Museveni garbage order receives mixed reactions

Garbage collectors take waste dumped by the roadside in Rubaga Division, Kampala, in 2018. PHOTO/SHABIBAH NAKIRIGYA

What you need to know:

  • This executive order, which stipulates a garbage collection scheme, will be enforced within six months.

Masaka is one of the oldest urban units in Uganda having become a township in 1953, a town council in 1958, a municipality in 1968, and a city in July 2020. But like many urban centres, Masaka is still grappling with poor solid waste disposal.

Currently, Masaka generates at least 100 tonnes of garbage every week, but authorities can only collect 70 percent.

It is against this background that President Museveni issued an executive order requiring all urban authorities to ensure that there is a garbage skip every 200 metres. This executive order is expected to be enforced within six months.

“That skip must be emptied every three days, or more frequently, if the volumes are big,” the April 9 order reads in part.

Within a year, Mr Museveni said every urban centre must ensure that there is a clear plan for recycling solid waste.

“The plastics should be recycled into new use forms (bags, etc); the organic waste (peelings) should be turned into manure; and wastepaper should be recycled into new uses of paper (toilet paper, etc),” the President adds.

To enforce this presidential executive order, authorities in Masaka City say it would require about 920 skips, each costing Shs17m. This translates to Shs15.6 billion.

“Although the city covers 100 square kilometres, concentration will be on the Central Business District (CBD), which is less than 45 square kilometres. Other areas are still rural with banana plantations and these can still manage their solid waste,” Mr Vincent Okurut, the clerk of Masaka City, says.

He says although the money required to procure the skips is not available, they are devising means of raising it. 

“We had got some partners to manage garbage, but this is a directive to the city. We must enforce,” Mr Okurut adds. 

Mr Rogers Buregeya, the chairperson of the finance committee in Masaka City, says since the hired two private firms - Youth in Action Masaka City and Tusekimu Masaka City Association are in charge of managing garbage in the CBD, the city council will concentrate on other parts.

Another hurdle Masaka still has is the lack of a well-managed landfill. Mr Buregeya says the construction of a modern landfill has proved to be an expensive venture, which the new city cannot single-handedly fund due to meager revenue collections.

In 2012, the then municipal authorities procured a 20-acre piece of land at Bulando Village, about four kilometers outside the CBD, to house the landfill and a modern garbage treatment plant which was expected to cost over Shs480m.

“Through sensitisation of city dwellers, we are also looking at sorting organic, inorganic, and recyclable wastes at the household level. We hope this will promote effective management of solid waste generated before it is taken to the landfill. Also, the biodegradable fraction of the waste could be recycled through composting,” Mr Buregeya says.

Soroti City
Mr Joshua Edogu, the mayor for Soroti City, says although the presidential directive is good it must come with financial support. 

“They must support us, currently we have only one wheel loader, and for the 200 metre directive to work, we need 500 skips,” he says.

Mr Edogu says they need nearly 10 garbage trucks, and wheel loaders to manage garbage in the CBD.
“To ensure that the President’s directive succeeds, we need more than 500 skips for Soroti City alone,’’ he says.

The Soroti City East clerk, Mr Abraham Omaido, says the constraints to garbage collection have been a result of tax collection mechanisms, in which money collected is sent to the central government before a fraction is given back.

Unfortunately, he says the remittances come late, leaving the urban authorities unable to collect garbage in time.

Mr Paul Omer, the mayor of Soroti City East, says the city has failed to maintain the garbage recycling plant at Aminit area due to limited resources.

Dr Wilson Sanya, the chairperson of the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda, says using garbage skips is an ancient way of managing waste and many urban centres have since outlawed it.

“The intention of the President is good for all our urban authorities given the fact that the problem of solid waste cuts across, but what we need is enough resources to have enough equipment and human resource,” he says.

Dr Sanya says during their executive meeting on Friday, they agreed to prepare a detailed proposal on solid waste management which they will later share with the line ministry and the President.
“We do not believe that the measure [of garbage skips] suggested by the President is the best approach. So, we have decided to prepare a proposal. It contains a request to meet him [Museveni] to discuss an inclusive approach,’’ Dr Sanya said.

Ministry of Finance response
Mr Jim Mugunga, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance, said they received the presidential directive and they are working to see that it is fully enforced.

