Two stories, both from the Monitor Newspaper caught my eye – one was in yesterday’s paper and the other is today’s. Yesterday’s story was titled “Creation of New Districts Burdens Govt”. This was said by the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Keith Muhakanizi, as he criticized politicians for their continuous demand for the creation of more districts and municipalities. Mr. Muhakanizi said the new districts put a strain on the national resource envelop in form of administrative costs. In fact, the revelation that Government cannot afford new districts was brought to light last week in Parliament, when Hon Onzima, the Local Government State Minister, openly criticized Government’s push for creation of new districts. Hon Onzima pointed out that the Ministry of Finance had written saying Government does not have enough money to fund the new districts.His fellow ministers almost had him for lunch for revealing this fact!
In today’s Monitor on page 6, it is reported that President Museveni blames the demand for new districts on MPs. He said MPs are obsessed with creation of new administrative units instead of lobbying government for things that would improve the welfare of their constituents. So in essence, the President is saying that MPs are behaving like two year old children throwing a tantrum over sweets and the President, like an overwhelmed parent, has to give in to the demand, even though he knows what he is giving is not good for the child. How else do you explain why, despite knowing that there are more pertinent issues and answers to addressing service delivery and that there is no money to accommodate new districts, would the President still succumb to the demand to create more districts?
To top it all off, the Parliament of Uganda, which last Thursday had been sent on an indefinite recess by the Honorable Deputy Speaker, has been re-called for a special sitting to take place next Tuesday on September 1st. Among the three things they are going to discuss is creation of districts.
Why does this go on? Why can’t our leaders listen to the Ministry of Finance when it says there is no money to accommodate this demand? Why can’t the MPs devise other strategies for improving service delivery since they claim that is the main reason for creating districts? Why would our leaders let their short term political aspirations get in the way of the long term development of Uganda? Why isn’t anyone listening to reason? Why can’t the President, as Head of State, take the hard decision not to grant the new districts?
Maybe we should demand that each politician that wants a new administrative unit created, first present a feasibility plan to show how resources to fund the new unit would be generated and sustained. We should demand that they present sound business plans for the new districts they are demanding and we should subject these plans to rigorous review.
We need leaders with backbone. We need leaders who will actually lead. We need leaders who both know the right problem and know how to devise the right solutions. We need leaders who understand that leadership is not about being popular, it’s about doing the right thing. And sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing.