Thursday October 19 2017

MPs ‘sham’ consultations must end immediately


By Karoli Ssemogerere

Parliament committed itself to a bad idea by moving forward with consideration of the Constitution Amendment (No.2) Bill, 2017.

Any bill by necessity goes through a gestation period as government proposals are refined first by the Law Reform Commission in case of existing law (which the bill is), the Cabinet, which is the central office for processing all bills by the Executive starting in sub-committees, which have persons of expertise assigned to advise the principals, and later on the full Cabinet before the principles are approved and returned to Cabinet prior to publication and tabling.
In the case of constitutional matters, government has been a victim of inconsistency and expeditiousness acting in an unconstitutional manner.

The Constitution contemplates amendment by Parliament in all three instances provided for in the Constitution, Parliament alone, Parliament and a referendum, and Parliament and approval of local councils.

But these proposals are also subject to the directives on state policy and specific articles of the Constitution, which express sovereignty in the people themselves, restate the supremacy of the Constitution as the product of a process by which people’s views were collected and processed into a Bill.
It is very difficult, with the exception of few procedural amendments, to process a Bill that does not “amend” by “infection” other fundamental articles of the constitution.

In our constitutional order, the president reigns at the helm of the Executive branch and by implication the (legislature where he assents to bills), and the Judiciary where he appoints all judicial officers. Because he is the Commander-in-Chief; he is immune to all court proceedings and doesn’t share any Executive power with another individual, not even the Vice President.
It is very weak in substance for one to consider amending the age of eligibility of the president without weighing the full consequences of the amendment. We already know that Parliament committed a grave mistake by deleting term limit without reservations in 2005.

The biggest proponents of the amendment were the first to disown it –former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya (although some no longer take him seriously anymore) and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. The amendment’s supporters stated that power had been returned to the people who could change their mind anytime on the incumbent through “free and fair” elections.
This system of “dreaming” is a cancer at the heart of our political system. In 2003, the Ssempebwa Commission recommended a referendum in instances where the issues are so fundamental that they tampered with the basic foundations and origins of the Constitution.

The origins of our Constitution were militarisation of politics, and lack of orderly succession to power. Uganda in 2017, 55 years after independence, has failed in this fundamental aspect of civilisation and accession to the democratic community of nations.
For those cutting “cakes” and drinking “juice” in the name of consultation while the less fortunate or second class citizens are eating “tear-gas” and “bullets”, doom awaits.
There is no reason why MPs consultations should go on with a Police that has run afoul of every legal precept associated with law and order.

If Police cannot protect the “fools” who are expressing their views, how can we expect them to solve basic law and order issues like the mounting homicides in the country a good number of which are implicating state agents?
Why are we killing our sons and daughters under the guise of a sham “consultation”? Why are we saying people must consult over the Internet or in gombolola halls when both the Odoki Commission and the Ssempebwa Commission met people of their own free will in public venues all over the country? Why must the MPs conduct a very expensive and bloody exercise if the outcome is already predetermined?
Until term limits are returned to the Constitution, very little remains of the legitimacy of this Constitution. It is a disposable document, ranking barely among others in order of importance.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.