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This is in response to Gawaya Tegulle’s article titled “Beti Kamya’s ‘referendum’ on federalism is misconceived” which was published in The Daily Monitor of 15 March, 2012. He argued that federalism not being a political system as defined in Article 69 of the Constitution of Uganda, the federal question cannot be settled under Article 74 of the Constitution, as proposed by UFA, because it provides for “Change of Political Systems…” , yet federalism is not a political system. Other people, like Buganda Govt Ministers Peter Mayiga and Apollo Makubuya have voiced similar views to Tegulle’s. I could agree with them to a large extent but I could also seek the Constitutional Court’s arbitration on the universal meaning of “political system”, Article 69 of the constitution of Uganda notwithstanding.
My concern, though, is whether their nay arguments (and spirit) carry the federal agitators’ wishes closer to their “hearts’ desire” or just hold it stagnant, at the status quo.
“Where there is the Will, there is a Way” is an old adage, so in the interest of moving the “federal question” forward, if Article 74 (recommended by UFA) cannot provide the channel for settling the forty-six year old argument, surely, I expect the federal agitators to propose another channel, not just dismiss a possible route! In everyday life, it is common for one disinclined to undertake a task or journey, to find excuses not to. They decry insecurity, bad roads, inadequate resources, ill-health, wild animals… – anything to discourage forward movement. On the other hand, those determined to move forward will adopt a positive attitude and propose alternatives that encourage forward movement, in-spite of risks, known and unknown.
Typically, the anti-referendum group are eloquent on why we should not move under Article 74, but they do not offer opinion on how else we might move, save cling to good old fashioned, twenty-six-year old negotiation-with-the-president, which, incidentally, has no constitutional backing. Their adamant “CAN’T” is loud and clear but not their alternative proposal to move federalism a step forward from the forty-six-year-old position!
Determined to break the barrier of presidential whims and in the spirit of minimizing negative and diversionary media engagements with fellow federalists, UFA resolved to evoke Article 255, which is not confined to “change of political system”.
We combed the political map of Uganda, the Constitution, and found that under Article 255, calling for a referendum on “any issue” is not only shorter, cheaper and friendlier than under Article 74, but actually, several matters can be settled through multiple referenda held on the same day!
Hurray!, we are now going to hit two birds with one stone, by holding two referenda, on the same day, on: (i) Change of system to federalism (ii) Re-instate a limit on the number of terms that the president of Uganda may hold office.
Agitation for federalism and re-instatement of presidential term limits have dominated the political stage in Uganda for a long time. Besides, all political parties that participated in the 2011 General Elections, except NRM, professed, in their manifestos, their intention to “introduce” federalism and reinstate presidential term limits. It is for that matter that UFA decided that the two issues are too important to wait for the next election, due in 2016, and so resolved to re-table them before the people, through a referendum, under Article 255.
There are many constitutional avenues available to settle contentious issues, without necessarily awaiting the next election or resorting to costly military engagement.
Beti Olive Kamya
Uganda Federal Alliance
0783 438 201 / 0751 590 542