After five years of wrangling, Kampala Capital City Authority Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and executive director Jennifer Musisi shook hands with smiling faces. Two days later, the two were at a Uganda Cup semi-final match between KCCA FC and Vipers at Nakivubo stadium, consulting each other and beaming like a couple of old friends catching up after a long absence.
To Authority councillors and sections of the public, the demeanour of the two principals signifies a new dawn at City Hall even as public cynicism lingers amid conspiracy theories that the two could be “hiding swords” in their closets, and that the tolerance Ugandans saw on the two occasions was simply “a lull before the storm”.
But with an unflinching look back at the defiant years of his brief leadership, Lukwago swore not to compromise his principles of equity, social justice, rule of law and corporate governance, among others, and even promised to assert his authority “no matter what it takes”.
Also in his inaugural speech, he preached a new beginning and vowed not to revert to a vindictive course against those who persecuted him.
Some say the reason why Lukwago has decided to bury the hatchet is because he learnt something from his botched-up impeachment and the closure of his office for nearly three years, and the politics and legal gymnastics that followed.
However, it could also be true that because the tables in the Authority have turned after the elections, Lukwago can afford to smile and even dictate terms because the government needs his support more than ever to have things done through an Opposition-controlled Authority.
In the recent elections, the NRM party lost its 20-member majority in the Authority; with only two councillors surviving the voters’ fury in what some people called “a payback poll”. The voters did not only return Lukwago to City Hall, they also made sure that he goes back with “compliant councillors” who would defend him in case of any threats to his “throne”.
According to the statistics from City Hall, FDC has the majority with 19 councillors, DP (2) NRM (6); Independents (3) and four councillors representing professional bodies – lawyers, doctors, engineers and architects. Even the three independents are Opposition leaning. These are Mr Muhammad Ssegirinya (FDC leaning), Mr Ismael Tabalamule (DP) and Ms Fatuma Nsereko, a sister to Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko.
But even with Lukwago’s landslide victory, outgoing Kampala minister Frank Tumwebaze has warned that the Lord Mayor might become a prisoner of the KCCA Act since Section 79 of the same law gives the minister power to veto all decisions in case they contradict central government policies.
The Constitution also puts the administration of Kampala in the hands of the central government. The mayor and his council play delegated roles. So the minister is their boss, whether they like it or not. But how the new “Opposition” minister and Lord Mayor navigate the political waters will decide whether the serenity returns to City Hall or not.
“Much as he won as a city mayor, NRM won to lead Uganda. It’s the manifesto of NRM leading Uganda and therefore being implemented all over,” Mr Tumwebaze said, adding that “Lukwago has no choice but to implement NRM policy idea for Kampala city. That is it. Yes, he won as mayor, but he can never stand in the way of stopping the implementation of the government policy agenda in the city.”
Several attempts to speak to Ms Musisi for this article and KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju failed. When contacted through his official mobile, Tweeter, Facebook and WhatsApp handle, there was no response.
Although some Opposition leaders have doubts whether President Museveni will allow Lukwago to work, independent-minded politicians as well as State House officials have urged that in appointing Ms Beti Kamya, the Uganda Federal Alliance leader and a former member of FDC, as the new minister for Kampala and elevating what used to be a department under Presidency docket to a fully-fledged ministry was deliberate because Mr Museveni wants to see development in the city.
But what is the problem?
According to Mr Tumwebaze, who is accused of turning City Hall into a battlefield and taking sides in the conflict between the Lord Mayor and the councillors, the quarrels between Lukwago, the councillors and the technical personnel of KCCA didn’t start with him.
His explanation is that, “They are from the start of KCCA, far before my appointment. I found them bickering and fighting each other. They had already taken their various petitions to court and Parliament.”
The former Kampala minister, now Information and ICT minister designate, however, blames “Lukwago’s personal character” as the cause of the conflicts at City Hall, adding that “he is a fellow who enjoys conflicts and quarrels maybe to be seen as important, yet leadership is about humility”.
Although there are voices, especially of business people in Kampala, who to some extent agree with Mr Tumwebaze on Lukwago’s character and even asked the Lord Mayor to flinch and move on for the development of the city, the Lord Mayor insists that he is not anti-development but only demanding for accountability and rule of law for good governance.
“I would like to see peace and harmony in KCCA. As we all know, the city was in shambles but Jennifer Musisi has tried to clean the mess,” property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia commented at the weekend. “We need to move on after election. The economy is in a big mess and we must all push in the same direction. For how long are we going to keep fighting?”
