Lukwago-Musisi Row Threatens to Derail Development of Kampala
Sebaggala warned Lukwago that though he (Lukwago) won the position of Lord Mayor, he was going for bwooya byanswa (an empty position).
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First published: October 12, 2011
All is not well at City Hall, the seat of the Kampala Capital City Authority. Since the new body KCCA took over from Kampala City Council, many people have been expecting developments that will make Kampala a better city. Whether these developments are taking place or not is currently being overshadowed by the power struggles between the Executive Director of KCCA, Jennifer Musisi Ssemakula and the Lord Mayor of KCCA, Erias Lukwago.
Following the passing of the Kampala Capital City Authority Act 2010 by the 8th Parliament, there have been concerns on how the two powerful offices of the Lord Mayor and City Executive Director will work side by side. And it has not taken long before this conflict has manifested itself in the day-to-day running of the city.
The KCCA law was pushed by President Yoweri Museveni for the central government to take over the management of Kampala City which like other districts was being run like a local government unit (city council) headed by the Mayor. The government was concerned that the elected Kampala district council and Mayor was unable to properly manage the city, citing too much garbage, potholes, overflowing road and sewage channels, and market conflicts among other issues. The KCC leadership at the time was weary of the NRM government move, with many saying the government wanted to find another way to take over Kampala city after failing in elections where opposition candidates had been winning the Mayoral seat in the past three previous elections, as well as most Councilor positions in Kampala.
Although the original government proposal was to have an all powerful Executive Director appointed by the President presiding over administration of Kampala, with Mayor (Lord Mayor) elected among Kampala City as a ceremonial leader and chair of council meetings, the government gave in to pressure and allowed for the continued election of the Lord Mayor who is mentioned in the KCCA Act as the head of KCCA. Yet the law also says the Executive Director appointed by the President will be the Chief Executive Officer of KCCA and overall administrator and manager of all KCCA affairs. The Executive Director reports to the central government through the Minister for Kampala Affairs, and not the KCCA Council.
President Museveni duly appointed the Executive Director in mid April 2011 and Jennifer Musisi soon begun her duties. The Lord Mayor was also elected with opposition candidate Erias Lukwago the former MP for Kampala central achieving a comfortable victory in the March 2011 elections. But no sooner had the two officers taken office than misunderstandings over the running and management of KCCA issues started.
The fact that Musisi and Lukwago are strong headed individuals has not helped matters either as no room for compromise has been evident among the two KCCA top dogs. Musisi who came into her current job from the Uganda Revenue Authority where she was a Commissioner has a strong history of strict administration and unwavering authority. Lukwago is also a well known staunch advocate not only in the court rooms but in demanding for good public management of public issues, and he had hoped by becoming Mayor, he would not just demand but be in charge of directing the public management of Kampala City.
Lukwago, who insists that he is the head of KCCA first disagreed with Musisi over the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association contract, which he insisted had expired, while Musisi insisted UTODA had a contract with KCCA to continue collecting taxi transport revenues on behalf of KCCA. It was such an unfortunate scene to see the two officials clash publicly in a KCCA council meeting with Lukwago the Chair insisting he is not aware of any running contract with UTODA, while Musisi in the same meeting insisted that as the overall manager of KCCA, she is aware the UTODA contract was renewed and is valid. Lukwago asked Musisi to produce the new contract (which should have been offered by the council), but Musisi did not deliver it. Lukwago went ahead and asked drivers not to pay UTODA charges (he claimed they don’t remit the money), which partly resulted in the drivers’ strike that paralyzed transport in the city.
When the dust over UTODA was about to settle, the two leaders again conflicted on the issue of evicting vendors from Kampala streets. Musisi ordered the eviction of all street vendors, giving them a two week ultimatum to find alternative places to sell their goods. Traders owning shops in Kampala had been complaining about the vendors that they say sell same or similar items on streets, yet they do not pay taxes and licenses like the shops. Lukwago insisted the vendors should not be evicted before an alternative place is found for them. Musisi said her team had identified empty stalls in 86 different Kampala markets and vendors were free to go and occupy any of the stalls in markets. Lukwago urged the vendors not to leave but Musisi backed by police managed to prevail and the vendors were all evicted.
