In the book of Ecclesiastes, there is time for everything. Even after election instead of people engaging in economic activities, a section of the population wants politicking again!
This post election season in a post two year lockdown over Covid 19 pandemic should not be for politicking but for production. No wonder a Senior Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs in charge of Special Duties Mr. Kenneth David Mafabi has advised Ugandans, to concentrate on mobilization as he responded to press reports quoting Transformer of Cadres ‘Association comprised of former NRM flag bearers that did not make it into elective offices- whoare calling for constitutional and electoral reforms including a return to a Westminster system where a President is elected by parliament acting as an electoral college as it was the case in 1962 and 1980.
The Minister for Local Government Mr. Raphael Magyezi has also advised those demanding for new local governments and administrative units to wait for 2025 as the country will be preparing for 2026 general elections.
According to Mr. Mafabi, it is a constitutional right for any citizen to demand for amending the constitution in accordance with the provisions of that very constitution. He however did not go into the merits and demerits of the reforms proposed by the NRM losers in the previous election.
“Instead, “As of now, the entire leadership and membership of the Movement are enjoined to concentrate on mobilization- pursuant to the Resolutions of the first retreat of the fourth Central Executive Committee (CEC) held in Entebbe, on December 18th and 19th 2021. The retreat was held under the theme Mobilization for Social Economic Transformation.”
A lot has been said in support or as opposed to the proposal, but there were also neutral positions. What should be known is that no proposal has been made or considered by the Central Executive Committee, National Executive Council or National Conference all chaired by the National Chairperson Ssaabalwanyi Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Kaguta Museveni, deputized by a number of national and regional vice chairpersons.
Neither has the proposal come from cabinet, NRM parliamentary Caucus or any branch of NRM be district, city, municipality, city division, municipal division, town council or sub country, parish or village/zone/cell.
So, it is a wrong assumption especially by members of the Opposition who claim that the promoters of the proposal are doing it for the benefit of President Museveni and NRM other than for the benefit of the country and citizens.
It should also be known that according to press reports, the movers also proposed other issues, like District Councils to be part of the Electoral College electing the President, having a senate as an upper house, among others. However, the media and the commentators have only concentrated on one item, the call for the election of the President by parliament.
There is no doubt that ever since the promulgation of 1995 constitution on Sunday October 8th 1995 at Uganda International Conference Center now Kampala Serena Hotel, and the subsequent amendments in 2005 and thereafter, there have been many pending issues, which gives a fertile ground for more amendments.
For example, in 1995, while both the Movement all including, all embracing and broad based system, and the Multi party system were entrenched in the constitution, the Movement system prevailed and multi party system was put in abeyance until after 2000 referendum when people chose to retain the Movement system, and in 2005 referendum when they chose to return to multi parties. The multi partists had all along been pressing for pluralism including using courts of law. That was for political system.
Likewise, on a form of government, ever since 1995, when Constituent Assembly resolved that Uganda should neither be unitary nor federal but shall decentralize government to the districts and other lower local governments, federalist have been demanding for federalism based on regions and the 2005 amendments provided for regional governments, which Mmengo later rejected opposing election of a Regional Premier of Buganda in a universal adult suffrage. Some wanted Kabaka to have executive powers of appointing and firing a Regional Premier, others wanted him/her to be elected by Lukiiko acting as an electoral college as it was the case ever since 1954.
This time the federalists or those who are not necessarily federalists but want devolution of power to regions as it is the case with non federal states like United Kingdom, South Africa and Kenya, may also use this opportunity to press for a review of the form of government . Since our system is neither unitary nor federal but in between (In the Odoki draft, the national title was that Uganda shall be a unitary democratic state and a republic. But C.A. deleted the word unitary), Oboteists may want a return for a centralized system with only one government, as it was the case between 1967 and 1993 (1993 Resistance Council/Committee Statute Decentralization statute restored local governments not only at district/city, but also at sub county/town council), the rest were no longer local governments as it was the case under 1962 and 1966 constitutions, but mere local administrations. Their justification may be a strong president and government for national integration, which Obote and Amin failed to achieve anyway.
Having stated that, l should also say, that my fear with parliament acting as an electoral college in electing a President, is that some of our MPs’ appetite for money is extra ordinary and can not only hold ransom a sitting and or other presidential candidates, but can be tempted to be bought off by a hostile neighbor or an enemy state. In 2001, the then Minister for Security Wilson Muluuli Mukasa, as stipulated in election laws, laid on table countries of Rwanda, DR Congo and the Sudan as hostile states where candidates were barred from getting facilitation. But one of the presidential candidates is said to have got that facilitation from one if not all of those countries. There is a claim that when the late Robert Mugabe realized that Chinese were replacing the minority Whites in dominating Zimbabwe’s national economy at the expense of indigenous Africans, and he waged some resistance, that China influenced parliament to force him to resign before the expiry of his term.
Yet in a presidential direct election, it is difficult for a hostile neighbor or an enemy state to influence all the Ugandans. Attempts were done even in 1996 , 2001, 2006 and even much later, but Ugandans stuck to President Museveni. Even insiders like Dr. Kizza Besigye, Maj.Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Mr. Bidandi Ssali, Mr. Amama Mbabazi wanted to use the NRM structure, but Museveni just took the race to the masses, and they always decide in NRM’s favor.
A precedent has also to be made. If a President is indirectly elected, will it be the same with leaders of local governments including Regional Primers if regional governments are operationalized? That is food for thought.
Otherwise, right now, let us concentrate on opening up the economy, including returning children to school, preparing gardens in this dry season in preparation for planting in the coming rain season, among others. As we always do, a year to election, then we shall have serious talks on constitutional and electoral reforms including some sort of proportional representation where a first run up in presidential election ( it may include even local government elections) automatically becomes Leader of Opposition in parliament and party presidents that are represented in parliament, automatically becoming MPs, in order to avoid a winner takes all. A revisit to National Council of state as a check and balance between executive, legislature and judiciary as it had been proposed in the Odoki draft, copied from Ghana and Namibia, but rejected by the C.A.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is a veteran journalist and Deputy Resident City Commissioner Masaka City.
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