Constitutional amendments must include restoration of term limits
Posted Friday, February 15 2013 at 02:00
The current EC is overloaded with electoral management, registration and supervision of political parties and civic and voter education.
I am not a sports commentator but the Afcon Ghana/Burkina Faso semi-final match referee was so illustrative of biased refereeing that it evoked comparison with usual culprits in elections. Not only did the man cancel a valid Burkina Faso goal but he also denied them a penalty and booked a clearly fouled player for “diving” and then sent him off because that was his second booking.
But “Ya Mungu ni mengi” (God works in mysterious ways)! Two Ghanaian players, as if blindfolded, kicked their penalties too far from the goal posts and Burkina Faso went to the final, which Nigeria won. In elections, what this referee did is called rigging but in elections the opportunity of settling competition through penalties does not exist.
Some of my readers got back to me wondering why those of us in the opposition seem not to support a change of regime through the threatened military coup. I was warned that we risk being at variance with ordinary people who would in the majority be happy if a military coup took place. I have been informed that any change would be welcome, probably more widely nationally than the Amin coup.
This is the situation in Uganda, which some of us foresaw as the possible result of the removal of the two presidential term limits and the consequential establishment of a life presidency. Now most of those who supported the removal of term limits are stuck because they have to confront the prospect of another Museveni candidature in 2016, which no one genuinely wishes to happen.
Fortunately, the way out is being offered by the government proposal of introducing constitutional amendments before Parliament. Though their intention is to reduce democratic space and increase presidential power over parliament and the Judiciary, other amendments could be initiated that could help resolve the NRM dilemma of succession by re-introducing presidential term limits and weaning or separation of NRM from the state and its institutions.
In the 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Col. Nicholson wistfully ruminates thus: “But there are times, suddenly, you realise that you are nearer the end than the beginning and you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents…” The other point (not made in the film) is that others also realise this nearness to the end and this may influence their behaviour pattern. Mortality is an important issue to followers of a political leader.
That is why terminal or chronic illnesses of leaders are kept secret because if essential backers know that their leader is ailing, then they will start looking for someone new to protect their interests.
This is the cause of the current jockeying in the NRM, even if the health of their leader is not known to be at risk, it is clear that he is nearer the end than the beginning. The law of nature eventually overtakes all of us and those of my generation should realise it and act accordingly.
So, even if radio stations are closed and some people are banned from appearing on some media programmes, and even if bail for some offences is eventually removed from the laws of Uganda, all this will not stop the debate about presidential succession. It is an obvious milestone that will soon be reached and this eventuality must be faced squarely.
So if the government introduces its constitutional amendments, are there any other urgent amendments which could be proposed? Let me suggest a few examples of amendments which relate to the realisation of a level playing field. There should be amendments which ensure an independent, impartial and competent Electoral Commission (EC).
The current EC is overloaded with electoral management, registration and supervision of political parties and civic and voter education. The latter two functions should be taken elsewhere. There should be a change of electoral system to proportional representation and a complete separation of the Executive from the Legislature so that ministers do not double as MPs.
There are many other areas which need constitutional amendments which were proposed by the Inter-Party Cooperation, civil society and many others. Therefore, as the government proposes its amendments, it should also allow other players to propose amendments they deem necessary.
Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.