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How the Local Council outlived its usefulness


ARTICLE SUMMARY: They have worked for almost thirty years ‘pro bono’, and they cannot help but engage in acts of corruption in order to survive.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: Abubakar Sematimba is a journalist and a teacher.

When the NRM Government came to power in 1986, it introduced a new national decision making body known as the National Resistance Council, or NRC, which was the equivalent of modern day parliament.

Below the NRA were the district administrators, or DAs, and at village level the Resistance Councils (RCs), which replaced the Mayumba Kumi system of Milton Obote. During the former president’s reign every ten houses had a chairman who wielded much influence in the village and worked hand in hand with a group of youth informers called Abaayusi.

These Obote youth did gravely terrorized society; they could kill at will, and they did so with impunity.

When Museveni came to power in 1986 he introduced his RC to which the people of Uganda quickly adjusted. RC later became LC (Local Council), as it is known today, more or less the same as Obote’s system of Mayumba Kumi. It was new wine in old bottles.

The LC committee comprises of the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Secretary for Defense, Secretary for Youth, Secretary for Women Affairs, Secretary for Mobilization, Secretary for Welfare, among others.

The committee members would be elected by residents of a village; one could be chosen depending on his or her influence, character or contribution to the village. For example, a thief ironically could be chosen to a position of secretary for defense to catch fellow thieves.

It should be noted that the LC served the community on a voluntary basis, without financial reward from the central government or community even though they served the people all day, all night.

This habit of offering ‘free’ services laid the ground for the corruption that is today the way of life in our country. The pro bono arrangement ignored the fact no person on earth can work for no pay, not even the Messengers of God struggled not to be paid; they were promised immense rewards in the hereafter.

Ultimately, as a result of ‘voluntarism’, the LC leaders started cheating from the people they led, conspired with wrong elements in perpetrating all sorts of fraud in order to survive, and they have continued to do so to date.

It is habitual for the Chairman of a village to take a bribe in form of money – petty or hefty – and sign on documents approving a fraudulent deal in which the same piece of land is sold to 10 different people at a time.

It should be noted that whereas the LC system had some benefits, it was abused and misused because the government failed to fully embrace it. The Government gave the green light to the local leaders to ‘pay’ themselves, following in the footsteps of Milton Obote who allowed his soldiers to extort money from the Wananchi.

In the 1980s, the robbery of Obote’s soldiers knew no limits; they stole from the kids, the elderly, and women and from whomever they came across in order to ‘pay’ themselves. The Government had no money for soldiers; the only budget they had was for buying ammunitions to fight Museveni’s rebellion.

To get a passport you have to get the recommendation of the LC. The same applies to marriage, divorce and death certificates.  The LC also presides over small and sometimes serious disputes. All these services are supposedly offered pro bono as if the LC leaders do not have families and other responsibilities to spend on.

When the NRM Government realized after years that it has fooled Ugandans for over two decades, it decided to give bicycles to the LC committees. Unfortunately the money was swindled and the few bicycles bought could not fit the conditions in Uganda. Perhaps the scheme was devised to allow the mafias import spare parts for these fake bicycles in order to exploit unsuspecting citizens.

Now the critical question is, should the LC system be maintained? If yes, why are they not elected on a multiparty basis? By monopolizing the LCs, the NRM Government, it seems, is determined to deny other parties access to the grassroots, and that is possibly why the deal for the bicycles could have attracted votes if it had worked.

One wonders if these LC leaders are not also ‘tired’, a Kampala street word used for exhaustion. They have worked for almost thirty years ‘pro bono’, and they cannot help but engage in acts of corruption in order to survive.

If one can allow themselves to be compromised in that manner, then they don’t deserve to be leaders, for succumbing to corruption is the lowest and the most despicable level that a person can fall.