By Benjamin Mukose
For the very first time in her history, Uganda will from 1st July 2020, have, not one, but eight cities. This follows the creation of seven new cities by Parliament in May last year and their operationalization that takes effect at the beginning of the new financial year.
Hitherto, Uganda has only had one city, the capital Kampala.
Observers however say that lack of finances to invest in the cities may make them lame ducks. But lack of budget allocation could not dampen the excitement of residents of the new cities and the “diaspora” – those hailing from the districts where the new cities are located, but currently living in other areas of Uganda, or even outside the country.
The seven are: Jinja, Mbale (in the east of the country), Masaka, Mbarara and Fort Portal in the south and western part; Arua in West Nile (Northwest), and Gulu in the north.
Addressing the press on the eve of the unveiling of the cities, Raphael Magezi, the minister of Local Government said the cities were created in line with Uganda’s national Vision 2040 which identifies creation of regional & strategic cities as one of the drivers for development around the country.
At the press conference, Minister Magezi gave guidelines that will guide the transition from municipal authorities to city authorities; he said the local governments in the city shall be the City Council & city division councils.
Majid Batambuze, the mayor of Jinja city and the chairman of the Uganda Urban Authorities Association decried the lack of funding to the cities. He said without adequate funding the cities will no contribute to socio-economic growth as they are anticipated to do. He said the urban authorities unanimously welcome the new cities.
Amid excitement, the interim management of the new cities have prepared events to usher in the new status. Arua city, prepared a zoom inauguration. “Due to the current lockdown and the government guidelines that do not allow for mass gatherings the event for the inauguration of Arua City at Muni University shall be broadcast on air and online. There was a public speaking event at which notable people sons of the soil gave addresses starting from 9:00pm to the stroke of midnight when the new city was inaugurated with the cutting of a cake cutting.
Mbarara city with their characteristic cow horn emblem, posted pictures of Mbarara city with the message: “Mbarara city on fire. May this come with a renewed commitment towards a functional city that works for all!.” The new city’s moto is Ebirungi Biruga Omutuutu (Good things come from sweat/ good things must be toiled for).
Fort Portal was quick to post picture of a tourism city. Alex Ruhunda the area Member of Parliament welcomed all to the “Tourism city.”
Jinja city received congratulations from Jinja District local Government, Jinja Municipal Council government and Busoga Parliamentary caucus. Jinja city will be launched by the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on 1st July.