It soon came to the issue of the KCCA budget which Musisi together with the Minister in charge of Kampala, Kabakumba Masiko presented before Parliament. Lukwago says he was never consulted on the budget making and the priority areas, yet as elected Mayor, he has a manifesto which he must fulfill. To make matters worse, Lukwago says he learnt from the media that the Executive Director Musisi had proposed new salary structures for herself, the Lord Mayor and other senior staff of KCCA without consulting him. Musisi proposed that she should be paid 43.7 million shillings per month, Lukwago 33 million shillings with the 10 KCCA Directors taking more than 20 million shillings each. Lukwago who says he gets 13 million shillings as salary and facilitation for his duties complained that the move by Musisi was meant to demonized Lukwago as greedy for a big salary, yet he was not getting it or proposing it.
“In any case, why should the Executive Director who is like a Permanent Secretary earn more than me the head of KCCA? There is a deliberate attempt to marginalize me when I was elected by the people. They want to make me fail to deliver on the manifesto,” Lukwago says.
Lukwago also disagreed with Musisi over the awarding of a contract to city tycoon Hassan Basajabalaba to manage the City Abattoir on Port Bell Road which was under the management of the traders in the Abattoir. He has also been complaining about the awarding of several other contracts, and what he calls the failure of Musisi to investigate some shoddy procurement. He has been demanding Musisi to produce a report concerning the fraudulent sale of KCCA’s dispensary at plot 71 Nkrumah Road.
Then in a dramatic twist of events, Lukwago on Friday September 23rd filed a petition in the High Court asking for the interpretation of the KCCA Act as regards the powers of the Lord Mayor and Executive Director. “There is a deliberate attempt to present me, the elected Mayor, as a ceremonial head, which is not true according to the KCCA Act. The Lord Mayor has executive powers, but these powers have all been taken by the Executive Director,” Lukwago complains. Lukwago says Musisi has made it extremely difficult for him to execute his duties as Lord Mayor as well as developing strategies and programmes for the city.
He said the situation has got out of hand and only court can help resolve the power struggle between the Mayor and Executive Director to ensure the work of KCCA is not derailed. Lukwago said if the Court rules that the Lord Mayor has no executive powers and must submit to every decision of the Executive Director, he will resign the mayor position. “It will mean I hove no job here as mayor because I cannot deliver on the promises I made to people who elected me,” Lukwago said. He said Musisi is running everything at KCCA and has usurped the powers of the Lord Mayor and the Council.
But Musisi said she has not usurped anyone’s powers and is running the city according to the KCCA Act 2010. She says as Executive Director, she has powers to do whatever she has done, the reason all legal bodies like police have been backing her actions to ensure the city is a better place. Musisi says unlike Lykwago she is not a politician and implements what she has to do according to the law. She says the Lord Mayor should have read the law more deeply and understand it before contesting if he wanted to have executive powers, which she says are invested in the Executive Director and Minister of Kampala Affairs.
It might as well be true that Former Mayor Nassar Ntege Sebaggala was right and is having his day against his nemesis Lukwago. Sebaggala warned Lukwago that though he (Lukwago) won the position of Lord Mayor, he was going for “bwooya byanswa” (an empty position). “The real Mayor position ended with Sebaggala. Lukwago should read the new Act. He is just going to be a chairman of council which doesn’t implement anything in the city,” Sebaggala said earlier this year. Lukwago however disputes this position saying it is being wrongly propagated to hoodwink the public that the Lord Mayor has no powers in Kampala. He accuses Kabakumba of failing to meet political leaders of KCCA to help resolve the impasse with the Executive Director.
Lukwago(R) watches as Musisi(C) receives instruments of power from Sebaggala(L).
Kampala Central MP, Mohamed Nsereko says he is concerned about what he terms as Musisi’s disregard of elected leaders in Kampala. “The Executive Director needs to work in consultation with the elected leaders in Kampala, including the Mayor. They are the representatives of the people,” Nsereko says.
The Chairperson of the parliamentary Committee on Presidential Affairs and Statutory Bodies, Barnabas Tinkasimire says the conflicts between the Executive Director and Lord Mayor resulted from the hurried passing of the KCCA Act as the 8th parliament was winding up its business and MPs preparing for elections. Tinkasimiire’s Committee has summoned and met both Lukwago and Musisi but failed to resolve their power conflicts because the law is not conclusive on who is the boss of the other. Musisi according to the law should report to the Minister for Kampala and the President, while Lukwago is considered overall head of KCCA and thus reporting to the electorate.
“We might need to amend the law to ensure we properly provide for the coexistence of the Lord Mayor and the Executive Director with well defined duties and responsibilities and remove all incidences of overlapping powers between the two offices,” Tinkasimiire says.
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First published: October 12, 2011
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.