“We agree that it [Presidential directive] has financial implications to the urban authorities, but once a Presidential directive is issued, it’s incumbent upon responsible officers, including the accounting officers at the ministry to follow the legal frameworks and ensure that it’s fulfilled. Even if it means pushing for a supplementary budget,’’ Mr Mugunga says.

Fort Portal City
Mr Richard Muhumuza, the mayor of Central Division in Fort Portal City, says the presidential executive order will not work because the city has no money to procure the required garbage skips.

He says their fleet of garbage trucks is currently grounded and they are using hired trucks that always move from house to house collecting garbage at a free cost.

“Previously, we were having a few garbage skips in town, but sometimes we could delay collecting garbage in those skips and the whole town could stink,” Mr Muhumuza says.

He adds that if they are to reintroduce garbage skips, the Central Division would need more than 25 skips each valued at Shs10 million.

Mr Muhumuza says the central government has not disbursed the funds they collected under local revenue for the month of February, March, and April, which is affecting their normal operations.

“We last received money from the central government in January, this is the money that we collect monthly as local revenue. In a month, we collect between Shs150 million to Shs200 million, but all these monies are with the Ministry of Finance,” he says.

The mayor claims that President Museveni one time visited Fort Portal Kitele garbage dumping site and pledged Shs300m for recycling garbage into manure and they are still waiting for money.
Ntoroko District chairperson William Kasoro says the presidential executive order on garbage is good, but the timing is not favourable.

“As a district, we don’t have money for buying skips now and we did not include it in our indicative planning figures for the 2023/2024 budget. Maybe the government should procure the skips and trucks and send them to us,” he says.

Tororo policy
On their part, leaders in Tororo Municipal Council have adopted a new garbage disposal regulation dubbed “polluter pay” policy to ease the management of garbage.

Under this new arrangement, residents pay for the garbage generated at the source contrary to the old practice where collection, transportation, and disposal of waste were left to council authorities.

The Town Clerk of Tororo Municipality, Mr Moses Lorika, said although the policy is still being piloted, the council has started realising its benefits.

“Since we introduced this arrangement, unnecessary dumping of garbage on the streets has drastically reduced because those found littering the streets are arrested and fined,’’ he says.

Mr Lorika adds that residents pay money depending on the volume of garbage generated. In the past, Mr Lorika says on average, the council would spend close to Shs3m monthly to fuel garbage trucks and pay garbage collectors.

Mr Kenneth Orono, the mayor of Tororo Municipality, says if they are to enforce the presidential executive order, Tororo Town would need more than 200 garbage skips.

“This means we have to revise our current policy where garbage is collected from people’s homes. For us here, we had withdrawn the garbage skips in many places and only left those in the market and taxi park areas,” he says.

Mr Andrew Omuye, a councillor representing Amagoro “A” Parish in Tororo Municipality, says Tororo Town is becoming cleaner, and soon other urban council leaders will visit to benchmark.

Apac Municipal Council
Municipal leaders say it will be difficult to implement the president’s order citing a lack of funds.  Mr Stanislaus Mangasa, the town clerk of Apac Municipal Council, says if they are to procure garbage skips, it has to be done in phases by buying some skips every financial year.

“We need to allocate some funds[for garbage skips] since we are still in the budgeting process and keep adding more funds every financial year to achieve the desired target,” he says.

Case study: Kyenjojo Town Council

Kyenjojo Town Council, which is the central business area for Kyenjojo District, is on Kyenjojo-Kampala Road about 50 kilometers from Fort Portal City.  The town council central business area has about 25 kilometres out of the 50 kilometres of the entire town council, according to town council chairperson, Mr Geoffrey Kagoro Busiinge. In 25 kilometres, there are 25,000 metres and if we are to go by President Museveni’s directive of each skip every 200 metres, the town council will need 125 skips in the central business area that generate garbage on a daily basis. 

He says skips will be too many, but adds that if they have money, they can fix a few skips and not all of what the President directed.  On some streets such as Kampala Road, they need three garbage skips, on Kyenjojo-Fort Portal Road (four skips), Kagadi Road (two skips), and Kamwenge Road (two skips).  “We would wish to have garbage skips positioned in other key areas, but we don’t know whether the President considered the cost implication of this, procuring skips and garbage trucks requires much money, which is not readily available and cannot be provided by the central government in six months or a year given the current economic recession in the country,” Mr Busiinge says. 

 Compiled by Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Alex Ashaba, Santo Ojok, Antonio Kalyango & Joseph Omollo