By Dr. S. Kigongo
There are three approaches to the capital of a federal Uganda:
One: The Canadian approach: Have a capital city which is administratively part of the province where it is located. This approach would basically take the federal government entirely out of the business of local administration. The federal government would still own and operate its buildings, campuses, barracks etc. but would not actually directly control any local government body. In Uganda’s case this would hopefully improve the government’s efficiency in those matters that it has to attend to. The idea would be difficult to sell politically because it would arouse the fears of “the Baganda getting all the goodies”. Whether this is an insuperable hurdle I cannot tell. Building a new capital like Ottawa (small, isolated, no economic importance) would still leave the objection, since Kampala (like Toronto), would remain the economic center of the nation.
Two: The American & Nigerian approach: Build a new capital away from the existing economic center of the nation and make it an autonomous entity not under the control of any province but directly under the federal government.
Example: We’d take an area of maybe 100 sq miles at say Njeru (across the Nile from Jinja) and in the federation treaty have it ceded permanently to the federal government. The same objections as to plan one would still arise. Knowing how third-world cities grow, the new capital would soon become an economic powerhouse and might chafe under direct federal control.
Three: Keep Kampala as capital, and have it ceded permanently by Buganda to the federal government as part of the federation treaty. Choosing the area in question is the problem here. Do we delineate a minimal area to encompass the location of the federal offices or do we delineate a large area that would allow the optimal administration of the capital district (someone suggested a 25 mile radius, which is economically sensible)?
The original city of Kampala of colonial times is much smaller than the Greater Kampala of today, but the functional Greater Kampala of today includes all of Buganda’s shrines and mausoleums, not to mention a huge chunk of its population, so getting Buganda to cede it would probably be politically non-feasible. And, if so ceded, the political status of the federal district would be problematic. To equalize political power in the American model all provinces have equal representatives in the upper house of Parliament, and the federal district’s residents have no representation in either House (besides a non-voting delegate). Now, would we make Greater Kampala a province in it’s own right, or would its residents be un-represented? Either choice is difficult to sell. A province in its own right not only become the most populous and richest but would be effectively doubling the votes of Buganda in the upper house. The alternative, disenfranchising half the population of Buganda (if we take a 25 mile radius) would obviously be even more un-saleable.
The first solution is the preferable one, because it is the most radical and seems to be practical. It is therefore the model put forward in Uganda. A federal Uganda, if it is to be a success, must make a clean break with the past. We must make a clean line between the provincial and federal responsibilities, and one item in that demarcation is that “the federal government administers no local areas directly”. In this model, Kampala’s administration would be entirely the business of Buganda province. The federal government located therein would enjoy certain privileges under the federation treaty. Having Kampala as the federal capital does not, and should not mean the federal government cannot have powerful offices within other regions. It should be encouraged as is the case in the US, Canada and elsewhere to distribute federal offices/roles across the country. For example, INS centres may be in Kentucky, while other functions are handled in other regions. This can be done in Uganda too, without jeopardizing federal-state relations. The lesson for the federal government is to distribute federal roles/offices equitably within the country to minimize any backlash/envy towards Kampala. Moving the federal capital on fears of making Kampala too powerful would be misplaced. Let us face it, building new capitals amidst poverty would be a waste of meager resources.