The Constitution of Uganda cannot steer this country to democratic order because it suffers from internal contradictions. If independence of the three arms of the State is the fulcrum of democratic governance, having the President appoint judicial officers, 20% of the legislature and the entire State infrastructure, as Uganda’s constitution provides, raises the concept of confusion to unprecedented levels. The State of Uganda must be delinked from Govt, even if the USA does not fully delink them, as some people argue. Uganda’s constitution must be designed to serve the interests of Ugandans, not emulate other countries’ constitutions.
Govt serves on a management contract, which may or may not be renewed by voters. It might even not serve the full contract term due to impeachment, death or resignation of the president. The State on the other hand should be permanent and non-partisan, providing infrastructure to any Govt and all citizens, without fear or favour. Fusing Govt and the State, the way the Constitution of Uganda provides, creates a powerful center, patronage, job insecurity and sycophancy. Delinking the State from Govt guarantees job security, meritocracy, efficiency, equity, predictability and continuity.
Uganda’s constitution instructs that the President appoints all political officials and non-political public officials from the rank of commissioner upwards. President Museveni has used this provision to appoint all NRM politicians who lost in their Party primaries and National Elections as ambassadors, RDCs, Presidential Advisors, Board Members of Statutory Bodies and Commissioners of State institutions. So, when Uganda Federal Alliance went to Lira on 17 Dec 2012 to launch the National Referendum program to trim the powers of the presidency, an activity compliant with the Constitution under Article 255(1), the RDC, Town Clerk, RPC, DPC wouldn’t let us, because, according to the official letter we received, “the Lira Local leadership might be misunderstood to be collaborating with UFA against the President”. We explained to them that we were operating within the law, but “we might be misunderstood…., especially that Hon. Norbert Mao, President of DP, was the Chief Guest!”, they said!
The opposition can’t engage in any political activity in peace, because the IGP and all State Departments’ officials owe loyalty to the appointing authority!
Opposition Ugandans like Anne Mugisha had to denounce her opposition conscience in order for the NRM Govt to second her for a UN job. Prof Kanyeihamba who would not denounce his opposition conscience wasn’t seconded to a UN job by the NRM Govt, so the job went to a non Ugandan. Dr Otunu had to seek citizenship elsewhere to get a UN job, because the Govt of Uganda would not second him!
While all this discrimination happens, Parliament, whose ONLY constitutional role under Article 79 of the Constitution of Uganda is to “make laws…for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda” are busy fighting consequences of a bad constitution, which they have authority to amend!
Fortunately, Article 255(1) of the constitution provides for ordinary citizens to make direct decisions, without reference to Parliament, the Executive or Judiciary, through referenda. Citizens only need to raise 10% signatures of registered voters, from at least 1/3 of districts of Uganda, submit them to the Electoral Commission, which must then organize a referendum on the contentious matter.
Ugandans must hail Hon Norbert Mao, President of the Democratic Party and Hon Isha Otto, former MP for Oyam County, for being the first and second signatories, respectively, to the petition for a national referendum to overhaul the constitution and trim the authority of the presidency, so that no public official is blackmailed into partisanship while on duty.
Beti Olive Kamya-Turwomwe
National Referendum to amend the Constitution