U@50 BONANZA – FEDERALISM, TERM LIMITS, and DIASPORA VOTE, ALL IN ONE YEAR…….!
I am glad that UFA’s resolution to evoke Article 74 of the Constitution to petition the Electoral Commission to hold a referendum on federalism has generated a lot of debate, enabling us to upgrade the product (referendum) previously offered under the said Article 74. A meeting between UFA and the EC at our initiative to seek technical guidance on modalities necessary to move our resolution forward, lead to the following observations:
- Federalism is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution of Uganda, as an optional system, as some systems are mentioned, although it has been contentious in Uganda’s politics since the 1966 crisis that kicked off Uganda’s instability.
- The Constitutional process that would get federalism recognized as a political system in order to enable Article 74 is long, winding and unfriendly, passing via Article 69 of the Constitution, The Other Political System’s Act, Parliament (where UFA does not have representation) and the Referendum And Other Provisions’ Act.
- Federalism is not the only contentious matter in Uganda, “Presidential Term Limits” is equally contentious, so, we must take advantage of the impending referendum on federalism to vote on re-instatement of presidential term limits, on the same day. The Referendum and Other Provisions Act provides for multiple referenda on a single day. However, multiple referenda do not work under Article 74 because it provides for one referendum only, on “Change of Political Systems”. Multiple referenda work under Article 255 of the Constitution because it provides for referenda on “any issue”.
- Moreover, Article 74 is a lot of work, requiring 10% of registered voters from 2/3 of constituencies (i.e. 153 constituencies) as petitioners. On the other hand, Article 255 is less work, requiring petitioners to be 10% of registered voters from 1/3 of districts (i.e. 39 districts). In Uganda, there are more than 39 single constituency districts, so, compared to Article 74, Article 255 reduces the work of collecting petitioners’ signatures by four!
Based on these considerations, UFA resolved to use Article 255 which provides for “Referenda generally” to petition the EC to organize referenda on FEDERALISM & RE-INSTATEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL TERM LIMITS on the same day.
Secondly, UFA demanded that the EC organizes for the Ugandan Diaspora to vote during the forthcoming referenda and all elections. The EC responded in writing that voting of the Ugandan Diaspora 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 them, it is Govt Policy not to allow them to vote….hence, the absence of required electoral laws…..!
BUT 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 all citizens aged eighteen to vote, Article 61 provides for the mandate of the EC to facilitate that right, Article 62 provides for the independence of the EC during the discharge of their functions and Article 21 provides for equality and freedom from discrimination. If the EC willfully holds the Constitution in contempt by neglecting its duty, discriminating amongst Ugandans, subjecting its independence to the Executive and denying citizens living abroad their right to vote, it must face the law. UFA Resolved to arraign the EC before Court on the above accounts.
Beti Olive Kamya, President, Uganda Federal Alliance