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By John V Sserwaniko

Following our story (titled Division Mayors Gang up on Lord Mayor Lukwago), Kawempe Mayor Emmanuel Serunjogi Ow’eddembe rang us and offered to be interviewed on what exactly are the reasons why they are at loggerheads with the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and his Authority Councilors. Serunjogi maintained that these aren’t just his personal views but those of the 5 Mayors who unite under something called the Alliance of Kampala Division Mayors. He pronounced himself on many issues including their alleged close relationship with Kampala Minister Beti Kamya who City Hall claims is using them to politically undermine Lukwago and in the end make President Museveni happy.
Below are the excerpts:

QN: Good evening Mayor. Tell us what exactly is wrong with our story which you are reacting to?
ANS: We are concerned that we have been misunderstood because the role of Deputy Lord Mayor Sarah Kanyike in causing the current stalemate hasn’t been mentioned. Once it’s explained, everybody will understand where all this started.

QN: You can tell us since you seem to know much more….
ANS: We have a number of concerns as Division Mayors namely; those relating to being excluded from the budgeting process, the devolution of our powers and being facilitated to work for our people. These are long standing grievances and the Lord Mayor also agrees we are right. He said he would support us to fight this unfairness. But the Lord Mayor later disappointed us with the technical wing. The Lord Mayor and the Authority Councilors had agreed not to pass the budget framework paper until the Deputy Mayors’ points are addressed. They changed and abandoned us to fight alone.

QN: How does that become Sarah Kanyike’s problem?
ANS: She chaired a very suspicious Authority meeting in November. I don’t remember the date but it was clearly in bad faith. She seemed to be in a hurry and we don’t know for what reason and who exactly was putting her on pressure. The Lord Mayor had travelled and herself came from a funeral. Her auntie had died and even before burial, she came at short notice and her assistants rung Authority councilors on phone, which was a strange way to call such an important meeting. It was supposed to take place a day before on November 13th but halted because the Lord Mayor was away and she had lost a close relative but then she suddenly changed and insisted to have the meeting the next day on 14th November. The problem is there was no quorum. Everybody agreed with Rubaga Deputy Mayor [Asuman Ntale] who raised the issue and head counting was done and confirmed there was no quorum but she ignored everybody and went on to pass the budget framework paper well knowing there was no input from us the Divisions. She departed from this well known practice for her own reasons. Members of the technical team agreed with Ntale and left the meeting but she carried on. I challenge her to prove me wrong on that. There are 35 Authority Councilors in total and the law requires at least ½ for them to have quorum to transact business. I’m sure she knows very well they are supposed to be at least 18 councilors and it wasn’t the case.
QN: But Ntale isn’t an Authority member. He can only be co-opted as ex-officio who can deliberate but can’t vote…
ANS: Yes that is very true but the point he raised couldn’t be ignored because it was wrong procedure which can even be challenged in Court. I repeat that meeting was irregular and improperly convened and she must answer. We agreed as Mayors to boycott all Authority meetings until that decision is reversed because we procedurally have a point.

QN: Did you ever raise your concerns to the Lord Mayor who is her boss when he finally returned to the country?
ANS: Yes we did but he didn’t respond up to this day.

QN: In which form was it? Was it in written form and there was no reply? How exactly did you raise your concerns to him? Do we have any proof that you did so?
ANS: No it wasn’t. But all in all we can only reverse our decision to boycott all Authority meetings if we get a reasonable explanation as to why Sarah Kanyike was so desperate to leave us out of the budgeting process. You know she serves in a delegated responsibility. She represents the Lord Mayor and her views are his views because she represents the same office. They are all not acting in good faith because they even didn’t facilitate us to have budgeting conferences, meeting LC2 leaders, in our Divisions. That is how we get views of the people regarding priorities they want to see in the budget.

QN: How much did you want in facilitation for those budgeting conferences?
ANS: It’s not just money. We are talking about being facilitated with copies of the draft budget they have come up with because that is the document we meet fellow leaders to discuss in the budget conferences. They didn’t give us any.

