The Push for City Status by Municipal Councils in Uganda: A Dilema for Urban Planning. The Case of Mbarara Municipal Council

John Berch Barugahare


Urbanization is a process through which a proportion of a country’s population lives in urban areas increases (World Resource, 1996:96). In Uganda for instance a settlement with 1000 and above people is classified as urban (UBOS, 2005).  The urban centres in Uganda are further ranked and gazetted as Cities, Municipalities, Town councils and Town Boards under the Local Government Act Cap. 243. The current ranking gives 1 City; 13 Municipalities; 98 Town Councils, and 207 Town Boards (LGA. Cap 243). The Minister of Local Government using the powers granted under the Local Government Act Cap.243 defines the ranking using the following criteria: population of 500,000 people for a City; 100,000 people for the Municipality; and 25,000 people for a Town Council. That of the Town Board is 1000 persons and above. In addition each of the categories must have a Master / Physical Development Plan; own offices; have available water source; and be able to meet the cost of providing services. Using the same Act, a location identified as District headquarters automatically becomes a Town Council. Each urban centre strives to acquire status of higher administrative level and in this respect the current Municipalities are on the fore front of pushing for City status. Elevation to higher status is supported by the Central Government. Similarly, under ‘Vision 2040’Uganda Government seeks to eliminate regional imbalance through establishment of regional cities instead of the current mono-city development dominated by Kampala City (Uganda Vision 2040). Since the Municipalities are spatially small they have to raise the required population threshold of 500,000 people and consequently have been applying the strategy of extending their current administrative boundaries to the surrounding rural areas. The annexed rural areas are brought within the urban planning framework so as to guide the current and future development. Annexation adds to the  challenges the current Municipalities face that include : inadequate  urban planning operations; lack of planning personnel,  planning data,  information and drawing tools; lack of transport for movement and surveillance; poor enforcement mechanism; lack of sensitization; budgetary constraints; community perception land tenure system and compensation. These highlighted issues   pose a dilemma to urban planning in the old and annexed areas. This is a pertaining situation with the old and annexed areas of Mbarara Municipality that is the subject focus of this paper.

DOI: 10.7176/JEES/9-5-07

Publication date:May 31st 2019

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3216 ISSN (Online)2225-0948

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