Kween District struggles to hold three years later

Wednesday March 27 2013

Kween District struggles to hold three years later

A volunteer at River Giriki Community School in Kween District teaches children in a makeshift class. The district’s education sector is struggling to meet community demands. Photo by Stephen Otage.  

By Allan Chekwech

Sebei: In 2010, Kapchorwa District gave birth to its second child – Kween – five years after she brought Bukwo to the world.

Bukwo, amid challenges like poor road network, inadequate infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals and schools, crawled on, stumbled and in a way, was out of her nappies.

However, her sister – Kween – has every reason to curse the day she was born. She has failed to walk even with support (financial, however, meagre) it needs and deserves.

When Kween received its instruments of power in 2010, it meant she had to go and start from scratch to establish its own empire. The district would have its own town council and management, district council, headquarters, among other facilities.

But the squabbles in the newly-formed district have been louder than the activities in offices and would-be progress.

In early 2011, the district held its first-ever local council elections. But the elections would pave the way for its troubles.

No sooner had Mr Lawrence Mangusho, who was elected as district chairperson, set foot in office than his political rivals set foot in court, claiming the newly-elected district boss had no academic qualifications to hold office.

The political wars
Mr Mangusho, on August 31, 2012, was kicked out of office following a Court of Appeal ruling that he lacked the documents to hold him to the seat.

The stage had been set for the by-election, which was held on November 29. Mr Paul Machinjach emerged winner with 11,575 votes while Mr Nelson Chelimo, who came second got 8,252.

However, the newly-elected boss soon faced the common thing; political instability. His opponents allege that he does not have academic documents and is not fit to hold office.

In a petition filed at the Magistrate’s court in Mbale early this year by more than 600 residents headed by Mr Francis Tinei, the voters wanted Mr Machinjach to leave office.

The petitioners claimed that although Mr Machinjach produced a certificate from Business Trust Institute, the institution is not accredited and recognised by the National Council of Higher Education.

Mr Machinjach, early this year, said the petitioners are disgruntled losers who will soon be brought to shame.

However, recently, he made a U-turn, insisting issues about the petition could not be discussed because they were already in court.

“The petition has already been filed in court. I am not ignorant of the law. We cannot discuss this until court rules on the matter,” he says.

The political battles have not spared the technical wing either. Last year, Mr Anthony Lukwago, the then chief administrative officer, was forced to leave office after a section of councillors alleged that he was working in isolation and undermining the decisions of the political wing. Mr Lukwago, in an interview with this newspaper then, indicated that the working environment in Kween was gloomy and he was even scared for his life. He, however, denied claims that he was working in isolation.

A section of councillors also reportedly accused Mr Lukwago of erecting the district headquarters buildings despite a directive from the political wing to halt the same since the location of the headquarters was still an issue of contention.

Mr Lukwago swallowed the bitter pill and left Kween. That was done, but the dust from the political battle ground was and is yet to settle.

Location of district headquarters
Mr Lukwago’s departure would not bring peace to the infant district. The issue of the headquarters location would simmer on for the following months and perhaps could continue.

In May last year, the Minister for Local Government, Mr Adolf Mwesige, intervened in the matter and during a meeting in Kween, announced that the district would have three town councils and the offices would be in Binyiny and Kaproron sub-counties– the other town council after Chepsukunya.

In January this year, residents disrupted transport on the Kapchorwa-Suam road when they protested the transfer of some offices, let alone the district headquarters, to Kaproron.

The chief administrative officer, Mr Michael Nandala, and the district speaker, Ms Joseline Cherotwo, had resolved that some departments be transferred to Kaproron as suggested by Mr Mwesige and his team.

“We cannot have two headquarters. Away with plans of dividing the people,” the residents wrote on placards they brandished.

It only took the resident district commissioner, Mr Joseph Okwakau, to calm them down, promising to settle the matter.

That aside, the residents have dwelt on the ‘trivial’ issue of headquarters location and who the district boss should be, giving crucial aspects such as schools, health centres, roads, and food a blind eye and deaf ear.

About 500 people remain in refugee camps named Kisangani and Rwanda in Kwanyiny Sub-county and are living in deplorable conditions.

The group was reportedly evicted from Mt. Elgon National Park between 1999 and 2000 by Uganda Wildlife Authority officials and has a limited source of income.

The chairperson of the camps, Mr Patrick Satya, says the government in 2011 promised to give them alternative land for settlement but nothing has been done to date.

Ms Lydia Chekwel, the area Woman MP, says: “I pray the government resettles people in Benet and Kwanyiny.”

A survey carried out by this newspaper in the district recently shows that the health system is equally sick and in dire need of help from relevant authorities.

“We do not have a single ambulance and transporting patients is a nightmare, but the Ministry of Health has promised to give us one. The government should step in. We also face the problem of infrastructure,” the area Woman MP says.

She adds that the district now only has one doctor, but with more nurses who were recruited recently, the health situation could improve.

The performance in schools is yet another nightmare that authorities and residents of Kween need to pay attention to. According to last year’s Uganda National Examinations Board results, the district posted very poor results from primary to A-Level.

The district registered a 30.5 per cent failure rate in Primary Leaving Examinations, had only 8 candidates scoring Division One in UCE and hardly had any student scoring A or B in any subject at A-Level.

The District Education Officer, Ms Joyce Mumya, says her sector was performing badly, both in infrastructure and academics, and needed more government help.

State of education
Somweyo Community Primary School on the way to Ngenge Sub-county, for example, showed a somewhat ‘forgotten’ institution, with teachers struggling to impart knowledge in the mud-and-wattle structures. The teachers said since government-aided schools were far away, parents resorted to contribute Shs30,000 for every teacher and food to have their children taught.

At Kortek Primary School, parents contribute Shs15,000 for each teacher’s salary. There are less than four teachers in the school.

The roads have remained impassable and farmers can hardly transport their merchandise to markets.

Last year, residents asked their area MPs, Mr Abdil Kisos Chemonges and Ms Lydia Chekwel to push for better roads.

Ms Chekwel says she has been promised by the Works and Transport ministry that the road will be put under the maintenance programme this year.

“We don’t have any information regarding the road now. I talked to the Hon. (Abraham) Byandala in January and he promised me that the road would be repaired by March, but we are still waiting,” she says.

Such are the hurdles that the young district has to overcome to benefit from the fruits of autonomy, but that can only be achieved with less political disorganisation.