Key Regions Insist on Federo Status, As Government Fails to Start Regional Tier System
Security minister Amama Mbabazi says talks with Buganda over "federo" will continue.

Key Regions Insist on Federo Status, As Government Fails to Start Regional Tier System

After several regions in Uganda demanded to be granted a federal status, the government of President Yoweri Museveni decided instead to form regional tiers.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: July 4, 2006

As the government continues to hold off pressure from Buganda kingdom to grant them a federal status, the government's preferred regional tier system of government is yet to take off, despite the July 1st deadline for the regional government to be in place.

After several regions in Uganda demanded to be granted a federal status, the government of President Yoweri Museveni decided instead to form regional tiers, where willing districts that share commonalities can form a regional government.

The government amended Article 5 of the constitution at the end of last year to provide for the regional tier (read federo) system of governance, from the decentralization system where districts and sub-counties are given powers by the central government to run local governments and plan for their respective areas. Both decentralization and the regional tier or better 'federo' systems are based on the notion of bringing services nearer to the people and ensuring that initiatives and development interventions meet the needs and realities of people in a given area.

The main difference is that regions under a federal system of government are deemed to be independent of each other and the powers/ state authority is shared between the central government and the regional government with each having clear roles and powers. On the other hand, districts have delegate powers of central government and those powers can be withdrawn or superceded by the president at all times.

Many Ugandans have over the years expressed the need to be governed under a federal system of governance. More than 65% of Ugandans who contributed views to the 1990s Odoki commission expressed support for a federal system of government, where regions (notably kingdoms) could form governments and better serve their respective peoples.

Even during the Prof. Ssempebwa led Constitutional Review Commission, the majority of regions expressed desire to be granted a federal status. But the government, backed by some sections of the public, has argued that granting full federal status to regions may turn out to be detrimental to the unity and aspirations of the Uganda as one country. Since the "federo" demand was mainly from areas with traditional centers of power (kingdoms) especially Buganda, Bunyoro, Tooro, Busoga, Lango and Teso, some regions without kingships said they would be disadvantaged in the federal arrangement as they would find it difficult to govern themselves independently, or would be forced to be part of "other tribes" (regions).

But the argument bought by most government officials was the one of some regions, notably Buganda, being traditionally advantaged to benefit from a federal system of governance "at the expense of other regions". Many of the national commercial and administrative structures are found in Buganda. Some people argue that Buganda would benefit from and control a lot of national resources at the expense of other regions.

You may remember that Buganda has ever had a federal status in Uganda. This was after the 1962 independence constitution, which was ended unceremoniously in 1967 by the infamous storming of Mengo (the Buganda kingdom seat) and eventual take over of state by then Prime Minister, Apollo Milton Obote. He declared Uganda the republic it is today.

Many Baganda feel they were doing and can do better under a federal system of governance, and the Buganda kingdom has consistently demanded for nothing less than being granted federal status. Buganda kingdom Prime Minister, Katikiro Dan Mulika says the Buganda kingdom will not go for the regional tier system in any circumstance.

Amama Mbabazi, the minister of Security who led the government in negations with the Buganda kingdom over granting Buganda a federal status says the government reached an agreement with Buganda representatives who agreed to a regional tier, as it includes most of the particular demands the central Uganda kingdom was making. The kingdom's representatives at that time have all been sacked by Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, including the long serving Katikiro Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere.

Mbabazi however says government is still committed to talking with the Buganda kingdom to iron out a few issues and bring the federal issue to its conclusion. But as the government waits to discuss with Buganda or not, the deadline for the now constitutional regional tier is fast ticking. The government now has to come up with a legal maneuver and political explanation over why the regional tier has not taken off. The shadow cabinet minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Erias Lukwago has warned that government may face a constitutional crisis over failure to put the regional tier system of governance into operation, which was put in the amended constitution last year.

Lukwago, who is the opposition cabinet Attorney General, says that the regional tier governments should have started on July 1, 2006, but the government has missed the deadline without explanation. Lukwago who is also Kampala Central MP says the government did not think and prepare clearly on the regional tier and will be embarrassed and face a constitutional crisis, by the failure for the regional governments to take off. He says the leaders of the regional governments are supposed to been selected following the conclusion of major local council elections, yet even elections have not been prepared.

Even before talking about elections, the matter of adopting a regional tier is expected to go to the District Councils for ratification. Here two thirds of the district councils must ratify it for the regional tier to be operational. This has not taken place.

The Prime Minister, Prof. Appollo Nsibambi however says government is committed to applying the regional tier system as soon as possible.

Some regions in the country led by the Buganda kingdom have strongly rejected the regional tier system, and have demanded to be granted full "federo" status where the government shares some authority to the regional governments. They argue that the regional tier will create an LC6 level (districts are led by an LC5 administration) with no independent powers to work to the wishes and specific needs of their respective peoples. Some districts have been reluctant to go for the regional tier, fearing it will take away their powers.

President Yoweri Museveni has said districts will retain their decentralisation powers under the new regional tier arrangement, confusing some people even the more. He refuted allegations that the regions were taking away the current powers from these districts.

"The negotiations I had with Mengo did not take away the district powers and those other lies should stop," he said recently at a function in Luweero. Museveni says the powers given to the regions were directly transferred from the central government and not districts.

While these are arguments to make everyone comfortable with the regional tier, it remains to be seen when it will take off.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: July 4, 2006
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.