Proposed division of Kasese and Bundibugyo districts; A peacebuilding enigma

On October 13th 2016, the Daily Monitor Newspaper reported that the President had agreed to the proposal to split Kasese district into four districts of Bwera, Hima, Kasese and Katwe. The proposal was reportedly presented to the president by Kasese District National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus, the NRM Executive Committee together with selected opinion leaders. The proposal to split the district is reportedly meant to address the issue of ethnic minorities, improve on service delivery and security and also improve on the supervision and monitoring of the Operation Wealth Creation project.

Calls for the split of the district are not new. On October 26, 2010, the members of the district council overwhelmingly approved a motion moved by then district chairman, the Rev Can. Julius Kithaghenda to split Kasese and create Bwera and Rwenzori districts. The district split call has always triggered diverse contestations, narratives and reactions. After passing the 2010 motion to divide the district, residents led by Mr Lucas Buhaka and Mr Milton Bwambale Bikopo challenged the council decision in court on grounds that the chairman (Rev Rev Kithaghenda) had no locus to move any motion since he was not a councilor. On the other hand, His Majesty (HM) the Omusinga and King of the Rwenzururu Kingdom endorsed the division of the district in his October 2, 2012 letter to the Minister for Local Government. In a new twist, in July 2016, HM the Omusinga lashed out at people who agitated for the split of Kasese District into three as idlers who do not want peace in the area. Similar voices of opposition to the split of the district emerged on October 19th 2016 during the 50th coronation anniversary of HM the Omusinga. The District chairperson of Kasese, HM the Omusinga and Woman MP of Kasese district reiterated their reservations to the proposed split of the district.

Among those who want the district divided, contestations still exist on the proposed boundaries of proposed districts. Some want the division to be done vertically while others want it divided horizontally. Mainly, minority ethnic groups want the division to be done horizontally so that these groups can have control over their own district and overcome what they call ethno-political subjugation by dominant groups. Those who propagate the reason of overcoming subjugation as a justification for the creation of districts, see the proposed vertical division of the district as an attempt to exacerbate the marginalization of the minority ethnic groups in the low land. In this exacerbation, minority ethnic groups in the low land would be placed under different vertically divided districts and thus, take away even the current common voice they have in the current geo-ethno-political setup of Kasese district while entrenching the dominance of the Konzo ethnic group in each of the proposed districts.

Those who want the vertical division postulate that the vertical division will financially cripple the district (s) that will take a bigger part of mountain while advantaging in an unprecedented manner the district (s) that will occupy the low lands. Such a vertical division would keep resources in the low land including lakes Edward and George, Queen Elizabeth National Park, fertile lands and other resources in the district (s) that will take a bigger share of the low land.

The proposed split of Bundibugyo district; In January 2016, the President is reported to have promised a district status to the people of Bughendera county of Bundibugyo district. The Bakonzo dominate Bughendera County. The demand for Bughendera district was against a background of protracted discomfort by the Konzo ethnic group in Bundibugyo district over alleged marginalization in areas of service delivery and access to other opportunities and rights in the Bamba/Babwisi-dominated Bundibugyo district. The Konzo felt the need to demand for a separate district to end the Bamba/Babwisi subjugation. Importantly, some of the demands made by the youth who participated in the simultaneous attacks of July 5th and 6th 2014 in Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko was the granting of Bughendera County, a district status.  The presidential promise to create Bughendera district continues to divide the people of both Bundibugyo and Kasese districts. To date, there is no consensus yet on whether the district should be divided. Further, the proposed boundaries continue to flare-up contestations largely hinged on ethnic interests and fears.

Urgent peace building issues to pay attention to;  while principally not opposed to the split or non-split of Kasese and Bundibugyo districts, the districtisation policy of government should corroborate with  notions of effective and efficient service delivery as well as long-term and short term peace.  For the case of Rwenzori region that is already experiencing ethnic and governance fragility across political, social and cultural institutions, the slit of districts needs to be cognizant of the following resident and potential challenges to peace;

  • Real and/or perceived inequitable, ethnicised and politicized service delivery
  • The ever growing minority ethnic rights question and the new minority groups that will emerge in the proposed districts
  • Competing ethnic groups and arbitrary attempts by cultural institutions to create exclusive geo-cultural territories
  • Cultural institutions attempting to mimic the functions and structures of the central governments reflected in the issuance of presidential-like statements and the creation of militant youth groups and central-government-like ministries.
  • Contestations over demarcations within existing and proposed administrative structures
  • Growing culture of use of violent means to resolve differences
  • Lowering opportunity cost to violence among the increasing youth population

In appreciation of the above challenges, the State needs to urgently;

  • Widen consultations and build consensus on the creation of districts (if any) and their corresponding demarcations.
  • Mapout key short and long-term drivers of conflicts and violence in the Rwenzori region that may not necessarily be resolved by granting or not-granting new administrative units.
  • Engage in short and long –term processes involving all relevant stakeholders to address short and long-term drivers of conflicts and violence in the Rwenzori region with or without new administrative units.
  • Address the cultural institutions question and the peace building issues surrounding these institutions.
  • Pay special attention to the youth who on their own volition and/or upon conscription are increasingly engaging in acts of violence.

By Tuhaise Francis/Coordinator/RFPJ/ October 27th/2016

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One Response to Proposed division of Kasese and Bundibugyo districts; A peacebuilding enigma

  1. MAATE PETERO says:

    in case of bundibugyo,bughendera should be demarketed as there is very stil gap in service delivery,marginalisation dat wil neva end coz it has lasted since e,g an LC5 has neva been a mukonzo

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