Why is Rukungiri a political hot spot and an economic backwater?

is clear that Rukungiri is increasingly becoming the most politically troubled
and economically backward district in the Country. And why is that? To answer
the question one has to go back to the beginning of the twentieth century when
Uganda came under British administration.

Economically, Uganda was divided into two groups: the productive areas, and
labor reserve areas. Rukungiri, at that time part of Kigezi district, was
designated as a labor reserve area. Labor reserve areas were not allowed to
grow cash crops to raise money for taxes. Male labor therefore sought work in
the areas of
Buganda and Busoga where export crops of cotton and coffee were grown. Women,
children, the elderly and disabled were left behind to fend for themselves with
primitive tools limited to a hand hoe and a machete. Labor wages were so low
that male workers were not able to save and send money to their families in
Rukungiri. This colonial policy marked the beginning of the underdevelopment of
the area in spite of abundant fertile land and adequate rainfall.

Uganda regained independence and with the removal of
distorted colonial economic policies, the people of Rukungiri looked forward
with excitement to the equitable distribution of the benefits of independence.
But this would depend on how the political leaders and representatives
negotiated for development resources at the district and national levels.

politics of Rukungiri was marked from the start by elements that divided than
united. The two parties: the Democratic Party (DP) and the Uganda Peoples
Congress (UPC) were based on the two religions. The Catholics joined the DP and
the Protestants the UPC. The struggle for political power became so divisive
that there was no time to even think about development. The elections were won
by the UPC which itself became divided shortly afterwards along ideological
lines; the meat eaters (Abanyama) and the vegetable eaters (Ababoga). Because
of this division within the ruling party, political jockeying superseded
everything else. While other members of district councils and of parliament
were negotiating to extract development resources for their constituencies,
Rukungiri representatives were busy undermining one another. Resources that
were brought in by one group were rejected by others on the ground that the
money had been mobilized for the destruction of opposition groups. Consequently
very few development projects were implemented.

that confusion, Amin came to power in 1971 and we all know what happened
politically and economically. Everyone ran for cover and families resorted to
subsistence agriculture. Bushes were cleared and wetlands drained in the name
of economic war. We reaped environmental degradation, local climate change and
the emergence of new diseases such as malaria which was very rare in the cooler
and high altitude areas of Rukungiri.

II’s short-lived government did not make a dent in the economic situation of
Rukungiri people.

the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power, it banned
political party activities and invented the idea of individual merit as a
qualification for running for political office.

Rukungiri two groups of individuals emerged: those with a lot of money and
connections and those with ideas but not so much money. In the end, the rich
were elected but with few or no development ideas. One would have expected the two groups to
work together for the development of the district. This has turned out not to
be the case. Instead, the two groups have been since 1986 jockeying for
political positions at the expense of development. And that is why we have
ended up with a district saddled with economic and political problems.

these squabbles end, the district will continue to be neglected and sink deeper
into a bottomless hole where everyone will live in discomfort. The political
leaders should come together –and quickly – and work out a win-win formula and
discard zero-sum games at least for the sake of our future generations.