During their seating on Tuesday 20 March 2012, the Uganda Federal Alliance National Executive Committee (NEC) considered the following:
1. After NEC’s previous Resolution to evoke Article 74 of the Constitution of Uganda to cause a change of Uganda’s political system from Unitarism to federalism through a National referendum, a delegation of UFA officials met the EC for technical guidance on the necessary modalities, which lead to the following observations:
- Federalism as an optional system or form of governance is not provided for anywhere in the Constitution of Uganda, although it has been the most contentious issue in Uganda’s politics since the 1966 crisis that kicked off Uganda’s instability and turmoil.
- The Constitutional process that would get federalism recognized as an option in Uganda’s governance systems is long, winding and unfriendly, passing via Article 69 of the Constitution, The Other Political System’s Act 2000, Parliament (where UFA does not have representation) and through the Referendum Act.
- Presidential Term Limits is an equally contentious issue. We must take advantage of the impending referendum on federalism to vote on re-instatement presidential term limits, on the same day, as provided for under the Referendum and Other Provisions Act. However, this dual referendum cannot work under Article 74 because it provides for only “Change of Political Systems” yet, it can work under Article 255 of the Constitution because this provides for “General Referenda” and can cover multiple issues.
- Moreover, Article 74 has more work to do, requiring 10% registered voters from 2/3 of all constituencies (i.e. 183 constituencies) to petition the EC to hold a referendum. On the other hand, Article 255 requires much less work, requiring 10% of registered voters from 1/3 of districts (i.e. 39 districts) to petition the EC to hold a referendum. In Uganda, there are more than 39 single constituency districts. Compared to Article 74, Article 255 reduces the work of collecting petitioners’ signatures by four!
Based on these and other consideration, UFA NEC resolved to use Article 255 which provides for “General Referenda on any issue” to petition the EC to organize referenda on FEDERALISM & RE-INSTATEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL TERM LIMITS on the same day.
2. Secondly, UFA demanded that the EC organizes for the Ugandan Diaspora to vote during the forthcoming referenda and thereafter during all elections, as provided for under Article 59 &61 of the Constitution. The EC responded in writing that the Diaspora issue was “a Policy matter, not established by the
Commission, and a mechanism backed by law needs to be put in place to facilitate their (Diaspora) participation, including amendments to some electoral laws..”. In short, the EC will not arrange for the Diaspora to vote because, according to the EC, it is Govt Policy is not to allow them to vote….hence, there are no adequate laws to facilitate that!
In our view, the right of the Ugandan Diaspora to vote is not a “Policy matter” as the EC says, but a Constitutional matter. Article 59 provides for the right of citizens aged eighteen and above to vote and Article 62 provided for the independence of the EC during the discharge of their functions. If the EC have subjected their independence to the Executive and denied citizens living abroad their right to vote, they must face the law. UFA Resolved to arraign them before the Courts of law on account of violating the citizen’s rights to vote, neglect of duty and violating Article 62 that provides for the independence of the EC.
Keep watching this space.
Beti Olive Kamya
Uganda Federal Alliance