Masaka. Masaka Municipality leaders have renewed their quest for a city status by submitting a fresh proposal to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
The latest proposal, according to the town clerk, Mr Paul Omoko, seeks the ministry’s approval to allow them extend the town’s administrative boundaries.
“What is required of local authorities is an agreement from areas that are to be annexed. Both the district and municipality also have to pass resolutions accepting to annex new areas to the municipality, which we have already done,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Mr Omoko said Masaka District chairperson Jude Mbabaali has already submitted the minutes of the district council meeting, supporting the alteration of the municipality administrative boundaries to government.
According to the expansion plan, four more parishes will be annexed to the municipality. They are Kitengeesa and Ssamariya parishes in Buwunga Sub-county, Kirimya in Kabonera Sub-county, Kalagala in Mukungwe Sub-county and some parts of Kingo Sub-county in Lwengo District.
Mr Omoko said he is optimistic that the submitted proposal will soon be approved by Cabinet because the municipality has fulfilled some of the key requirements and that they are also capable of providing services to the new areas that will be annexed to the municipality. “Residents of those areas[to be annexed to the municipality] are already receiving services such as healthcare and education from the municipality; that is why they all welcomed the idea of extending boundaries to their areas,” he said.
Mr Omoko said they are now working on the process of including the annexed areas on the municipality structural plan so that planning for them can commence.
Mr Mbabaali confirmed submitting a letter to government early this month, demanding elevation to city status.
“We have done our part and we are only waiting for a response from government,” he said.
Efforts to speak to Mr Denis Obbo, the ministry’s spokesperson, were futile as our repeated calls to his telephone went unanswered.
According to Mr Godfrey Kayemba, the mayor, the municipality has already put in place some of the key requirements for city status.
“We are lucky that we had already met some of the preconditions for city status, including well designed structural and physical plans and updated asset register, among others. We are also improving our garbage collection capacity and road infrastructure, which have greatly changed the image of our town,” he said.
For an urban centre to qualify for city status, it must have a population of 300,000 people. Masaka Municipality has a resident population of 251,000, according to Mr Kayemba.
The preconditions relied upon to qualify for city status include, among others; well-developed structural and physical plans, proper garbage and waste management, development plans, competency in management of public funds, good roads, enough water sources and capacity to meet the cost of delivering required services for the population.
Since 2006, there has been demands by area leaders to have Masaka Town accorded city status. Despite the rosy picture painted by the municipality leadership about the town, Cabinet three years ago excluded Masaka on the list of municipalities to attain the status over failure to meet certain standards. Those to be granted city status include Jinja, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Gulu, Mbale and Arua.