What we should include in Uganda’s new Constitution

Saturday November 22 2014
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A man reads the Constitution of Uganda.

The Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Gen Kahinda Otafiire, has finally called on the public and legislators to submit their proposals to the Uganda Law Reform Commission for the forthcoming Constitution amendment process due for next year.
The minister’s call has come at the right time so that Ugandans can prepare themselves in good time because after Christmas, it will be serious business.
The first six months of 2015 will be very critical because that will be the time for candidates to prepare themselves for the campaigns ahead of the 2016 general elections.
Nominations are likely to take place in September 2015 and polling on February 18, 2016, if we are to follow the 2011 system.
One factor I have observed about elections in Uganda is that for Parliament or LC5, if you do not have a minimum of Shs500 million, please do not attempt to contest. If you do you may end up in a mental asylum.
When I read the minister’s proposal, my mind quickly moved to what we should have in our new Constitution;
1. We are now living in a modern world; therefore our Constitution should clearly stipulate that a presidential candidate should publicly declare his presidential running mate.
Both of them should address campaign rallies together throughout the country. This is very important because people will know right from the start who will be their vice president.

Reduce number of districts
2. The campaign area of 112 districts is so big for a candidate to cover within such a short time of three months of campaigning.
The area should be reduced to 60 districts, meaning a candidate will cover at least 15 districts in each region. Remember that some districts are so small and have no geographical barriers, which means people can come to one centre and attend a campaign rally and listen to a candidate. In this modern world, a candidate speaks on TV, radio and newspapers, therefore many people see him and hear what he will do for them.
3. Government insists on knowing the candidate’s source of campaign funds. This is not necessary at all because elections in Uganda and Africa are highly commercialised in such a way that one will be forced to approach big people with money and those people do not want to be known.
It so happens that those big people, industrialists or foreign governments, will be approached and they will assist all sides hoping that whoever wins will protect them in many ways.
I have noticed that this money does not last long because it is spent during the campaigns. The voters must demand it because it comes once in five years and after the elections the winner is not seen again until the next election. When people go to his or her office, the winner’s secretary will ask, “Does the honourable know you?”
4. A person should be allowed to tour the country before the official campaign period so that people get to know him. This person must have police escort and must use his own money and transport.
5. A Ugandan who has been elected President should swear in public either at Parliament or at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds within a period of two or three weeks. A person who has been elected on February 18, why should he wait for four months and take office on May 12 as it happened in the last elections?
6. At the time of tallying the presidential votes, there should be four agents from each political party contesting.
7. The selection of presidential candidates by their parties should change from the present system of “red committee” or “Kamyuufu” as it is called these days to direct elections by members of the party in each district. The party should finance this election. This will end all sorts of complaints from members of the party after the elections.
8. The presidential term limits of five years (maximum 10 years) should be restored so as to safeguard the future of this country.
9. Political parties with representation either in Parliament or district councils should be funded by the government under an Act of Parliament.
10. Foreigners from neighbouring countries should not be allowed to come in secretly to vote. There was a rumour that this kind of thing happened in the last elections. I lived in Kenya for 33 years and I was not allowed to vote during their general elections.

Proportional representation
11. Finally, there is talk of proportional representation in Parliament whereby representation is based on the percentage of votes the party has received.
This system should not be introduced in Uganda because it is not democratic. For example, a party will nominate a person from Kigezi to represent people in Mukono. He does not know them or the area and they do not know him and he does not know what they want or how they want their area to be developed.
This system was introduced in South Africa when the country achieved political freedom after apartheid (racial segregation) in 1994, when they held the first direct elections democratically.
The whites (Afrikaans) feared the political dominance of the African National Congress (ANC).
The ANC swept the elections and Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa. He led the country for five years and handed over to Thabo Mbeki in 1999.
The other small parties secured seats in Parliament under proportional representation depending on the percentage they received.
Uganda is quite different from South Africa. We have developed democracy and the multi-party system, to a highly matured level whereby we do not need proportional representation.
In Uganda, the Opposition should mainly focus on securing 175 seats in Parliament in the coming general elections so that they prepare to take power in 2021.
This is a matter Ugandans should think of seriously because 2021 will be the year to decide and plan for the Uganda we want after the current leadership.
The Buganda Lukiiko, Bunyoro Rukurato, Busoga Lukiiko, Toro and Ankole Rukurato and all other district councils should prepare their petitions to the Uganda Law Reform Commission in good time to avoid complaints and disappointments in future.

About The constitution review process

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Kahinda Otafiire last week called on the public and legislators to submit their proposals to the Uganda Law Reform Commission for the forthcoming Constitution amendment process.
Mr Otafiire, in a letter through the Speaker of Parliament to the MPs, set December 21 as the deadline for submission of the proposals aimed at ensuring free and fair elections and establishing a level playing field for both government and the Opposition ahead of the 2016 elections.
Every after 10 years government gets a window to amend the Constitution and make any such changes that the public and the legislators feel should be made in the Constitution.
To submit the proposal, the proposer is supposed to mention the specific provision of the Constitution that they want to change, the specific proposal and the justification.