Lukwago shoots back from the hip at those who accuse him of having a problem with his character not being reconciliatory with KCCA executive director. “I have heard people saying Lukwago should reconcile with Jennifer Musisi but this is not a love affair,” Mr Lukwago said. “This is not about ego; it’s about rule of law and people dodging accountability. They abuse the law and expect me to keep quiet.”
Mr Lukwago, a lawyer, said Ms Musisi is a staff of the Authority and as a Lord Mayor he is the political head of the Authority with clearly stated roles in Section 11 of the KCCA Act 2010. “Unless they are saying we should share the position of the Lord Mayor. Otherwise the issue at hand is very clear—it’s about non-compliance with the law and impunity and I am not ready to tolerate that,” he said.
Although there are people who blame Lukwago’s character and others blame the minister for fuelling the conflict, the truth is that even before Lukwago’s impeachment, “the glaring loopholes” in KCCA Act, 2010, particularly what councillors and analysts have called “the contradictory roles” of the Lord Mayor and the executive director had affected the work of the Lord Mayor and councillors at City Hall.
For instance, the KCCA Act does not clearly spell out the powers of the executive director and the powers of the Lord Mayor, which has made the two principals to clash over roles. Parliament in May 2015 had tasked Kampala minister at the time to present the proposed amendments to KCCA Act, in an attempt to streamline the roles and resolve governance issues at City Hall.
For almost three years, KCCA limped without a political head, the Lord Mayor, and efforts by Parliament, backroom negotiations led by the Prime Minister designate, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and the courts of law all failed to restore sanity at City Hall.
And partly for this reason, the Authority’s predecessor, the Kampala City Council, was dismissed as a second-class legislature, an amateurish body more comfortable issuing unfeasible proclamations and renaming streets and parks than confronting the city’s most pressing problems such as floods, corruption, insufficient markets, street vendors and darkness and poor infrastructure, among others.
The technical wing headed by Ms Musisi kept the fort, under the supervision of the Auditor General and Kampala minister Tumwebaze amid Opposition protests over what Shadow Local Government minister Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality) called lack of accountability watchdogs.
There were also recurrent queries on the floor of Parliament over the legality of KCCA budget. On several occasions, NRM MPs used their numerical strength to have the KCCA budgets approved.
The absence of the Lord Mayor worsened the situation which was already bad and created a governance vacuum at City Hall, affecting service delivery in some ways since the Authority could not sit without a political head. There were attempts to have the Lord Mayor replaced through a by-election but the court blocked the move.
The key players
The results from the recent mayoral elections hammered out the significance to Article 1 of the Constitution, which talks of “power of the people”. The re-election of Lukwago was an apparent vote-of-no-confidence and a slap in the face of the councillors and President Museveni, who is on record boasting how he kicked out Lukwago and left him with only mayoral robes and chains.
Using an analogy of rats stealing millet, President Museveni told a rally in Makindye East on February 13 that Mr Lukwago had failed to fight corruption at City Hall, which was stalling government projects such as road works.
“I chased Lukwago. He had failed. I used force to chase him. Rats had become a problem, rats would even eat roads. That Kafumbe-Mukasa Road, I would send money but the road would not be constructed. I got Musisi like a drug to kill the rats in Kampala but the drug might be very tough,” Mr Museveni said.
In the run-up to the general election, the last-minute Amendments to KCCA Act, 2010 by Mr Tumwebaze – which had sought the removal of the election of the Lord Mayor through universal adult suffrage – flopped after the tenure for 9th Parliament elapsed without considering the Bill.
Mr Tumwebaze, however, insists that the Bill was saved and that at an appropriate time the 10th Parliament will consider it and the views of other stakeholders such as Lukwago. The Bill wanted the Lord Mayor to be elected among the councillors.
The late submission of the disputed amendments to KCCA Bill cleared the way for Lukwago’s second term bid as Kampala Lord Mayor.
To get fresh mandate, Lukwago defeated NRM’s Daniel Kazibwe alias Ragga Dee and DP’s Issa Kikungwe. He was declared winner of the city mayoral race after he polled 176,637 votes to beat Kazibwe with a margin of 127,271 votes. Mr Kazibwe polled 49,366 votes while DP’s Kikungwe polled 7,759 votes.
Those close to the centres of power, including political analysts, however, blamed everything on politics and the gaps in KCCA they say elicited the power struggle between an elected Lord Mayor and a selected executive director, citing the invisible hand of the President in the botched-up prosecution of the Lord Mayor in November 2013.
Others talked of “Lukwago’s defiance and his irritating closeness to Dr Kizza Besigye”, the former presidential candidate of the main Opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change. Dr Besigye remains in jail on accusations of treason.
