of the new counties. These are Kasilo County, represented by Mr Elijah Okupa, where a new Constituency named Pingire in Serere District has been created.
The other FDC MPs whose constituencies have been split are Bungokho North’s Sizomu Gashomu Rabbi; Mr Simon Oyet of Nwoya County; Mr Francis Mwijukye’s Buhweju; and Mr Michael Kabaziguruka’s Nakawa Division.
Maruzi County MP Maxwell Akora is the only Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) MP that has his county split after Parliament approved Maruzi North in Apac District. Six constituencies that are represented by independent MPs have been split.
On the claim that the demarcation of new constituencies has been done to benefit ruling party allies, West Budama South of Jacob Oboth-Oboth, whose constituency has been divided, says: “I have more competitors and even the previous challenger in the new Constituency. Most of my coming competitors are even in my sub-county. So, I advocated for West Budama Central not for political convenience but for effective representation and quick development.”
Tororo County MP Ms Annet Nyakecho is happy about the creation of two more MP seats in West Budama County, saying this paves way for the creation of a new district out of Tororo District.
“We had agreed with the Minister and reached a win-win situation with the brothers from West Budama. We agreed to have four Constituencies, as a compromise so that they will also support our quest for a district,” Ms Nyakecho said.