President does not need more power

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Posted  Thursday, December 5  2013 at  02:00

A proposed piece of legislation proposed by the Cabinet and to be drafted by the Minister for the Presidency, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, will, among other things, compel people to obey and implement directives issued by the President. The minister was told to prepare its broad provisions – we don’t know its exact details yet – before Cabinet discusses and sends it to Parliament.

Reception of the proposed Bill (apparently to be called “The Executive Orders Bill”) has been poor: An opposition MP called it a “recipe for autocracy” while the secretary of the Uganda Law Society said it would take us “down the road to absolute autocracy, an extra constitutional and illegitimate rule.”

The government’s argument is that presidential orders are being ignored, which has bred impunity and affected service delivery. The Bill will address that, as well as cut red tape in governance structures and hence speed up service delivery. These justifications, however, do not stand up to scrutiny and are instead meant to sugarcoat the sinister and cynical nature of the Bill.

Such reasoning assumes that services are only delivered at the behest of the President, which we would like to think is not the case. Otherwise, it would point at a defective government and, even then, the solution would lie in correcting governance structures rather than investing power in one individual or office.

That office is already very powerful. The President has a firm grip on all security services. He has demarcated the country at will, and posted powerful representatives to the numerous districts. This is not to mention the powers vested by the Constitution such as appointing various government officials. The party he heads has a choke hold on Parliament and pushes through whatever they want.

This President is as powerful as a president in a democracy could ever get. Giving the position more power outside what the framers of our Constitution thought necessary is suspicious. It is, an endorsement of the big man syndrome at the expense of building accountable and efficient governance structures.

Cabinet is basically condemning itself and government, as it enhalos the only person it says is capable of delivering. The Bill is a cynical approach to governing that makes a mockery of consensus, reason and democracy.