Kampala City is a victim of the Mafia Regime – Period!

By Dr. Kizza Besigye

Dr. Kizza Besigye

It’s rather depressing, but hardly surprising, to see how debate on the Kampala City crisis has been skewed to mask the real problems. Unless we get the right diagnosis, we shall continue prescribing the wrong treatment. All city dwellers dream of living in a well-planned, well-managed, clean, beautiful and safe city. Even those city dwellers referred to (by conceited commentators) as riffraffs, ruffians, hooligans, vandals, and delinquents have dreams of a good life. It’s possible for all city dwellers to work and achieve their dreams together.

There are two huge falsehoods that are being aggressively drummed up in respect of the crisis in Kampala city. First, that the mismanagement and failure of service delivery was due to failure of the city political leadership (especially from “opposition” DP party); hence the decision to put the city under control of the President. Secondly, that Lord Mayor Lukwago has been undermining or obstructive to the worthy efforts of KCCA Executive Director and her “technical” staff to deliver goods and services desperately needed in the city. It’s the second falsehood that’s now depicted as “politicking”; hence the calls for de-politicising city management.

I contend that the root causes of the crisis in Kampala are: colossal failure of planning and/or implementation of the scanty plans; massive rural-urban migration; very limited opportunities for employment or entrepreneurship; and underfunding; all of which are underpinned by systemic and massive corruption. These are, largely, problems that cannot be addressed by any management (political or technical) at the Kampala city level. They are all a result of National policies and governance.

Of the 27 years of NRM/ Museveni rule, 20 years were under the “Movement” system; where political party activities were proscribed. The political heads of Kampala city were the “Movement” District Chairpersons. During the first ten of the twenty years, Mr. Museveni was both the President (Executive) and head of Parliament (Legislature). Until three years ago, Kampala city (KCC) was overseen by Ministry of Local Government, which was also responsible for appointment of the technical staff. Since three years ago, Kampala city (KCCA) was put under the direct control of the President. Therefore, the elective political leadership of KCC/ KCCA has always been under the supervision of the Chief Executive, Mr. Museveni; through his ministers or directly. No wonder that until Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago, the elected “opposition- leaning” leaders of KCC were promptly co-opted by the NRM ruling clique (mafia). Hajj Ssebagala, the last Mayor of KCC moved on to become a “special” campaigner of Mr. Museveni, aborted ministerial appointee and now Senior Advisor of the President.

Several of the major challenges facing Kampala city were either cultivated or nurtured by the NRM regime; more so, by Mr. Museveni. Many boda-bodas were directly sponsored by Mr. Museveni. This was even a part of our electoral petition of 2001; Mr. Museveni had “donated” bodas during the campaign. After the 2011 elections, he “donated” Shs. 500 million to a Sacco of Kampala bodas. Thousands of the boda-bodas were also recruited into security organisations. UTODA, the association of Taxi drivers and owners, became an militant arm of the NRM; making it difficult for any mass transportation strategy to evolve. Vendors, under the leadership of one Kagoro, were organised and supported by Mr. Museveni. Most of the illegal structures were built with the support and protection of the NRM leaders etc.

I believe that the factors that motivated Mr. Museveni to directly takeover KCC were the following:

1) Realizing that through the market deals (Basajjabalaba and Col Mugyenyi), lucrative land transactions, KCC procurements etc a lot of cash could be generated that he didn’t control. Mr. Museveni is very afraid of any sizable amount of money made outside his direct control; in case it’s used to oppose him politically.

2) Embarrassment by the condition of his Capital city whenever he hosts foreign visitors, especially during high profile international meetings like CHOGM. He’s also embarrassed by continuous comparisons between Kigali and Kampala. He wanted to increase funding to change the visage of the city and to maximise social, economic and political returns in doing so.

3) Anger over his humiliating electoral defeat in spite of doing everything humanly possible to get different results; including use of money, terror and cheating.

Mr. Museveni set out to take over Kampala completely using the new law of KCCA. In the initial KCCA Bill, there was no elected Mayor; Kampala would be headed by his direct appointee. This hit a major Constitutional obstacle that seemed not to have been envisaged. The contradictions and major gaps in the KCCA Act arose from the improvisation of trying to remain within the constitutional framework but achieve their objective.

After the 2011 elections, the pre-occupation of the regime was to, either co-opt the Lord Mayor into the Mafia Club or, to render him completely irrelevant. The regime also targeted the immediate takeover of the Kampala Land Board for reasons explained above. Unfortunately for them, Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago became a hard nut to crack. As the Lord Mayor was being encircled by regime hatchet-men, Walk to Work demonstrations broke out. These demonstrations were very frightening to Mr. Museveni because he knew the anger and frustration in the city and country at large. Inflation had risen suddenly and quickly to 30%; immediately after his lofty campaign promises and bribes. He also knew the huge problem of real or disguised unemployment in the Kampala. Additionally, he had just witnessed popular uprisings against his colleagues, Africa’s long-serving sit-tight dictators.

Mr. Museveni’s pre-occupation then became the removal or containment of large population centres in the city. This advised the aggressive and unplanned “handling” of markets, vendors, low-income housing estate dwellers, kiosk operators, taxis, boda-bodas etc. Those that could not be “easily” removed were met by Mr. Museveni to give them money (bribes) under different guises. This also seems to be behind the rampant market and timber sheds’ fires. As I was writing these remarks, the devastating news of a 4th Owino Park Yard fire are dominating the media. These aggressive actions against city “population centres” were being initiated and directed by KCCA Executive Director (ED) Jennifer Musisi without any policy decisions being taken by the Authority (Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Councillors).

