Cablegate: Uganda: District Proliferation As Political Patronage

DE RUEHKM #1326/01 3240508
R 200508Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 11, Uganda revealed plans to create
seven new administrative districts in addition to the 14 districts
already proposed for 2009 and 2010. Opposition parties and civil
society groups have demanded a halt to creating new districts until
after the February 2011 elections, citing concerns over their cost
and role as political patronage tools. European donors have also
expressed concern, as each new district spreads their budget support
that much thinner. The Ugandan government, however, continues to
reward battleground constituencies with new districts and new
government jobs. End Summary.

District Proliferation

2. (U) On November 11, Minister of Lands Adolf Mwesige asked
Parliament to approve the creation of seven new administrative
districts on top of the 14 districts already slated for creation in
2009 and 2010. If approved, this will bring the total number of
administrative districts to 101, or three times the 33 districts
existing when Museveni took power in 1986. The government argues
that new districts will bring government services closer to people
as many rural Ugandans live hours from the seat of their local
district headquarters.

3. (SBU) Presidential advisor Moses Byaruhanga told the Embassy that
Uganda is trying to carve out districts for discrete ethnic groups
so citizens can conduct local government business in their
respective local languages. He said the plan would also enable
teachers to use local languages for instruction in primary schools.
He dismissed the view that trying to reduce local administrative
structures to single homogenous ethnic units could actually
exacerbate ethnic divisions.

4. (SBU) However, the re-districting process is already fueling
conflict as groups scramble to claim resources and carve out their
own local governments. Ongoing discussions to split the Tororo
district in eastern Uganda along ethnic lines is exacerbating
tensions between the area's ethnic Iteso and Jopadhola populations.
Likewise, Acholi leaders in northern Uganda have accused the Jonam
community of land grabbing to create a new district. Both sides met
in Nebbi, just north of Lake Albert, on November 11 to calm fears of

Unfunded and Unnecessary

5. (SBU) According to the Commissioner for Local Councils, Patrick
Mutabwire, all of the 39 districts created between 2005 and 2009
depend on the central government to cover 90 percent of their
expedenditures. At the moment, government service provision in new
districts remains poor or nonexistent.

6. (U) Viewing the creation of the new districts as a Presidential
re-election tool, opposition parties have repeated demanded a
moritorium on new districts until after the February 2011 elections.
The Director of Uganda's NGO Forum, Richard Ssewakiryanga, argued
that instead of benefiting local populations, new unfunded districts
are further impoverishing them, and added that Ugandans want roads
and doctors, not new administrative districts. European donors
responsible for providing the Ugandan government with budget support
have also expressed concern, as the creation of each new district
spreads finite financial resources thinner and means donor funds fo
for administrative rather than programmatic costs.

Will More Districts Mean More NRM Votes?

7. (SBU) According to the Commisioner for Local Councils, new
district start up costs range from USD 300,000 for smaller districts
to USD 1 million for larger ones, and each new district employs
between 250 to 500 local government employees/ new districts are
attractive job creation mechanisms for the Ugandan government.
These appointments provide a chance for the ruling National
Resistance Movement (NRM) to reward specific constituencies and
individuals, or entice opposition members back into the NRM camp.

8. (U) On November 14 an editorial in the opposition newspaper said
the "creation of districts for political expediency in the face of
spiralling public expenditure is therefore retrogressive and
unacceptable to the Ugandan tax payer." The African Peer Review
Mechanism's 2009 review for Uganda stated: "the proliferation of
districts that are created largely on political grounds, and not on
the basis of economic viability, has become a controversial issue
that requires a political solution."

9. (SBU) Many, but not all, of these new districts are in areas were
the NRM suffered significant election losses in 2006, when

KAMPALA 00001326 002 OF 002

opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye won 19 of 69
existing districts. Five of these 19 districts were split between
2006 and 2009. Six more Besigye districts are slated to be split in
2009-2010, meaning that more than half of the districts won by the
opposition in 2006 will have been significantly altered by the next
presidential election in 2011.

--------------------------------------------- --
Comment: Re-Districting as Re-Election Strategy
--------------------------------------------- --

10. (SBU) It is difficult to identify a clear pattern to new
district creation as many also occur in areas which supported of
President Museveni. Some new districts appear designed to weaken
opposition support by elevating the status of local constituencies
and giving the NRM an opportunity to reward key groups and
individuals with government appointments. Other districts seem
designed to shore up support in pro-NRM areas where Museveni may be
slipping, or quiet areas critical of the central government.
Whatever the logic for creating so many new districts, the NRM
clearly hopes the addition of more districts will lead to more votes
in 2011.


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