| By Hajji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi |
There is a call for doing away with the current presidential direct elections in favor of a Westminster model where a party with majority seats in parliament forms government.
The call has been made by a section of some NRM leaders after last week’s presidential elections fearing that without President Museveni, no other leader inside NRM camp has the charisma to win a direct election as a presidential candidate.
According to them, even in Opposition, National Unity Platform Party (NUP) could not get the 61 seats it got almost in the strategic Buganda Region without the charisma of Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
Hence, the call for a return to a Westminster system we inherited at independence in 1962, which was abused by Obote in 1966, 1980 and sparked off the five-year bush war in Luwero Triangle from 1981 to 1986, spear headed by now President Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta, which liberated the country.
This is not the first time leaders have called a retreat to Westminster. They first raised it in 2001 elections as the Constitutional Review Commission chaired by Prof. Fred Sempebwa was soliciting for views from Ugandans.
These leaders led by the then Minister of Local Government, Jabberi Bidandi Ssali, now Founder and President of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) were with the view that instead of removing presidential term limits from the constitution, Uganda would have opted to return to a Westminster system with a President as a ceremonial Head of State , Head of Government , Commander In Chief and Fountain of Honor elected by Parliament and an Executive Prime Minister as Head of Government elected by the party with majority seats in Parliament.
That is what Sir Edward Muteesa was as President and Dr. Milton Obote as Prime Minister and as a result of a power struggle, the former was deposed by the latter in 1966 crisis and the latter was also deposed by the Chief of Defence Forces, then, Maj. Gen. Idi Amin in 1971 coup.
According to Bidandi and his followers, the then Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, had successfully done so, after 10 years as an executive President, he changed to an executive Prime Minister and Parliament elected a ceremonial president.
President Viladmir Putin of Russia had also done the same and he later bounced back President. Putin was barred from a third consecutive term by the Constitution. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was elected his successor. In a power-switching when the former became President and the latter Prime Minister. Thereafter Putin bounced back.
However, like in the Odoki Report and Draft 1993, Sempebwa Report recommended for retention of a directly elected President but it also recommended for the removal of presidential term limits although the chairperson Prof. Fred Sempebwa, personally had a minority report against it.
According to NRM 10 point program which were revised to 15, NRM believes in popular democracy, parliamentary democracy and a descent living.
Popular democracy is popular participation through Resistance Councils/Committees that were started during the bush war in Luwero Triangle in 1983, which are now local Government Councils and Committees. Parliamentary democracy was through the National Resistance Council chaired by the then Third NRM Vice Chairperson Al Haji Moses Kigongo, which became an interim parliament in 1986 including ministers from other political parties like Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere of DP, Mayanja Nkangi of CP among others, and this was expanded in 1989 to have country representatives, district women representatives, NRA now UPDF representatives, and workers ‘representatives. After promulgation of 1995 constitution, people with disability were given chance of representation and now elderly.
However, the 1995 constitution is a hybrid of a presidential and parliamentary system where both president and parliament are directly elected and presidential appointments are subject to parliament’s approval.
Uganda is used and proud of directly electing their president and MPs and Local Government Council leaders, and any attempt to disenfranchise them for the benefit of an individual or a group of a few individuals will be watering down their sovereignty and popular participation.
At the peak of Jennifer Musisi autocracy at Kampala Capital City Authority, there was a call for a ceremonial Lord Mayor elected from City Division Mayors, by KCCA Council acting as an electoral college, but the citizens of Kampala rejected it.
By now, devolution of power to regions in accordance with the 1995 constitution as amended in 2005, would have been in place had Parliament not chosen to sit on the Regional Government Bill 2006 that has never been debated. This seeks to operational Article 178 of the Constitution which provides for Regional Governments.
Under the constitution and in the bill, Regional Chairpersons and Regional Assemblies shall be directly elected. However, in regions where there are institutions of traditional leaders, a quarter of the assembly shall be nominated by the traditional leader to cater for traditional and cultural interests. However, Mengo, under the then Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyammuli Ssemwogerere, which had participated in the talks for regional governments, later turned against them fearing a democratic government at Bulange.
The Mengo clique is heard as saying that the Regional Premier should be elected by Lukiiko acting as an electoral college. That was the case in 1962 when the President
and the Prime Minister were elected by Parliament. But now all leaders with executive authority including LC I Chairpersons, are directly elected, and hence the Regional Premier has to be directly elected if he is to exercise political power.
So, any call for a return to a Westminster system is retrogressive and reactionary because we move forward and not backward. With our history where foreign powers and enemy countries always want to impose on us their puppets, now that we have discovered oil, some Judeo-Anglo-Americans, or even some hostile neighbors can bank roll a preliminary caucus of a ruling party to choose its preferred choice or remove an independent minded, patriotic and pan Africanist. It is difficult for a foreign power to remove a leader that is directed elected by the people.
Hajji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, the writer, is a veteran journalist.