Thursday January 4 2018

Constitution of a country should not be amended carelessly, hastily



John Ken-Lukyamuzi

John Ken-Lukyamuzi 

By John Ken-Lukyamuzi

The recent amendment of the Country’s Constitution haphazardly, with reference to the turbulent history Ugandans have politically gone through over the years, is absurd. The Constitution is in shambles and we are worried over what may follow.
Prof Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko, now a Judge of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, has observed in his latest book on constitutional law in Botswana (2017) thus and I quote, ‘The Constitution of a country must not be revised carelessly, capriciously, hastily, casually and for momentary expediencies as doing so might lock the body politic of the whole country’s legal system; alteration can only take effect where there is overwhelming support and felt need to do so.”
The recent Constitution Amendment of presidential age limits in Parliament puzzled me. It was a brutal attack on humanity at the command of the sovereign. The ploy equally encroached on the doctrine of separation of powers as advocated by the famous French political thinker in the name of Charles – Louis Montesquieu.
If Montesquieu was still living, he would tell the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga that the manner in which Parliament amends constitutional laws determines the country’s state of politics. The deployment of soldiers by the State to intimidate the legislators during the recent Parliamentary deliberations, was most unfortunate and was a replica of Dr Milton Obote’s declaration of the Pigeon-hole Constitution in 1966.
Obote’s cause of action then lay between the suppression of political autonomy embedded in federal states like Buganda and the desire to widen the scope of the east –west divide at the time when the Mulungushi Club was at its best. Obote as a result of that development, engineered the “Common Man’s Charter on the move to the left strategy” to justify his socialist mission.
Unlike Obote, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is abandoning the Luweero Triangular War Action Programme in preference for Constitutional Reforms leading to the politics of a life presidency; that is why he has developed a phobia for the constitutional mission he generated way back in 1988 under the Odoki Constitutional Review Commission. He hardly talks about the 10-Point programme of the NRM these days. He is a different politician from the Museveni we knew.
I was a very attentive viewer of what was going on in the House on television during the debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill. Speaker Kadaga was as tough as Herod during the crucification of Jesus Christ on the Cross. She did not want any person to interrupt the first reading of the age limit Bill even where there were obvious errors.
Under Rule 201 of the Rules of Procedure of the 10th Parliament, the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, was expected to physically lay the final report on the Bill on table before the debate could take off in three days’ time; that great norm was quashed at the Speaker’s command in a rush to accomplish the NRM’s unknown mission. In defence of her action, Kadaga said she had sent the report to all the legislators on their Ipads.
Before debate on the age limit Bill kicked off, each legislator was given a financial package of Shs29m by the Parliamentary Commission to consult their respective voters on the merits and demerits of the Bill. The final decision would be made on the basis of the people, who under Article 1 of the Basic Law, own power. So, no legislator should be punished for not toeing the NRM party line because the correct line had been dictated by the Speaker of Parliament. I am, therefore, not surprised to learn that during his New Year message, President Museveni could only talk about poor fishing on Lake Victoria and the dirty actions of ADF in eastern Congo. He could not justify the amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution. He merely praised the MPs who voted on the Bill blindly.
So, the MPs who feared to constitutionally touch the presidential age-limit provision with respect to the preamble of the Constitution, deserve a pat on their back. They are great and I salute them with honour. They discarded material wealth ambitions in preference for justice and the rule of law. The MPs who betrayed their voters should ponder over a stanza or two in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

In that play, Shakespeare held that people who betray others during the time of need, rely on fear to do wrong; they do what they want to avert cowardice and defeat; for cowards die many times before their death; they pretend to look at death as a necessity under the assertion that death will come when it will.
I know Kadaga. I used to debate issues under her guidance as a legislator. There are occasions when she gets fascinated by ideas related to feminism, but rarely does she defend legislators with a bias on the rules of procedure of Parliament. Many a time, she acts in desperation in defence of cynics.
The age limit law, therefore, may not pass the legal test as it encroaches on the five-year social contract between the MPs and the people, which binds all the parties. The seven-year term advocated therein, grossly undermines that contract and cannot constitutionally stand.

Mr Lukyamuzi is the president general of the Conservative Party and former MP for Rubaga South.

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