There is confusion surrounding boundaries in Soroti City, especially the lower city administration units.
On July 1, the government operationalised Soroti City along with nine others following approval by the Parliament.
The cities have now commenced operations but the boundaries of Soroti City, since its inauguration on August 10, have remained a bone of contention among the public.
The electoral areas in the lower administration units of the city that include Aloet ward (formerly in Arapai Sub-county, Orwadai (formerly in Soroti Sub-county), Agora and Agama (formerly in Lale Sub-county) , have equally remained unclear.
On September 4, residents of Aloet ward boycotted the NRM primary elections, protesting the alteration of boundaries from the eastern side of the city to the western side.
Mr Akol Okole, the councillor of Arapai Sub-county, on Wednesday said the people thought they belonged to the eastern side in accordance with a statement issued by the Minister of Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi.
“Much as the NRM electoral commission brought election materials, people could not vote because we did not know whether to vote from the western or eastern side of the city,” Mr Okole said.
A similar incident occurred on September 4, when residents of Agora and Agama villages refused to participate in the NRM primary elections for MP aspirants in the city but instead voted at the district section, protesting what they called irregular annexation of their parishes to the city.
Due to unclear boundaries, the aspirants expressing interest in different leadership positions in the 2021 elections are still stuck with campaigns.
They are worried that their efforts might go to waste if some of the cells and wards in areas where they intend to campaign are divided or merged in the process of redemarcation.
Mr Simon Peter Ebitu, an aspirant for the Soroti City West parliamentary seat, said: “Until the Electoral Commission unveils a guiding document portraying clear demarcations and boundaries of the city to guide my campaigns, I shall not pick nomination forms.”
Mr Peter Oringo, the councillor of Kamuda Sub-county, demanded explanations as to why Agora and Agama parishes, which are within his area of jurisdiction, were annexed to the city without his consent.
“I am here to draw the attention of the members in the August house, in accordance with rule 30, aware that there’s already a petition by the people of Agora to the office of the speaker about the demarcation of the city, I would love us to discuss the matters surrounding city boundaries for clarification,” Mr Oringo said.
The district council speaker, Mr Stephen Olebe, admitted irregularities during the creation of the city, saying it was handled hurriedly.
“When you follow the minutes critically, there are some areas that were included in the city that do not appear in the minutes. It is, therefore, at our discretion to understand how these areas were identified and where they fall,” Mr Olebe said.
The acting lord mayor of Soroti City, Mr Paul Omer, accused the MP of Soroti municipality, Mr Herbert Edmund Ariko, of intercepting information regarding the city and concealing it from him.
However, Mr Ariko denied any wrongdoing and blamed the confusion on politicians who peddle false information.
“The confusion is not there because the public is confused but it’s there because some politicians are confusing the public,” Mr Ariko said.
Mr Magyezi has warned Soroti District Council leaders against meddling in issues of the city.
“The district council has no powers to discuss matters of the city in any case. If they want to add or remove anything, they must write to the ministry, which has the powers to create administration units,” Mr Magyezi said.
Soroti city mayor, town clerk clash
Meanwhile, acting lord mayor Omer and the acting city town clerk, Mr Moses Otimong, are embroiled in a wrangle over administration powers.
In an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Mr Omer accused the town clerk of corruption and conniving with unscrupulous individuals in the top leadership positions to conceal classified information about the city developments with intent to obstruct him from doing his duties.
“This town clerk is corrupt, he has gone against ethics to connive with my political haters to obstruct me from doing public work,” Mr Omer said.
He accused the town clerk of ganging up with the district chairperson, Mr George Michael Egunyu, and MP Ariko to undermine his authority.
On Monday and Tuesday, Mr Omer was forced to conduct his duties under a tree outside his office after his secretary did not show up for two days.
Mr Omer alleged that the secretary was deliberately stopped from reporting for duty by the town clerk to frustrate him.
He appealed to the Ministry of Local Government to transfer Mr Otimong, saying: “This is not the first time Mr Otimong is fighting me. He does not have respect for me.”
However, the accused officials have dismissed the allegations against them.
When contacted on Tuesday, Mr Otimong denied any wrongdoing. He, however, admitted to issuing letters of administration to a number of nonessential staff, stopping them from reporting for work in order to scale down staffing levels to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
He said the mayor’s secretary was not among the staff members he instructed to not to report for duty.
“There could have been a misinterpretation of the guidelines by the secretary. I did not stop her from coming to work but I stopped those officers who are not essential at this time since it is a corona virus period,” Mr Otimong said.
The district chairperson denied allegations that he was undermining the mayor, saying he is committed to the development of the city and cannot waste time on ‘‘petty fights’’.
Mr Ariko said the mayor should work with his fellow leaders to develop the city instead of spreading baseless allegations against them.