Do you remember when the district craze hit dear Uganda? When sub-county demanded that it becomes its own district headquarter?
Or when every 300 people wanted to have their own constituency until Parliament had no more space for the 400+ legislators. Then there was the fever that hit municipalities and town councils catching every small trading center.
The politicians then told us these administrative structures were to make our lives better. Until they started complaining that they have no resources to run their offices.
And in order to have these offices operational, suddenly, people up there started to squeeze money from anybody who seemed to be making some money in the locality; say butchers, video halls, shoe shiners or carpentry/metal workshops were milked dry that even the little capital invested was no more. In the end many businesses have closed down due to over and multiple taxation, and almost nobody in the neighbourhood is able to start a new business before it follows the path of its predecessors.
We are in the rat race.
Your leaders, will close your shop, for failing to pay an operating license, local service tax and income tax, despite your shop also forking out money to pay for rent, electricity, internet, telephone, garbage, and staff. They don’t really care. They must find money to run these useless – to the common man – administrative structures.
In response, the business people will transfer these costs on the commodities that the ordinary wananchi purchases and the high prices many a times prohibit them from use.
Yet, your leader, rather the politician next door, will come driving a monster 4X4 fuel guzzler, and pay themselves hefty wages, plus demanding small things such as data and OTT charges. This story as painful as it is, is a sad reality.
That is when the announcement to upgrade to cities, places you can call villages but referred to as towns, does not excite me.
What is new? You can ask. Nothing. It is politicians at their game.
The council of ministers, called the Cabinet, headed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda, agreed to raise the status of some big villages, to city status. Those towns include Jinja, Gulu, Arua, Mbarara and Fort Portal. These towns, the ministers solemnly concurred, should become “cities starting June 2020”.
Mind you, this will happen as soon as “Museveni wins new kisanja”, and just after his inauguration. So, this is a political move promising a new dawn for these regions new cities are expected.
Then, there are other populated villages to also be baptised cities including Lira, Hoima, Kabale, Entebbe, Soroti, and I think Masaka.
I really pity the ministers, who believe think they came up with an ingenious idea, or move. Indeed, some people are excited. I am not one of them. That is why by extension, my sympathy goes to the unsuspecting citizenry who are trapped to think by adding a word “city” to their over populated village, it would make any difference.
The naked truth is, even Kampala is still managed like a town board, leave alone a capital city. So, unless the people and management of those areas start thinking like city dwellers, nothing will change in the running of these places. To calling a spade, a spade, the named cities is just political trap and another burden for the Ugandans’ pockets to bleed.
The hope that cities are going to solve the problems of the ordinary folks including relevant education, better health care, jobs, passable roads, name it, is a false promise, and I believe if the Uganda government wanted to provide any services to its people, they can still do it without adding another avenue to tax its citizenry to bankruptcy.
If our government wanted to be serious with development, it should enact regulations empowering development right from villages, parishes, sub counties or town councils, and municipalities. Uganda is still a one city nation. The rest will be cities just in name.
A town doesn’t need the word city to start getting budgets to build roads, health centres, schools, markets, water and electricity services, among services that common people demand from their government.
I suspect that the city status fever is only targeting the political class who love to wear big titles, and creating new political seats especially in parliament for political hang on.
Soon, every town will have a name city to it as we have done in the past given municipality status to one-street towns such as Ntungamo, or districts equivalent to sub counties such as Ntoroko, Kween or Lyatonde with a population of less than 100,000 people.
The truth of the matter is that all that hullabaloo didn’t help any service delivery for any one, instead, it became a burden to the tax payer who sustains the huge public administration.
Therefore, city status craze is the new virus that is going to squeeze the last blood out of them. Especially as cities look for ways to sustain their huge budget plans.