QN: How active is the Alliance of Kampala Division Mayors? For instance how often do you meet? When did you last meet?
ANS: It’s strictly a forum of the 5 Division Mayors and the last time we met was about 2 weeks ago and reiterated our stand never to attend Authority meetings at City Hall again until our concerns are sufficiently addressed. There is nothing else causing problems but that Sarah Kanyike meeting whose motive we are yet to understand.

QN: But you stand accused that you are proxies Minister Beti Kamya and President Museveni has finally found to isolate Lord Mayor Lukwago and eventually weaken him. What do you say to that?
ANS: We have no relationship with the President at all. We are opposition and for him is NRM. It’s unethical for us to go to State House and we can’t soil our names. We have had many invitations but we have declined all of them. Beti Kamya has been on our case but we have maintained a no. They resorted to councilors after we refused. Meeting us as opposed to councilors would politically have made more sense but we refused and they gave up. Beti Kamya even tomorrow can take us to State House but our position is that is very unethical and we can’t do it. In fact we are against Beti Kamya the way we are against the Authority, the Lord Mayor and Technical wing regarding our powers. They are all wrong on our issue.

QN: But critics say you didn’t condemn councilors who went to Kyankwanzi and later met President Museveni. Isn’t that indicative that you are in bed with him?
ANS: But those are NRM councilors and how can we prevent them from meeting Museveni the chairman of their party? Let’s be real. I only have powers over them when my Council is in session. Let me ask you if it’s about stopping one’s councilors, how come there are Authority Councilors who went to meet Museveni? Do we blame the Lord Mayor as the Authority head? That wouldn’t be proper. They are adults and have a contract with their voters.

QN: Persistent rumors are to the effect that you met the President secretly and it wasn’t a public meeting. Can there be smoke without fire?
ANS: Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me tell you my brother; even that Kampala Central MP Mohammed Nsereko whom they say took us there we have never met him. It was once when we had the forum meeting at Kampala Central and we saw him there. Unless they are saying Museveni travelled to Central Division and met us there.

QN: The Authority passed a resolution and there is even a minute backing your thing but the Minister didn’t take it to Cabinet for ratification and approval. Isn’t that so?
ANS: That precisely is why we are against her and our other grievances is why did she accept the budget framework as presented to her by Sarah Kanyike well knowing there was no quorum? We are angry with her the way we are dismayed with the Lord Mayor’s Authority and the technical wing. They have all betrayed jus and we are now fighting the people’s war and not Beti Kamya’s. But the Authority is more to blame because when you pass something, it’s your duty to follow up and ensure it has been implemented but in this case there is reluctance.

QN: Your critics, including the Lord Mayor, say that the Minister has promised you something. Isn’t that the case?
ANS: She can’t promise or give us anything. It’s the fear to live with this continued powerlessness that is pushing us into this. Otherwise we have no vendetta against our boss the Lord Mayor. Let them respond to what we are saying rather than just insinuating things we aren’t true and won’t take them anywhere. We have talked to Beti Kamya showing our displeasure with the way Sarah Kanyike conducted the budget meeting and not much has come out. We have also several times spoken to her PA [Hassan Kasibante] but we haven’t been helped. We have chosen to fight on very courageously because our people expect us to. Why should I be earning salary for just signing papers? We don’t want to run away just like our predecessors, the 4 Mayors who became frustrated about devolution and never sought reelection because they had nothing to tell the people. The Mayor Kampala Central [Godfrey Nyakana], Nakawa [Benjamin Kalumba], Kawempe [Mubarak Munyagwa] and Makindye [Ian Clark] all didn’t seek reelection because they had no answers for the voters. The other thing you need to know is that we haven’t met the Minister many times. Ask the Deputy Mayor Sarah Kanyike. She is always going to the Minister’s office and I think that way she represents her boss there in those meetings. We have gone to Parliament and to the Minister on occasions when the Lord Mayor is the one taking us there. So how can we be faulted as bad people simply because we met the Minister?

