A Letter to the People of Rukiga District - By Philip Odera

A Letter to the People of Rukiga District - By Philip Odera

A Letter to the People of Rukiga District

My dear brothers and sisters; first of all allow me to congratulate you on the creation of the new Rukiga District in Uganda. I am congratulating you because I was led to understand that this is what you had wanted and that the government had finally granted your wish.


Now that you have your own district, what exactly are you going to do with it? I am asking this because I assume there was a detailed plan waiting precisely for the day that the new district would be formed and that this plan would be unleashed with pomp and fanfare for all to see.


There is a plan, right? All this incessant clamoring for a district was based on some pent up social and development programs that could only be realized if Rukiga was created as a district, right? I mean the government of Uganda did not force this district on an unwilling and reluctant group of people, did it? No I didn’t think so. You got this district because this was what you felt that you deserved.


You got this district because other parts of the country had districts created and so therefore why not you as well? You got this district because it would fulfill a longstanding itch to prove to others that you too were worthy of a district. You clamored for this district because frankly it was going to elevate your collective status and place you up there on a pedestal with other noteworthy districts in the country.


So the question is, now that you have this wonderful new district, what exactly are you going to do with it? The question is, what exactly did you expect would happen once the district was created? The question is, what wonderful developments did you believe would magically attach themselves to this new district of Rukiga?  In other words, what was the inherent value of creating Rukiga District as a separate and identifiable entity?


I ask these questions because I have seen this movie before, in fact many times before, in many African countries. A people push their governments for an elevation in status. Government is reluctant to grant the said status. The people push some more. Government still says no. The matter becomes political. Potential votes become an issue. Government backs off. The people win……..and the same people lose. And they lose for a number of reasons.

  • The government doesn’t have the funds to allocate to the new entity/district/county or whatever it might be. This was why government was reluctant to grant the wish in the first place.

  • The people lose, because not only doesn’t government have funds for the newly created entity, it actually has NO PLANS in store for this new entity.

  • The people lose because they in turn do not have any plans for the new entity that they have been clamoring for.

  • The people lose because they have been accustomed to receiving from government and now that government has nothing to offer, the people are confused.

Yes indeed this movie has played several times in several countries across the African continent and in some cases the people even accuse the same government of “tricking them” into receiving a new district, which said government had no intention to fund.

There are some simple truths that I can share with you regarding your new district and they may not leave you happy at all, unless of course you are an action oriented group of people.


Fact 1: It is highly unlikely that the government has any money to give you for the newly created district. Unless our local government planning process has improved significantly, it is unlikely that your district was part of the budget process concluded last June. At best your new district will be a budgetary sub-division of what was originally a larger pie.


Fact 2: Rukiga District will and should be developed by the people of the district. You will need to roll up your collective sleeves and do the job yourselves. And please do not allow yourselves to fall into this popular euphemism of “I pay taxes, so government should provide for me.”  Frankly there are not enough tax shillings/dollars to go round in the first place. So please be clear that you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. And for a new district, very dirty!


Fact 3: Be focused, but patient. The temptation is to try and boil the ocean instead of the kettle. In other words the temptation is to try and do too many things at once. Focus your efforts on one thing for the district. And that one thing might be water, or sanitation, or food, or health. Do the one thing and the one thing only. Get some successes under your belts. Learn what it takes to get people on the ground working together towards a common purpose or goal. Learn who the doers are, and who the eloquent talkers are. The former are relatively few, whilst the latter come in an inexhaustible supply.


In this regard I am reminded of Bushenyi District. I am reminded of the conversations I have heard over the years about how “lucky” Bushenyi has been, about how “favored” Bushenyi has been, about how “historically privileged” Bushenyi has been. Seldom do I hear the story of the hardworking and focussed people of Bushenyi , who have managed to thrive under every successive regime since independence.


My brothers and sisters, don’t get me wrong, Bushenyi is not without its problems. There are many. Likewise the Bakiga people are not without hard workers. There are many.  It’s about prioritizing the objectives, focusing your energies, learning from your mistakes, not waiting for external assistance. Building Rukiga District to what you want it to become is about DOING.



An interested party



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