HURRAY! UNDER ARTICLE 255 WE CAN HAVE BOTH FEDERALISM AND PRESIDENTIAL TERM LIMITS ON A SINGLE DAY
Since Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) announced the Party’s resolution to settle the federal (federo) question through a National Referendum by evoking Article 74 of the Constitution, several people have voiced critical opinions, the latest of whom was journalist Gawaya Tegulle in The Daily Monitor of 21 March, 2012, in an article titled “Beti Kamya’s ‘referendum’ on federalism is misconceived”. They argue that not being a political system but rather an administrative system, federalism cannot be debated and settled under Article 74 of the Constitution of Uganda, the Article being a preserve of “Change of Political Systems…” which federalism is not, according to Article 69 of the Constitution of Uganda. I agree with them to a large extent, although the argument can take many turns and twists, including seeking the Constitutional Court’s arbitration on the meaning of “political system”, Article 69 of the constitution of Uganda notwithstanding.
My concern, though, is whether their arguments carry the federal controversy closer to its conclusion or just hold it stagnant, at the status quo.
“Where there is the Will, there is a Way” is an old adage, so for the sake of argument, if Article 74 is not the way to settling this federal age-old argument, surely, another way must be found. In everyday life, if one does not wish to do something or to go to some destination they decry “…insecurity, bad roads, inadequate resources, ill-health, wild animals..” – anything to discourage fellow travelers taking the journey, but those determined to go will propose alternatives that encourage the group to get going.
Typically, the anti-referendum group do not propose even a lousy alternative to UFA’s proposal. Their adamant “CAN’T” is loud and clear but not their alternative proposal apart from the traditional “asking” President Museveni to “give’ it…., not caring that “giving” is not provided for in the Constitution!
Determined to move beyond presidential whims, UFA combed the political map of Uganda, the Constitution, and found that under Article 255, calling for a referendum on “any issue” is not only shorter, cheaper and friendlier than under Article 74, but actually, several matters can be settled through multiple referenda held on a single day. We have therefore re-visited our earlier resolution to evoke Article 74 and resolved to instead evoke Article 255, which allows multiple referenda on a single day. Hurray!, we are now going to hit two birds with one stone, by holding two referenda, on the same day, on: (i) Change of system to federalism (ii) Re-instate Article a limit on the number of terms that the president of Uganda may hold office.
During the Odoki Commission Constitution making exercise, many Ugandans expressed preference for federalism as their system of choice. There was also consensus that the president of Uganda may not hold office for more than two terms. When these two important issues that had received resounding public support were subjected to a few people in the CA and the 7th Parliament, the peoples’ views were not reflected in the final documents. It is for that matter that UFA resolved to re-table the two contentious matters before the people, through a referendum, under Article 255.
I call upon Ugandans to fine tune their attitude and realize that there are many constitutional avenues available to settle contentious issues, without necessarily always awaiting the next election.
Beti Olive Kamya
Uganda Federal Alliance
0783 438 201 / 0751 590 542
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