In Summary

Making a big difference. All local district administrations should also ensure that the roads are well-maintained all year round. This would improve communication and make a big difference to the general well-being of the communities, which should be implored to limit family size to what they can afford.

One of the main aims of creating new districts was to bring services nearer to the people. However, new districts face many more socioeconomic challenges than old ones, which hinder their development. One wonders whether the recent District Performance Report considered the discrepancies in access to resources and what infrastructure already existed at the time the new districts were established.

A case of reference is Rukiga District, which was established in 2017, and is reportedly one of the worst performing districts. Has it and its peers been accorded a fair chance to perform and deliver? It was carved out of Kabale, which had reasonably good infrastructure before Uganda’s independence, and having had the headquarters of the then Kigezi District.

The major challenges the mountainous Rukiga District has to grapple with include overpopulation and poverty, land shortage and land over use, soil erosion and floods, unemployment and alcohol abuse, as well as inadequate resources and infrastructure. The administrative offices are housed in what used to be county and sub-county headquarters, but are almost dilapidated.

The only tarmac road is a few kilometres on the Mbarara-Kabale highway, originally constructed by the Israelis in the late 1960s! The district has fair infrastructure for health services and schools, and benefitted from the rural electrification and water projects. It also has many highly educated and successful Ugandans, who are based outside the district.

Before and immediately after independence, all Kigezi region (including Rukiga), was admired for its verdant greenness due to forests and papyrus swamps as well as fertile soils.
Public transport by Kenya Bus and later Uganda Transport Company (UTC) was affordable and reliable but only on the Kabale-Rukungiri road, which was always well maintained. The feeder roads were also regularly cared for by the public. However, during the last third or so of the 20th Century, forests were cleared and swamps drained for cultivation.

Like Bududa District, the nearly bare hills and valleys are prone to floods, landslides and soil erosion. Consequently crops, roads and bridges get washed away, and human lives and livestock lost. As a result of poor harvests, there are food shortages. Sometimes patients, students and traders find it difficult or too expensive to reach towns for healthcare, studies or trade respectively.
Lake Kanyabaha and Rushebeya swamp, a national reserve for water buck, have nearly disappeared, and the Kisiizi Falls is either nearly dry or with too much water depending on the quantity of rain and floods upstream.

Development of our country depends on well-coordinated implementation of development plans, laying emphasis on vulnerable areas and communities. The remaining swamps and forests everywhere should be protected by decree. The public should be educated and assisted to prevent land degradation for better agricultural productivity.
All communities should be availed good roads so as to easily access social and economic services. It is encouraging that Uganda’s budget now highlights the improvement of road infrastructure in Kampala and other districts.

For example, in Rukiga District, the central government should initially prioritise tarmacking “the very old road” linking Rukiga to Rukungiri District, plus that linking Rukiga District to Rwanda. All local district administrations should also ensure that the roads are well-maintained all year round. This would improve communication and make a big difference to the general well-being of the communities, which should be implored to limit family size to what they can afford.

Among the best performing districts is Ibanda, which has reasonably good infrastructure, including a network of tarmac roads. How can other districts epitomise Ibanda and other good performers? It is, therefore, imperative for all stakeholders to urgently address the discrepancies in the implementation of development plans.

Dr Kalimugogo is a retired, but concerned medical doctor. [email protected]