What you need to know:
- The leaders criticised government for selective adoption of proposals and the disregard of Opposition.
It was a return to a familiar conversation yesterday as members of Opposition political parties and academia gathered to discuss constitutional and electoral reforms.
The proposals resurrected include addressing the militarisation of politics and defining the role of the army and security agencies in elections, the return of presidential term limits and the nature of appointment of members of the Electoral Commission.
Mr Wandera Ogalo, an advocate and legal consultant, presented a paper highlighting the key legislative reforms needed to improve Uganda’s political landscape. He proposed that the office of the Vice President should become an elective position.
“A Vice President should not be a person who delivers condolence messages at funerals, attend weddings and church services on behalf of the President but a partner in the office of the President assisting in the execution of duties…it restricts autocratic rule,”’ Mr Ogalo said.
He also proposed abolition of the Office of the Prime Minister, whose current duties will be transferred to the Vice President’s office.
Other proposals included devolution and strengthening decentralisation, adopting proportional representation, removing the army from Parliament, reducing the size of Parliament, and implementing public vetting of judicial officers and other appointees.
Many of these proposals have been previously put forward in similar forums and initiatives, such as the Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections of 2014, the Supreme Court recommendations following the 2016 Presidential Election Petition, and the Constitutional Review Commission of 2005. However, the challenge remains in getting the government to adopt them.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) party President, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, described the government as “military dictatorship.”
“One lesson we have learnt from the experiences of those who challenged Museveni before us and from our own experience is that for as long as the Museveni regime is in power, Uganda will never experience fair electoral processes, or even uphold constitutional governance. This regime sustains itself in power by denying its opponents any political fairness,” he said.
Mr Kyagulanyi, the first runner up of the 2021 presidential election, said the Museveni administration intentionally obstructs the proposals fronted by the Opposition.
Ms Anna Adeke, who represented the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), highlighted the lack of political will in Parliament to support meaningful reforms.
She criticised the selective adoption of proposals and the disregard for the rule of law.
But Mr Saddam Gayira, the leader of the People’s Progressive Party, however, emphasised the need to address internal divisions and personal interests that hinder collective action. He called for open and honest discussions.
“These are issues we have not sat anywhere to openly interrogate. We have insulted each other, we betrayed each other, we have disappointed each other, but we keep talking about reforms,” he said.
Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition, said it is crucial for the Opposition to not give up the push for better governance.
He said: “The existing legal and regulatory framework for elections is not sturdy enough to guarantee free, fair and peaceful elections. The country needs to reform the Constitution and legislations that affirm and support the independence of the Electoral Commission, protect against the disenfranchisement of Ugandans, protects the rights of Opposition candidates and ensures principles of transparency, equity and accountability. ”
Prof Joe Oloka Onyango, a lawyer, discussed parliamentary roles in protecting the Constitution, and called for bottom-up constitutional reform. He cautioned against relying on the government to spearhead reforms and called on Opposition leaders to take charge .
“We are waiting for [Norbert] Mao [Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister], and his constitutional reform commission...if that happens, we will be here in 20 years’ time lamenting…We cannot wait for the state to bring manna to our tables. We must take over this process,” Prof Oloka said.
The three-day workshop aimed to serve as a precursor to broader consultations that would involve multiple stakeholders across the country. The ultimate goal is to generate final proposals for electoral and constitutional reforms in Uganda.