Kampala- As the country prepares for tomorrow’s first Local Council (LC) elections since the multiparty political system was restored in 2005, tension is brewing in various areas following the creation of suspected “ghost villages”.
Local Government minister Tom Butime and Electoral Commission (EC) officials are entangled in the storm following new evidence on 13 non-existing villages in Sembabule District. The villages were created without parish resolutions and lack boundaries.
Upon realising that some villages in new sub-counties in Sembabule were not supported by any resolutions of the respective parishes where they fall as required under Section 7 (9) of the Local Government Act, Mr Butime wrote to the EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, on July 3 cancelling the new villages he had approved on January 31. He questioned their legitimacy.
“This is, therefore, to cancel the approval that had earlier been given and advise that due consultation is done before creation of these administrative units,” Mr Butime told Justice Byabakama.
His July 3 letter blocking elections in the “ghost villages” came on the eve of the LC nominations.
As a result, many aspirants missed nomination to contest in the elections because their names had been transferred to the declared villages which do not exist in law.
They have petitioned the EC over the dispute. The EC in turn invited them for an emergency meeting in Kampala today to discuss the crisis and the way forward.
The alleged ghost villages the minister rejected after creating them include; Kyengumba, Kyoga, Kyasoboko, Keishe, Lyengoma, Njenje, Kisaana, Kitokoro, Lyentuha, Gantaama B and Bugasha villages all in the new Nabitanga Sub-county.
In other areas like Ntuusi Sub-county, the minister created Kigabagaba and Kanuuka villages.
However, after the nominations, Mr Butime wrote another letter to the EC chairman clearing the 13 suspected “ghost” villages to carry on with the LC elections.
In his July 3 letter, Mr Butime had admitted that Section 7 (9) of the Local Government Act had been violated during the creation of the disputed villages.
Operationalising the new villages requires six months after creation, which requirement also was not complied with.
Mr Butime had also informed EC that no evidence had been adduced to confirm that there was any request or consultation in some parishes to warrant the creation of the new villages.
In his letter, Mr Butime mentioned 13 villages in Sembabule where aggrieved candidates and their leader, Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga MP), have petitioned Local Government and EC chairman protesting what they called “electoral fraud” in the new districts.
“We wrote to the minister on June 18 and informed him that on January 31, he created 13 ghost villages in Lwemiyaga. On July 3, he wrote to EC chairman, cancelling the elections in these illegal administrative units. But to our surprise, the same minister again wrote another letter on July 5, clearing the ghost villages,” Mr Ssekikubo said.
“This problem is widespread and it touches on the integrity of the LC polls. If there are 11 ghost villages in one sub-county, what about other areas? Leaders in other districts should investigate the legality of the new villages the minister created on January 31,” he added.
When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Butime yesterday, he said since the electoral processes had commenced in those unregularised villages, they allowed the exercise to proceed, pending retrospective regularisation in future.
He insisted the unregularised villages are only in Sembabule and not in the rest of the country as speculated.
“We held a meeting at the EC and we agreed that since the election processes, including nomination of candidates had started in those affected villages in Sembabule, it would be unwise to stop them from proceeding,” Mr Butime said by telephone yesterday.
“So we agreed to continue the elections and we would regularise them later. This was done by myself and the entire Electoral Commission,” he added.
However, the EC spokesperson, Mr Jotham Taremwa, said the 13 villages in question are among the 60,800 villages where elections will be conducted that are legally captured in the EC database.
This newspaper has seen documents on the creation of new villages but with glaring inconstancies.
For instance, on January 31, the Local Government minister issued instruments that created the new villages in question.
However, the local council sitting at the Sub-County Hall, without the involvement of the respective parishes, approved the new villages on March 20 more than a month after the minister had gazetted them.
Quoting the Local Government Act in his July 3 letter, Mr Butime had told the EC chairman that in the creation of new villages, a parish or ward council with the approval of a sub-county council, division or town council at the request of or in consultation with the relevant authority as the case may be and with the approval of the minister, alter the boundaries of/or create a new village.
Mr Ssekikubo and about 30 LC candidates, who were locked out of nominations on account of the cancelled elections in the selected new villages, have dismissed the new villages as “ghosts” intended to aid rigging by ‘gerrymandering.’
They warned EC and Mr Butime that they will challenge the existence of the ghost villages in court.
For instance, the NRM flag bearer, Ms Caroline Nansiiti, who has been a chairperson for Kamoshe Village for 12 years, was deregistered from her village and transferred to a distant non-existing village of Gantaama B of Ishaara Parish of Nabitanga.
Her name was also conspicuously removed from the village register where she had been the chairperson for 12 years.
“The Kamoshe Polling Station has arbitrarily been removed and transferred far away to Nsozi Polling Station, a distance of 5km...They also claim that I am no longer a resident and LC1 candidate for Kamoshe Village where I am endorsed by the NRM party and currently serving and incumbent chairperson,” Ms Nansiiti said.