ALUR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM

September 15, 2016

Local government, in the usage law and administration, has not meant the administration of the people by the Nyamparas, headmen, wakils and sultans, but primarily the evolution of the central organisation of Districts, or which these were assumed as the local agents. It is a matter of a degree, for in Uganda provinces, Districts, counties and sub-counties all have define statutory powers in a descending order of competence. But from the point of view of the protectorate Government and Districts are the primary local units, and the Provinces are mainly a co-ordinating organisation for the Districts rather than a district level of jurisdiction, as may be seen in the fact that appeal from the District ourt lies to the High Court of Uganda and not to a provincial Court. Historically, also, the Districts were the smalles units with a European administrator in responsible charge of them, and hence received sharp definition. Though this is still true, the District level no longer coincides so rigidly with the distinction of race, since Africans are now gaining promotion in most government Departments, though not as yet in that of the Administration itself. The objective slowly emerged of establishing, under the guidance of the District commisioner, a district Authority, with an African personnel, enjoying financial autonomy based on a growing annual income derived from a proportion of local revenue, and executively responsible for an ever increasing number of local matters. This was to provide an avenue for African experience and training in general local government, in methods of democratic election for which it would be a focus, and in legislative work of local importance.

The symbolic separation of the African Local Government offices as Arua in a building removed from the offices of the District more talk and less hard work, but also the development of a genuinely self imposed discipline and routine among the African officials. it is the first concrete step in bringing home to the Africans that the show is theirs, in a way that has so far not been possible in the rural areas.

As already noted, the Alur and Lugbara councils, whic had already existed for some years as advisory to the District commisioner, agreed to amalgamate in 1941, though they remain separate for purposes of the determination of tribal custom. The whom were elected annually as president and vice president, representative wakils and nominated members from each county. During the folloing years the Council began to hear estimates of finance, to appoint annually a standing and finance committee, and to send representatives to the newly-constituted provincial councils were to consist of the sultan as ex officio chairman, all wakils ex offiio, an elected memeveer from each sub-country, and extra unofficial members nominated by the district commissioner, five in Okoro and two in Jonam. Similarly, sub-county councils were to consist of the wakil as chairman, all headmen and nyamparas, and the heads or agreed representatives of localised clan sections.

All matters of public importance were aired in th District Council, including the amalgamation of jurisdictions, dismissals or promotions of chiefs, changes in tribal law, and development projects. The council passed resolutions, which had to be approved by the District and provincial commisioners and could then be embodied in administrative orders having the force of law.

Despite the possibility that members would be reluctant to express themselves freely in a body still completely under the ultimate control of European government officials, the council resolutions from 1939 onwards give a vivid idea of the preoccupations of tribal leaders. Among many miscellaneous matters considered three themes persistenly recur: attempts by sultans to secure economic benefits for themselves and to avoid relinguishing them to the African Local govenment treasury; constant efforts to pass draconian legislation against witches and sorcerers; and proposals to increase the penalties for abduction, adultery and seduction, penalising the woman rather than the man wherever possible.

Under the new system, all local proposals are discussed at the various sub country councils, and those approved for forwarding are presented at the county council by each wakil. There can be no question of the value of an officially recognised safety valve for the expression of all matters about which there may be strong popular feeling. As effective organs of deliberation, popular election, and, at District level, legislation, the council have not had time to aprove themselves. They do not arous marked enthusiasm from the Alur indivual, and it is rather accentric elders whom I have heard wishing that their particular wakil's council met more often, in rivalry with that of the adjacent wakil. However, most men speak of the councils with definite approval, saving that it is good for them to meet and to improve the country. It did not take the unofficial members long to begin clamouring for pay, and, indeed, members of county councils are put to considerable inconvenience, having to walk long distances and often being summoned to the council on the wrong day.

Of course, the average individual cannot credit the fact that these councils are officially intended to develop into organs of local government by the people themselves, of whom chiefs, clerks, police, and all the other familiar personnel will be merely the paid servants, and to whom they will be responsible, and not to the District commisioner in person. At the county councils the official members are noticeably dominant, and in general if the unofficial members are genuinely chosen by the people it is not to be expected that they will aslo yet be a match for the official members. They are at a disadvanteage in familiarity with formal council procedure, and lack the wide experience of the wkils, who sit beside them, in the general problems and working of the administration. At the level below, in the sub county councils, this does not matter so much, for these have more the character of assemblies of perons who are mainly kinsmen or neighbours who know one another in daily life. Proceedings are more informatl, and the gulf between official members, at this level the headmen, and ordinary family heads is in all respects slight. The District council has also, until recently, been dominated by the sultans who are its most important and numerous official members, andwho have usually been among the most forceful personalitites of their areas; but there are now in the district council several unofficial members with a background of experience in school teaching, trade, or other extra-tribal activity which enables them to speak with confidence and independence in the presnence of the sultans.

Though the councils system is in theoru the beginning of a purified system of government, leading to the integration of local with central government through series of electoral colleges, and not to separate parralel systems of central and local government, it has in fact for the moment introduced a third force into the administration of the District. The District commissioner, with his European assistants and his bureaucratic staff, and the associated local bureaucracies of the specilaised departments of the central government medical, agricukture, veterinary, forestry, public works and police form on element which, both formally and informally, wakils, headmen and nyamparas forms a second element with a strong common outlook, resting heavily upon the traditional position of tribal authorities and its enduring grip upon the majority of people. The third force consists of the growing bureaucracy of the African Local Government secretaries, treasurers, store keepers, clerks, drivers and other employees, who represent a wholely new element in society, which must in the long run have interests divergent both from those of the central govenment officals and of the loca executive hierarchy.

There are, of course, many interesting lins and cross currents between these three elements. The excutive hierarchy actually has, in the sultan and wakils, a majority membership of the District Council which, subject to the District commisioner's approval, is begining to control the appointment of the executie hierarchy itself and also of the African Local Government bureaucracy. The growing numbers of Africans in the local bureaucray of the central government are, by their background and general social life, tied more closely to the African Local Government bureaucracy than to their European colleagues. But all these three different elements impinge upon the life of the ordinary Alur peasant in a different way.

The relation between the powers of the local bureaucracy of the central government, the African Local Government and the local executive hierarchy is peculiar, and at many points confusing. By law, the sultans, wakils and headmen retain all the powers of their pre-European protypes which have not been specifically taken away from them or condemned by implication under the repugnancy clause. Their powers are thus undefined, and vary from one part of the District to another. The powers of the central government bureaucracy, and more especially if the District commisioner and his assistants, are defiened by protectorate law, but in practice are so wide as to be in many important contexts effectively undefined, and controlled only by precedent and common sense. The African Local government has as yet excercised very little real power, but, if the reasons for its establishment are to be justified, it must be destined for increasingly extensive powers in the future.