To avoid problems, Mr Tumwebaze said, “I advise Lukwago to distinguish between himself as an elected mayor with statutory responsibilities to do and himself as the Opposition activist the Besigye style. By mixing the two, he becomes an enemy of himself.”
However, the politics of Dr Besigye’s friendship with Lukwago was not mentioned in the official version of Lukwago’s impeachment.
What were the grounds then? Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s tribunal that was appointed by Mr Tumwebaze to hear the petition filed by KCCA councillors against Lukwago, cited abuse of office, incompetence, misconduct and failure to convene meetings of the Authority. The minister later chaired the disputed Authority meeting that hounded Lukwago out of office.
Lukwago challenged his impeachment in the Supreme Court. He was returned to office by an interim order issued on March 28, 2014, by Justice Lydia Mugambe, who blocked the lord mayoral by-election, pending determination of the case challenging his impeachment.
His return to office was short-lived when the Attorney General filed an appeal at the Appellate Court. It was heard ex-parte and Justice Steven Kavuma halted all cases relating to the Lord Mayor seat, pending determination of an appeal filed by the AG.
What should be done?
Mr Moses Byaruhanga, the senior presidential adviser on political affairs, called for a new start and requested the two principals to bury the hatchet and move on.
Mr Byaruhanga, however, seemed confident that the new ministers (Beti Kamya and Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi), the Lord Mayor, the division mayors, the new councillors and the executive director, will effectively work together.
“The disagreements between the Lord Mayor and executive director must be buried because people in Kampala want services. The three-tier leadership at KCCA should work as a team to address the challenges in Kampala and where they get challenges, the new minister should be consulted because she has all the credentials.”
But for people like Mr Bernard Luyiga, the former Makerere University councillor who closely worked with anti-Lukwago alliance to oust Lukwago and later punished by the voters even after regretting the decision, for the two principals to work together, it will required more than public displace of affability.
“This will require give and take, mutual trust, respect, and sacrifice since both parties (Opposition and government) have specific interests in the city,” Mr Luyiga said.
However, with the appointment of Ms Kamya as Kampala minister, Mr Luyiga is optimistic that with her experience, and the magic will work.
“She is a well-tested seasoned politician and well tested public administrator who understands very well Kampala issues. Therefore, I’m optimistic that the would-be governance challenges which greatly affected the operations of KCCA work, will be greatly minimised in the new term,” he said.
However, on account of suspicion, Ms Kamya’s strengths could be her weaknesses, given the fact that she is viewed as “quisling” among Opposition extremists.
What’s Kamya’s approach?
But Kamya has sought to dispel the fears lurking over her appointment, assuring Lukwago and others of her support and neutrality in resolving conflicts.
“I have a good relationship with Lukwago. We don’t have any major conflict. What is between us and on his side is a bit of suspicion which I am sure I will calm down and let them know that they can trust me, that I’m here to work with them for the people of Uganda. I am not here to fight you [the Lord Mayor]. I think it will be resolved,” Ms Kamya said.
Although Mr Tumwebaze has asked the new Kampala minister to ensure that KCCA gets adequate resources and protect the technical managers from “unnecessary political altercations” so as to enable them work, Ms Kamya is instead pushing for dialogue based on mutual respect and rule of law.
This approach is, however, likely to work given the fact that previously, confrontations have only exacerbated the problems at KCCA and confined Kampala residents in the losers’ corner.
“Conflict resolution is something at which I am fairly good at,” Ms Kamya said, adding that Kampala’s problem is not a big problem. “There are big problems in the world where people shoot at each other to kill each other literally. But eventually they come to the same table and agree on how to move forward.” She added: “The conflicts will be resolved and we are going to build a team at KCCA.”
However, people like city Lawyer Peter Walubiri expect tough times for an Opposition Lord Mayor. “Certainly, there will be all efforts to fail Lukwago and to buy off councillors who support him and as a result of this, the city residents and those who work in the city will be denied services,” Mr Walubiri said. The solution, according to Mr Walubiri, is to free the whole of Uganda “from the fangs of an imperial presidency”.
Mr Lukwago insists that in spite of what happened to him in the previous term, “with mutual respect amongst the leaders of this nascent institution (KCCA), and recognition of each other’s roles, mandates and responsibilities, we can build formidable synergies that shall deliver unprecedented transformation of our capital city.”
However, stakeholders and political players seem to agree on one thing: It’s time to bury the hatchet and move. That the new Authority, eager to establish itself as a major player in city government, cannot afford to go back to the previous quarrels.