KAMPALA – Parliament passed the Local Government Amendment Bill 2019 with a provision requiring Municipality Mayors, Town Council chairpersons to have the advanced level certificate before contesting for office.
The Local Government Amendment Bill 2019 is among the five electoral reform bills tabled by Attorney General, Byaruhanga in response to recommendation by Supreme Court recommendation in the 2016 presidential petition by former premier, Amama Mbabazi.
The Bill tabled include; The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill.
The objective of The Local Governments Amendment Bill,2019 is to amend the Local Governments Act, Cap. 243 to provide for the creation of local government &magistrate units at least two years before the due date for the next general elections; to provide for the demarcation of electoral areas; to prescribe the manner of conducting campaigns; to bar persons not ordinarily resident in a local government area from contesting for councillor for that area.
The Bill also seeks to provide for the procedure for commencement of polls at each polling station and to align the Local Governments Act with the provisions of the Constitution.
Parliament’s decision follows an amendment in the Local Government Amendment Bill proposed by Elijah Okupa (Kasilo County) who proposed to have city division mayors, town council chairpersons, city mayor, municipal mayor and municipal division mayor and sub county chairperson to have a minimum qualification of senior six before standing for elective office.
Okupa’s proposal divided MPs with others backing the proposal to have academic qualifications on all political positions arguing that since the introduction of Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education, a number of people have acquired education and are in position to represent voters.
However, although some welcomed the move, they had reservations with chairpersons at sub county level, asking for the status quo to be maintained since there are still sub counties without secondary schools.
Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) argued, “We need people who can lead their people and also understand why they need to lead them. Do we drop qualifications at Sub County or relax them? Our view is that at Sub County, we can settle for O’Level.”
Buvuma Woman MP, Janepher Egunyu welcomed the proposal but asked Parliament to leave LC3s out but the mayors of municipalities and cities should have a minimum qualification of O’Level, “We should leave out mayors of town councils. I also propose that we also increase qualification of MPs to a bachelor’s degree,” she said.
Norah Bigirwa (Buliisa Woman) backed the proposal for academic qualifications arguing that Government has appropriated lots of funds towards education remarking, “There are so many young people who have graduated. The issue of oversight is crucial in this country and there is need to have minimum qualifications for our leaders.”
Kumi Municipality’s Silas Aogon also backed the proposal but asked Parliament to ensure that qualifications for Parliamentary positions are also increased from the current A-Level.
He said, “In future, even this House will have to upgrade the qualifications. The technocrats have masters, PHDs and other higher qualifications. We should soon think of changing our qualifications from the current senior six.”
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County) supported the proposal and rejected the submission to exempt sub-county chiefs, cautioning Parliament against supporting illiteracy in Uganda.
“We have a responsibility to improve the quality of leadership in this country. Sub-county chairpersons are in charge of policy and should have minimum capacity to appreciate policy. We are here glorifying illiteracy? Are we serious?” asked Katuntu.
He was backed by Franca Akello (Agago Woman MP0 who argued that sub county chairperson must be able to understand the budgets of their councils, “How will they be able to do so if they don’t have a minimum of A’Level?” asked Akello.
Despite the protest from some MPs, Parliament rejected the proposal for councilors to have minimum qualification of senior four after MPs claimed that many of them had already started campaigning and it will not be right to start imposing qualifications on them.