Public discontent in Uganda is no longer a matter of speculation, but reality, to which several political players have responded differently: – (i) Parliament has attempted the legislative channel to block oil contracts and State House budget, censure Ministers and the Governor of Bank of Uganda, impeach the president, and now, restore terms’ limit, yet, one year in office, they have nothing to write home about. (ii) A4C have been walking for over a year to overthrow Museveni, and still walking. (iii) The Clergy have sought the pulpit, but may need a miracle as well (iv) Owekitiibwa Muliika and Bishop Nyiringiye are traversing the country, agitating against the status quo (v) Some Opposition Parties convey their frustration through press briefings and (vi) Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) is working on referenda to change the governance system and to restore terms’ limit. In the olden days of “Snow-White and the Ugly Queen” Fairy-Tale, the question would be asked “So Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?”
I love the referenda route because not only is it rooted in the constitution through Article 255 which provides for “citizens’ right to demand referenda ON ANY ISSUE”, it is also “SMART”- as in Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound, attributes globally acclaimed as basic tenets of a viable project.
UFA’s “referendum project” is Specific, it specifically seeks to replace unitary with federalism and to restore terms’ limit. It is Measurable because we need to collect 10% signatures of registered voters from 1/3 of total districts in Uganda (i.e. 37 districts) and present them as petitioners to the EC, upon which the EC MUST organize a referendum. Collecting petitioners’ signatures from just 37 districts, moreover, where one can pick districts with the least voter population makes the referendum option Achievable. If it took me two weeks to collect signatures from 113 districts to support my nomination as Presidential candidate, operating in just 37 districts is Realistic. Once the petition for a referendum is submitted to the Electoral Commission; the law specifies Timelines for each successive activity during the referendum process, within which the Electoral Commission must operate or else suffer dire constitutional repercussions.
Once the petition is delivered to the EC, the EC must verify the petitioners’ signatures within two weeks then issue a Certificate of Compliance, after which the EC has one month to declare the referendum date. The EC then has one month to cause the framing of the Referendum Question to the satisfaction of the referendum promoter(s), after which, the EC has two months of voter education, and one month to display of the Voter Register. The referendum must then be held and results declared immediately. According to Article 255(3) “the referendum results are binding on all organs and agencies of the State, and on all persons and organizations in Uganda….” – in short, once we submit the required signatures of petitioners to the Electoral Commission, the referendum process is regulated by the Referendum ACT like clockwork, or else the EC faces the wrath of the constitution.
The referendum option is free of Party Caucuses, Cabinet or Parliamentary Rules and Procedure, it is The Peoples’ Process! It has a clear beginning with specified activities, milestones, timelines, destination and output, not to mention the opportunity to traverse the country, at State expense, sensitizing Ugandans about the benefits of power devolution and term limits, plus, political party bosses cannot order the public what not to discuss. With the referendum option, Ugandans need not lose their limbs, lives and property, fighting police. They can just sit home, listen to “Yes” and “No” debates on radio and wait to vote. Yes, there will be challenges in the referendum process as there are elsewhere, but, it provides the most conclusive, safest and clearest sequence of activities to deal with the current impasse.
Beti Olive Kamya-Turwomwe
Uganda federal Alliance (UFA)