It’s at this point that Regime apologists fault Lord Mayor Lukwago over his response. They suggest that since the actions of KCCA ED were in the interest of cleaning and developing the city, Lukwago should have supported her. I strongly disagree with that suggestion. As I’ve pointed out above, these people that Musisi was attacking had been a creation by the regime over a long time. They may be socially and economically marginalised, but they have equal citizenship Rights with the mightiest. They were entitled to humane and dignified “handling”; including securing alternative places or means to secure their livelihood. Besides, the Authority would have set a terrible precedence by allowing the Executive Director to determine the policy of the city; contrary to law and common sense. This was the very reason they were elected.

The Executive Director continued to defiantly usurp the powers of the Authority (Lord Mayor and Councillors). She re-branded KCCA, including the creation of a new logo of the Authority; changed city monuments; entered into partnerships with private entities; and imposed new taxes without any Authority decision contrary to KCCA Act. All the power of the Authority was exercised by the Executive Director with the cover of the Minister for Kampala. In order to avoid any checks and balances within KCCA, Key organs of the Authority were not nominated, appointed or approved by the Minister and Executive Director, as provided by KCCA Act. These included the Metropolitan Physical planning Authority, which is supposed to be appointed by the Minister; the Authority Public Accounts Committee, to be approved by the Minister; and the Contracts Committee nominated by the Executive Director and appointed by Secretary to the Treasury. The Kampala District Land Board was forcefully and illegally closed; even in contempt of court orders.

The Executive Director defied the Authority in respect of offering accountability for the money appropriated for the work of the Authority. Huge amounts of KCCA funds had been spent in a questionable manner and the ED snubbed all attempts by the Authority to account for the expenditures. Whereas KCC was operating on a budget of about Shs 45 billion, KCCA now had a budget of Shs 200 billion. The defunct KCC was also reported to have had Shs 58 billion remaining on its accounts at the time of changeover.

It may be recalled that arising out of the above, all elected officials of the city, including KCCA councillors, Division Chairpersons and Councillors, were united against the actions of ED. In fact, KCCA even held meetings and passed a vote of no confidence in the ED on 28th September 2012 and demanded for her removal.

I agree with those who say that it was at this point that the dice was cast; Lukwago had to be removed by all means and at any cost! A hangman in the person of Hon. Frank Tumwebaze was appointed in October 2012 as the minister for Kampala. It appears that at this stage, all Laws, regulations, procedures, official prudence, common decency didn’t matter any more. Lord Mayor Lukwago simply had to be removed from office. This is when the process of compromising the Councillors is said to have gone in high gear.

All the while, the ED had a “free” hand to contract and implement programs that she has been widely applauded for. Apparently accompanied by a well-oiled public relations machinery, the ED created the impression that she was delivering public goods and services in spite of immense sabotage and obstacles imposed by the Authority. Public goods were indeed delivered; making and repairing roads and walkways, building markets, street lights, cleaning public places, maintaining green areas etc. This is quite exciting considering that for many years, nothing was happening. This however, doesn’t take away the vital role that the Authority was set up to perform, which was comprehensively sabotaged by the ED and Minister.

All that’s being done does not follow any approved plan! Once the plan is finally made, it may be found that a lot of the expenditure and developments were wasteful. Already, there is a change of plan on the Jinja Road (between Nakawa and Central Kampala); a section that had just been re-developed. Now a six-lane road is said to be on the way to replace what exists. When the Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority is finally constituted and it makes the necessary plans, this too may be found to be out of step. Again, all this is happening without a transparent and legal process of procurement and with no processes for public accountability. So, why put the cut before the horse; waste so much money, simply to outmanoeuvre the Lord Mayor?

As I’ve pointed out before, all dictatorships thrive using four main tools: Fear, Favours, Propaganda and “Divide and Rule”. All these have been extensively deployed in the KCCA saga. Intimidating and bribing of Councillors will have a long-lasting impact on KCCA, even beyond the oust-Lukwago manoeuvres. The role of the media in this saga, whether deliberate or inadvertent, has been quite unhelpful. There has been gross lack of focus on the building of strong institutions and processes, which is the only guarantor of sustained effective delivery of public goods and services. I was taken aback when I read an opinion piece from the usually insightful Onyango Obbo; asking whether Kampalans would rather hire Lukwago or Musisi. This is akin to asking whether one would rather hire a Board Chair or a CEO in a company! From a distance, I get the impression that Ms Jennifer Musisi has the competencies to function as an effective KCCA ED. However, there is no way she can professionally and ethically function in a Mafia system. She’s been sucked into the corruption/ power machinations. In fact, soon or later, she may carry the mafia’s cross to uncomfortable places.

Lord Mayor Ssalongo Elias Lukwago may have had some shortcomings as we’re all prone to, but he must be credited with standing firmly on principles and for resisting the highly corrupting environment of KCC/KCCA. He could have chosen the easy and comfortable path of getting co-opted into the mafia system. All stake holders now acknowledge that KCCA Law is defective in essential respects. More importantly, the majority of the people who elected the Lord Mayor, were not betrayed; Lukwago stood with them in all the trying times. The outflowing show of support and emotions that spontaneously exploded on hearing the Court ruling upholding/ maintaining his tenure bore testimony to this. Elias Lukwago is emerging as a credible National leader; a rare commodity in our country. Omuloodi Waali!!


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