Thursday April 24 2014

Opposition have teeth but refuse to bite; they just bark loudly

By Beti Olive Kamya

The Daily Monitor of April 15 published an article titled “Muntu tells Bunyoro to press for oil rights”, in which the FDC party president Mugisha Muntu is reported to have encouraged Bunyoro to “advocate for their rights to benefit from the oil and gas found in their region”. Surely, with presidential elections barely two years away, Gen Muntu should be telling Bunyoro his own policy on sharing of resources between the central and regional governments.

Karamoja is demanding participation in management of minerals in the region. Kigezi will soon demand benefits from (gorilla) tourism. Ankole, Uganda’s food basket, should demand benefits from the food and dairy industry from the region, seeing that the food industry beats all others in revenue collection, anywhere in the world. Bugisu wants involvement in management of the world’s number one coffee brand, Arabica, in Uganda, grown only in Bugisu. Kasese has four national parks, West Nile produces most of the country’s tobacco, Busoga generates the country’s electricity, Busia / Malaba is the exit and entry point of the country’s exports and imports… indeed, each region has some unique endowment(s) from which they can claim special benefits.

If Gen Muntu were president of Uganda, would he negotiate with each region individually, and only after they have “demanded” their rights to primary ownership? I advise Muntu to formulate a national policy which he would implement if he became president. Better still, he does not even need to wait to become president, but can mobilise Ugandans right away to cause a national referendum to change the Constitution of Uganda to federalism, being the system that will provide for an equitable share of regional resources.

It is a pity that Opposition leaders in Uganda do not appreciate the power of referenda. If they did, they would not be demanding this, fighting that and demonstrating against the other, because none of these activities have the force of law to implement desired situations. The results of referenda, on the other hand, according to Article 255(3) have the force of law and are therefore “... binding on all persons, organs, agencies and organisations in Uganda…”
If the resources being used to popularise the demand for electoral reforms were used to collect voters’ signatures to cause a national referendum on electoral reforms, we would have the reforms, but it’s unlikely that we can get them through countrywide tours. I have discussed this with most of my colleagues at the forefront of the demand for electoral reforms, but they “fear” that the referendum will be rigged; yet, they are planning for the 2016 elections, which means they probably do not appreciate the power of referenda.

The Constitution of Uganda provides only two fora where decisions binding on all people and organisations in Uganda, can be made i.e. in Parliament or through referenda; anywhere else are just talk shops. Incidentally, Parliament’s resolutions can be reversed by referenda, yet parliament has no authority to reverse the results of referenda – that’s how powerful referenda are.

Compatriots, we do not have to demand, fight, beg or demonstrate for anything, we do not even need to be in power to shape this country. We just have to evoke the constitutional mandate available to any Ugandan of voting age, under articles 1(4) and 255(1), cause referenda to be held, and make decisions on any issue and they will be binding on everybody. Surely, how much more power does one need to cause the change we desire for our country? Unfortunately, we have teeth, but refuse to bite, preferring to bark only!

Ms Kamya is the chief petitioner for a National Referendum to trim presidential powers.