In the middle of 2016 when Bushenyi District Local Government had spent two years without a District Service Commission (DSC), a situation that crippled service delivery in the district, all the blame was put on the confusion by the political leadership led by the current LC5 chairperson, Mr. JaffariBasajjabalaba.
The Willis Bashaasha (former LC5 boss)-led council had approved three members,who were also approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) but the Basajjabalaba council that was expected to nominate two remaining members for approval by the council and the PSC declined to do so.
Mr. Basajjabalaba elusively ignored the three
earlier candidates and nominated new five members, presented them to the
council and PSC for approval. The PSC rejected the nominees, insisting the
chairman had to nominate only the two remaining candidates.
The impasse exacerbated manpower shortage in the district. Bushenyi Chief Administrative Officer Elias Byamungu says they wanted to recruit primary school teachers but there was no DSC to do the work.
For example, 64 primary school teachers at the district and 24 teachers at the municipal council were not recruited in the Financial Year 2016/17 yet the central government had sent the money to cater for the exercise.
“We had lost Shs. 3 billion that had not been utilized. There were gaps in the human resource; the district had no planning unit, chief finance officer, auditors in the municipal council and several heads of departments. We also lacked 100 teachers yet the money was there,” says MrByamungu.
This sparked off outrage in the public and civil servants because many offices and posts had lied vacant across the district.
It is against this background that MrApollo Lee Kakonge, the executive director Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) who is a resident of NkuunaNyabubare sub county, Igara West sued Bushenyi district local government in High court for having delayed to constitute a functional service commission.
An application of mandamus was filled for judicial review seeking a mandamus compelling the district to call for a council meeting to commission the approved district service commission to commence its work
“The case was set for hearing on the 7th March 2016 before Justice DancunGaswaga, the hearing did not take place, it was adjourned to 18th April 2016 and still it didn’t take place, it was adjourned for the third time on 25th May 2016 and still the date was not respected for unknown reasons.” Says MrKakonge
On the third adjournment, MrKakonge already had a number of people comprising of residents, political leaders and some civil servants behind him and the aggrieved group felt it necessary to add flavor to the campaign by calling the public to join them moving from institutional to community organizing so that the public can take charge of the matter since everything was being done for public interest.
He went to court with hope that only the law would be followed not political sides which had failed to deliver.
A public campaign dubbed Make Bushenyi Great Again (MBUGA)appeared real in January, 2017. This was a campaign tag that had been started by residents being used to make specific references.
Because the campaign had influenced discussion on social media and other media, using it as a hash tag was to re-energize the public.
“A communication group was established on Whatsup to facilitate interaction among different players to build alliances, now that the campaign needed supporters. Political leaders including Members of Parliament and councilors were added to the group. Some kept reserved on what was happening, whereas others kept vocal. This helped to raise public awareness and knowledge on the matter and also involve many stakeholders as possible and have more pressure exerted on the political leadership to take action earlier if there were many people talking about it,” MrKakonge narrates
Later, a community action group called the High Command was formed and this was responsible for organizing fellowships and managing the campaign by giving directions and agreeing on interventions from time to time and protecting the struggle.
The group would meet in the evenings for purposes of reflection and wider thoughts about the campaign. A demonstration was organized to take place on 10th June 2017 but couldn’t take off because of the passing on of one of the media activists. It was again scheduled for 15th June.
On the day of the demonstration, the group petitioned the president asking him to compel the court to listen to the people’s cause and give its position. The president responded and through a minister, the application was heard, and disposed off on 4th July 2017.
After the demonstration, it was announced across the district that no leader especially from the local government would be given an opportunity to speak on any public gathering. Only leaders in support of the campaign were allowed to speak. Leaders including LC5 chairman, councilors were not given audience during the campaign, except those who bought airtime on local FM radio air waves. But also, locals were urged not to tune in to their programs.
District headquarters locked
This was followed by a district administration lockdown to send a message to the leaders that there was need to respond to people’s demands. The lockdown lasted for about four hours and this resulted into the high court judge who was having high court sessions setting time aside to instruct lawyers to make their submissions so the case was heard on 4th July 2017, and a consent judgment was reached leading to the swearing in of the service commission by the district.
Mr Mackay TwijukyeKibira, a resident of Nyakabirizi division, who mounted about eight locks around the district headquarters said he intended to stop normal operations around the building including the office of the Resident Attorney General until the leaders heeded.
“On that day I wanted all of them to stop working and first attend to our cause,” he says
Other Successful Activities
After a success in the district commission case where the district leadership was ordered to constitute a fully functioning service commission by high court, the leaders of the High Command directed their arrows to Igara West where residents were mobilized to turn guns to the administration and their MP over a then impassible road connecting Bushenyi and Mitooma district.
Residents in Nyabubare sub county planted banana trees in the road until the district administration fueled the machinery and the road was worked on.
That was followed by Igara East bi election where more sensitization was mounted on residents to defy voter bribery schemes by some candidates. The MBUGA group camped in the constituency and campaigned against voter bribery and eventually MrMichealMawanda, who subscribed to the campaign emerged a winner.
