How to share government jobs in Uganda

Wednesday August 12 2020

The debate on the imbalance in the distribution of government jobs among tribes in Uganda has been raging on for the last two weeks with President Museveni weighing in on the topic on Friday last week.(See: ‘Keep army out of tribal debate-President Museveni’ in the Daily Monitor of August 7).

Much as the President in his missive said jobs are balanced among tribes and gave some examples of State House staff, and adding that the public should not discuss jobs distribution in the army, many people think that most government jobs are given to people from western Uganda.

According to a 2015 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), out of 37 chief executive officers (CEOs) of government agencies, 59 per cent were from western Uganda, central 18 per cent, eastern 18 per cent and northern 2per cent . Among the staff, 34.7 per cent were from western Uganda, central 26.7 per cent, eastern 23.8 per cent and northern 14.5 per cent .

Yet according to the 2014 population census, central region has the highest population with 27.4 per cent, eastern 26 per cent, western 25.4 per cent and northern 20.5 per cent . So, the regional distribution of jobs is not equitable.
Currently in Uganda, there are no established criteria for equitable distribution of government jobs. What we have are general policies. While Jinja East MP Paul Mwiru was granted leave to introduce a Bill to address the issue, I too hereby give proposals by borrowing from other countries.

In Kenya, they passed The National Cohesion and Integration Act 2008, which among other things, states that public institutions and private companies should not employ more than one third of staff from the same ethnic group. The Kenya government then commissioned a study in 2016 to review compliance with the law. Findings were used to reform the distribution of government jobs.

Kenya also passed The Diversity Policy for the Public Service, 2016, which among other things, states that 5 per cent of public service jobs should be for persons with disabilities.


It provides that every public institution shall not employ more than two-thirds of its workers of the same gender at all levels. It also provides for affirmative action programmes and regular job audits.

In South Africa, they passed The Employment Equity Act, 1998 to address the historical imbalance in jobs where Blacks were disadvantaged. The law provides for affirmative action for the employment of Blacks in all occupational categories and levels, including addressing income differentials in both the public and private sector. This is backed up with the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme that provides business capital, skills and job creation. Companies that score below 40 per cent in compliance points face penalties.

In Nigeria, they passed the Federal Character Commission Act, 1995 to address job distributions in public service, political offices, intelligence and the armed forces.

Among other things, it states that jobs in a national institution should not have more than 3 per cent of workers from one State, and no more than 18 per cent from a one region in its national offices. While the field offices should have at least 75 per cent of field staff as people from that region, State or local government.

It also states that where there are only two positions available at national level, the positions shall be shared between the northern and the southern regions. It also provides specific formulas for other government institutions, including the army. Heads of government institutions that fail to comply with the law face prosecution.

At the international level, the UN International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on employment of 1958 and 1998, covers not only discrimination in recruitments, but also in trainings, deployments, promotions, tools for work, etc. So, much as the President in his missive said that UPDF are recruited according to district quotas, the ILO convention notes that how they are promoted and deployed also matters.

So, given the above background, Uganda should undertake specific policy reforms for the equitable sharing of government jobs according to regions, tribes, gender, minorities, etc, so that Ugandans can feel that they are equally benefiting from the ‘national cake’.

Mr Oscar Kanyangareng is a political scientist, founder and Executive Director of Pastoralism & Poverty Frontiers (PPF)