QN: But the Lord Mayor was equally disempowered through that term but was overwhelmingly reelected. What did he tell that people?
ANS: I really don’t know which magic he used. You may have to ask him that but for us are saying we must do something to have our powers back and time is now.

QN: We have had even the President supports your resolve. Is that the reason you are determined to fight on?
ANS: Ofcourse his support isn’t in vain. If indeed he supports our position as you are saying, then glory be to God. It means we are right in what we are saying. But we are saying all this in service of our voters and not the President.

QN: Again the 4 Division Mayors you say quit and didn’t seek reelection correctly diagnosed the problem. They knew it was the law and they targeted that and never blamed the Lord Mayor and the Authority. Isn’t your case different?
ANS: But the Lord Mayor doesn’t seem to realize any problem with the current law and the same applies to Authority Councilors. They are saying the law is okay and only needs to be complied with but it’s very vague as regards our powers.

QN: In the most recent election of 2016, elected leaders and councilors who antagonized the Lord Mayor lost badly and were never reelected. Are you as Mayors ready to pay the price three years from now?
ANS: Let me speak personally on this. I’m not going to be blackmailed or intimidated like that and fear to fight for power to serve my people who are expecting a lot from me. It’s God and not the Lord Mayor who gave me this office. What I tell the voters? It’s God to determine my future and not the Lord Mayor or his supporters. I tried many times before to become Mayor Kawempe and failed until God said ‘its time my son go and take the office.’ If I don’t get reelected, it’s okay. I will thank God for the 5 years I have served and move on. By the way I’m not new in these things. I was youth councilor before and was also Kawempe Councilor and Deputy Mayor. So I have been a leader before. The electorates may even vote me more for undertaking this fight because they aren’t happy with a Mayor who can’t construct a road, who can’t fumigate and spray mosquitoes. Malaria is killing them because the Mayor is powerless and he is there just signing papers. I’m safer fighting for my powers than waiting to fidget at election time. I can’t begin telling them my hands were tied. They want results and that’s why they voted me.

QN: But tell me from the bottom of your heart, haven’t you guys received some groceries which you are now sure will indemnify you the moment you lose your seats because me and you know with certainty that someone somewhere has desperately been seeking allies among elected Kampala leaders to undermine the Lord Mayor?
ANS: Now which groceries? Money from where? Let them produce evidence. I told you already all the meetings we have had with those people, it was the Lord Mayor taking us there. We had two meetings at Parliament. He is the one who took us there and not the minister. We are actually against her very much. The only time we have been to the Minister, it was the Lord Mayor who took us there through the Deputy Lord Mayor Sarah Kanyike. She has been frequenting that place more than us. She has been instructing us to go there. We really have no problem with the Lord Mayor. In fact we continue interacting and transacting KCCA business with him except on those devolution and budgeting issues.

QN: When did you last speak to him personally?
ANS: I don’t exactly remember but very recently; a few days ago.

QN: What was the matter about?
ANS: I don’t remember. I can’t tell you that for sure.

QN: So very finally what exactly do you people want from the Minister, the Lord Mayor and the technical wing?
ANS: Not much. All we are asking for is to be enabled to do at least things that a basic Sub County does in Nansana even when the district is there. We aren’t even seeking things which a Municipality does. They collect even revenue. We aren’t asking for such. Our demands are very basic; manage markets, spray mosquitoes, manage hospitals and the primary schools etc. Gratefully these are things the law provides that we can do. Basically these are things that can make us relevant in the community before voters beyond just signing papers. People expect these basic services from us and it’s really tough because, unlike the Lord Mayor in City Hall, we daily live near these people and they will bombard you with these demands whether you like it or not. That is all we want our leaders to help us about; the Minister, the Lord Mayor, the Authority Councilors and the technical wing. We are surely not asking for too much. Let’s be listened to and our demands worked on. To comment on this and other Mulengera news stories, call\text\WhatsApp us on 0703164755



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