Earlier in October, National independence celebrations which were held in Bushenyi stadium had left the stadium littered with plastic bags and bottles. After waiting for good days without anyone caring, the group took it upon themselves and cleaned the stadium in about two hours time. They were later joined by the LC5 chairperson, who came with a vehicle to help carrying litter to the dumping site. This was another checker.
The group has engaged in social welfare activities in the communities in different parts of the district. The members have organized community members to contribute clothes, and shoes, which they have from time to time distributed in needy communities.
They have also mobilized resources for clever, but needy children to access quality education. A case in point is when two boys from Nkanga, Nyabubaare sub county, who were identified by a member of MBUGA at their home as they put up small mud and wattle houses at their home. Asked by a member who spotted them, they said they built “houses” as a way of passing time since they had failed to get school fees. Some members and their friends mobilized fees and the boys went to better schools. There, MBUGA scored.
Effect on local governance
While some few people opposed to the campaign continue to conclude that it was a “useless” struggle, the biggest part of the population contend that it was necessary for people to come together and fight for a common cause, the service commission.
According to Mr. Willis Bashaasha, the former Bushenyi district Chairman, and currently the director of manifesto implementation in the office of the president, unlike in the past where and when decisions would be dictated by an individual who suppressed the truth, during the campaign, all people put all the distractions aside and stood firm for a common cause.
“To me, this is good and it was necessary for people to come out to put their differences and be able to resist manipulation that involved being dictated on. This time people stood together to speak the truth and there is an impact,” said MrBashaasha
He says it was right for the people of Bushenyi to come together for a common good which was the district service commission, voice out their concerns and go on to tackle other things of developmental nature that need to be heard.
Mr Elias Byamungu, the Bushenyi district Chief Administrative Officer says, the campaign brought in a change that made him a beneficiary in the first place.
“I am the first beneficiary as a CAO because I work through organs but if organs are in fighting and they cannot deliver, then a CAO cannot perform, then eventually you lose your job. Either the community says they are fade up with you or the government says you have failed to deliver,” says MrByamungu
He adds, that the community in Bushenyi has helped a lot through social community mechanism by being able to know what their right is and how to demand it
The campaign benefited government in a way that the duty bearers can now see first what people want simply because it has been said out unlike the top-bottom approach according to the former Bushenyi deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. DomianTuryatunga, who saw MBUGA activities take shape.
Mr. Peter MugumeNdyahoza, the vice chairperson says the spirited fight put up by the people of Bushenyigainst the leadership has greatly influenced the administration of the district in a way that the service commission is now in place and has reached a harmonizing point with the district executive committee and they are ready to work together.
He however disagrees with the idea of locking district offices which appeared more of a riot because it “tarnished” the image of the district.
He maintains that citizens can always demand social accountability from their leaders through dialogue to be able to influence local leadership of the communities.
“I prefer dialogue, if people want to influence local governance. Otherwise we are happy because we now have a commission in place and on the other hand, we know what people want since the issues are aired publicly,” says Ndyahoza
However, to some leaders, the campaign has not affected normal operations at the district because it remained unpopular despite what they did. Mrs. Justine Burisadi, the district council speaker subscribes to this saying the campaign is unpopular.
“I don’t think we have been affected. The campaign was unpopular and is still like that. I have personally not seen any change here. People in that group had and still have their own interests,” says MsBurisadi
Mr.Turyatunga, the former deputy RDC says, with the presence of Make Bushenyi Great Again campaign, future leaders will learn how to consider people’s demands first if they are to prevent further crackdown on their governance, which is a weakness that things are not well.
The campaign has succeeded in bringing the local political leaders to order because they had taken the district at ransom. In the middle of the struggle, the councilors had locked the CAO’s office accusing him of siding with the petitioners yet he was playing his constitutional duty enshrined in Article 41by providing information required for the application. Harmony was also restored in the district since the matter on table had brought insecurity.
The district had lost about 3billion on the wages that were supposed to be given in the 2016/17 financial year. The money is now being utilized by about 120 people who are being employed in the civil service thus contributing to the economy.
“Service delivery has also been tackled with once vacant offices getting occupants. For example, in the municipality, schools have teachers, which is a good record, Kyamuhunga town council and other places that were unattended to now have workers” says MrPisonMugizi, the MBUGA chairperson
Another success is that citizens are aware of their rights and duties enshrined in Article 17 of the constitution. Citizens are now up to task, they know that leaders can be challenged and brought to book by being held accountable according to MrKakonge
Arrests and detention marred the struggle with the leader, Mr Apollo Lee Kakonge being detained and imprisoned. In those days, the struggle suffered corruption especially in the judiciary and the police where officers were paid money to trump charges on main actors in the campaign, says Mr Deo Atuhaire, president Uganda Citizens Alliance
“Different people were paid money and food to shun the struggle. The anti-people’s struggle group organized a meeting at the multipurpose hall to divert masses though the scheme met a lot of resistance. Some people in security circles tried to sabotage the campaign only to meet resistance from some good sheep amongst them who identified with the common man’s cause.” He says
All these notwithstanding, there were facilitating factors for the campaign to thrive well. The actors in the struggle cultivated a working relationship with some security people who understood the cause and bought into it. Also, the central government by law understood that the matter the populace was fighting for was worthwhile and was within the law.