-Role Of Village Chairpersons and Their Impact On Local Governance
By Joel Kafuko
As the debate surrounding the legality of Local Council I & II Leaders continues to grip the nation, an enlightening study has emerged shedding light on the citizens’ preferences.
Conducted by Twaweza East Africa, in collaboration with the Literacy Action and Development Agency, a local implementing partner in Rubanda District within the Kigezi Sub-region, this Participatory Action Research has revealed intriguing findings.
It appears that among the various levels of government representatives, it is the village Chairpersons who enjoy the highest level of trust from the populace. Astonishingly, 71% of individuals surveyed visited their respective Local Councils to seek information or assistance.
In second place were the Local Government Councilors, receiving visits from 32% of the population. And surprisingly, the office of the area Members of Parliament saw the fewest visits, with only 7% of the citizens seeking their attention.
These results highlight the significant role played by village Chairpersons and provide valuable insights into the citizens’ trust and engagement in local governance.
Ismail Ssentamu from Twaweza East Africa narrates that this Participatory Action Research is implemented through training community change agents who also talk to different community groups, and develop joint action plans to address the issues raised that need to be worked on by leaders.
In terms of community organization and involvement, the report shows that 9 out of 10 residents (93%) are part of a community group. These groups include savings and loans associations (55%), community development committees (41%), and stretcher groups (36%).
Additionally, 1 out of 5 residents (23%) mention that village meetings for planning take place in their communities, but are mostly attended by men. However, 59% of women and young people state that no meetings are held in their community.
Regarding service delivery, the report indicates that half of the community members in Rubanda believe that most services have remained the same over the past year.
However, 7 out of 10 residents say that sanitation services have improved (65%), while 4 out of 10 report that roads and infrastructure have worsened (38%). A significant number of the population express satisfaction with the quality of their water (68%) and sanitation services (64%).
During the recent launch of this research in Rubanda Town Council, Vice Chairperson Prossy Kesafari acknowledged the challenge of citizens attending planning meetings only after being promised “Akashera.” She mentioned that this is one reason why some leaders avoid engaging with their constituents.
Kesafari praised the Participatory Action Research, stating that it empowers communities to demand better service delivery, considering the limited resources available to the Local Government.
She also called on the government to recognize Rubanda District as a hard-to-reach district, similar to its neighbouring districts of Kisoro and Kanungu, which receive additional funding due to their geographical terrain.
The Deputy RDC of Rubanda, Eric Ssewandigi, welcomed the research findings and emphasized their importance in addressing service delivery gaps and identifying underperforming civil servants.
Ssewandigi issued a warning to NGOs operating in Rubanda, stating that those with unclear intentions would be eliminated within two weeks.
Violet Alinda, the Country lead of Twaweza Uganda, emphasized the importance of citizen engagement and partnership with leaders for improving lives.
She expressed confidence that the positive results would inspire other communities and districts to strengthen the relationship between citizens and their local governments.
Ismail Ssentamu, the Learning and Strategist officer at Twaweza East Africa, explained that the Participatory Action Research Initiative, launched last year and piloted in several districts, aims to empower citizens to identify and address challenges in their communities.
In Rubanda, the program operates in specific sub-counties and town councils, including Muko, Bufundi, Hamurwa, Ikumba, Ruhija, Nyamweru, Kashasha, Bubaare, Kacerere, and Hamuhambo.