Parliament has approved the creation of 15 new cities across the country.
The approved cities will come into effect in a phased manner starting 1st July 2020 to July 2023. The seven cities that will be operational effective this year are Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Mbale and Masaka while Hoima, Lira and Soroti Cities will come into effect on 1st July 2021.
According to the Minister of Local Government Raphael Magyezi, Entebbe will come into effect on 1st July 2022 while Moroto, Nakasongola, Kabale and Wakiso will become operational a year later on 1st July 2023.
The approval by MPs follows a motion moved late last year by then Minister of Local Government Tom Butime, who argued then that the creation of cities will bring urban services closer to the people. He also revealed that the government had availed Shillings 130 billion to operationalize the new cities. The motion was then debated but not approved due to lack of required quorum.
Before Parliament took a vote on the new cities on Tuesday, Sarah Opendi, the State Minister for Mineral Development raised a procedural matter questioning whether it was right for parliament to approve the creation of new cities considering the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
She requested that before voting on the new cities is done, parliament first receives a detailed report on the effect of Covid-19 on the country’s economy. The Tororo Woman MP, who in the middle of her submission received opposition from her colleagues, noted that the country was already finding it difficult to operationalize town councils that were approved by parliament.
However, Speaker Kadaga said that the motion was about declaring cities and not financing. She moved to roll call MPs in attendance to ascertain the required quorum of 230 MPs out of the 458 total number of MPs.
After the roll call, 314 MPs were present and out of these, 313 MPs votes ‘Yes’ to the creation of new cities and only one, MP Sarah Opendi voted ‘No’.
The approval of the new cities will create new MP seats and this will see an increase in the number of representatives in the 11th Parliament.
Before the presentation of the motion in November 2019, the government had put a cap on the creation of new administrative units in the country due to the increasing cost of administration amidst a limited resource envelope.
Matia Kasaija, the Minister of Finance then said that the creation of any new administrative unit would be followed by a Certificate of financial implication to prove that money to facilitate their operations is available.