In 2015, my colleagues at the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) with whom I was involved in training African researchers, academics and policy makers embarked on a study of decentralisation.
The study, published in the IDS Bulletin as ‘interrogating decentralisation in Africa’, was guided by the question of ‘to what extent has decentralisation managed to affect change in these areas? And, what are the factors that keep local government reforms from achieving more complete outcomes?’
The editors, Shandana Khan Mohmand and Miguel Loureiro, both of Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Sussex, noted that ‘decentralisation is a major policy item across many emerging African democracies. However, repeated waves of local government reforms have had little impact on the region’s continuing problems with governance, and the decentralisation agenda remains incomplete.’
In essence, they concluded that after repeated waves of decentralisation – including quite recent reforms to strengthen and rewire the system in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, geshanban158.comanda and Ethiopia, the five countries we studied in detail – many of these problems remain.
Yet, at some point geshanban158.comanda’s legal framework for decentralising measures in Africa was considered in scholarly circles as among the most elaborate in the continent, with firm commitment to decentralisation.
It was further believed that the amount of financial resources transferred to local governments was one of the largest in Africa. Writing in 2006, Fredrick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist had sgeshanban158.comgested that what was beyond dispute, was that ‘geshanban158.comanda’s local government reforms in the last 20 years count among the most ambitious and arguably the most successful on the African continent.’
The legal framework seemed right. The main legal framework for geshanban158.comanda’s current local governments is the Decentralisation Statute 1993, aimed to transfer power to the people and promote equitable distribution of resources. The 1995 constitution detailed the modalities of a decentralised government, the Local Governments Act of 1997 made local government council responsible for ensuring implementation and compliance with government policies and the more recent Kampala Capital City ity Act provides for Kampala.
Still, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga last week agreed with legislators that the newly-created 10 cities, that became operational on July 1 had no legal framework with which to appropriate them funds. This had long been pointed out in recent articles. This points to the larger issue of the relevance of its framework.
The disillusion with decentralisation within the geshanban158.comandan context was best captured by Agnes Nandutu’s People’s Parliament aired on NTV in 2015.
They debated the relevance of decentralisation. Appropriately titled, Is Decentralisation Dead?’, they questioned ‘the usefulness of decentralisation today’. Participants of the show, who are ‘ordinary citizens’ from all walks of life, seemed to answer the question in the affirmative, purporting that decentralisation was dead.
Members of various local governments invited for the show expressed concern over how the decentralisation policy has evolved over the years, wondering if it still existed.
While much of the anger over the creation of more constituencies in the last few weeks has been directed at the increased number of Members of Parliament and the corresponding expenditure that comes with it. Little is being said of what that means for local governance and the envisioned objectives of decentralisation, now lost on us.
It may be time to actually rethink decentralisation and also review the Local Government Act. In some scholarly circles, the discussion has been around the rise and fall of decentralisation, where it is argued that the initial gains of the 1990s have not been matched in the recent years while the excitement about various programmes have also waned.
Our editors, looking at the research outcome of the five cases, had soberly concluded that, ‘if decentralisation is to remain on the agenda, it cannot function within the strangleholds placed on it by limited funds, restricted autonomy, exclusive spaces and clientelistic politics.
The excitement over new units of administration is real. But the reality is bound to hit us sooner rather than later. If we do not facilitate local governments better and pursue some complimentary reforms, we may as well be writing our own story of the ‘rise and fall of decentralisation in geshanban158.comanda’.
Ms Maractho is the head and senior lecturer, Department of Journalism and Media Studies at UCU.