| By Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi |
In my suggestion for constitutional and electoral reforms where a first runners-up in presidential elections should automatically be a Member of Parliament and Leader of Opposition, and presidents of parties represented in parliament to be specially elected MPs, readers have supported or opposed me. However, many have suggested something similar or completely different.
Prince Prof. Fredrick Golooba Mutebi, former Makerere university don now based in Rwanda, met me after the 2016 general elections and suggested a Rwanda system where all political parties are part of government and parliament.
However, as l stated in my earlier submission, the proposal for all presidential candidates, to be automatically MPs was proposed by Justice Masalu Musene when he was a member of Constituent Assembly, in 1995 borrowing from Benin, in West Africa, it was rejected. It requires a High Council that scrutinizes presidential candidates as it is the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran, so that the number remains small.
It was again rejected when Uganda chose a Multi-party system in 2005, however after 2011 elections, The Citizen’s Compact submitted to Parliament by political parties and civil society after making consultations through out the country suggested the same. Even parties represented in parliament under IPOD, gave similar proposals, and of late was the Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ochan who wanted any presidential candidate with not less than 10 percent of the votes, to be an ex officio MP.
Critiques have confused my suggestion with a power sharing arrangement, government of national unity, coalition government and collective presidency. Power sharing is completely ruled out because NRM overwhelmingly won presidential, parliamentary and local government elections and there is no need for power sharing. NRM has a majority number in parliament and local government councils and any legislation can be passed. So, there is no need for kneeling before opposition for support.
President Museveni made it categorical in 2011 that he would share power with FDC when DR. Kizza Besigye was attempting a walk to work dreaming of an Arab spring that never happened in Tropical Africa. I was the one that asked the President in a press conference at Rwakitura why he would share power with Opposition and he ruled it out saying that NRM won overwhelmingly presidential, parliamentary and local government elections and could not share power. It was live on radio and TV.
Besigye through some members of the National Council of Elders, again suggested it and when the President rejected it, then Besigye declared himself the winner, and decided to swear himself President in a mock ceremony at his home at Kasangati. However, that marked his political demise and thus he wasn’t on ballot paper this time.
A government of national unity could come if there is a stalemate and if there is a national crisis or disaster and hence uncalled for now because even on fighting Covid-19, we are not doing badly despite corruption in Office of Prime Minister.
A coalition government is uncalled for as there is a party that is enjoying majority. We had a UPC-KY alliance in 1962 because neither DP nor UPC could form government without support of Kabaka-Yekka.
However, some parties may choose to cooperate like UPC which is in alliance with NRM in Lango sub region to do not front presidential candidates, CP does the same with FDC and JEEMA with NUP. Even the President appointed some individuals from Opposition parties; Betty Amongi (UPC), Beti Kamya (Uganda Federal Alliance), Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi (DP) to serve in his government. All except Amongi, eventually, switched to NRM. All, again except Amongi, lost in 2021 elections.
While watching Akabbinkano Extra on Bukedde TV last Tuesday January 26th, moderated by a veteran journalist, John Weeraga, he suggested that Uganda should have a unity government which in Luganda, he called “Gavumentie y’ekipooli.” An NRM Historical and lawyer, Mzee Israel Mayengo, corrected him saying that “Gavumentie y’ekipooli” means unitary government as opposed to a federal form of government. The lawyer was correct. (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=akabinkano+ku+bukkedde+tv+latest)
However, the lawyer, for a long time had been suggesting a collective presidency that no region dominates the post and office of the President. This time, he suggested a constitutional review commission, without mentioning of a similar constitution review commission set up in 2001 under Prof. Fred Sempebwa that recommended for a multi-party dispensation. Government had also, at the beginning of this term promised to set up a constitutional review commission, but the then Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Maj.Gen. KahindaOtafiire never did it.
One of the callers, called for a first run up in presidential elections, to be a Leader of Opposition in Parliament. Mayengo and another lawyer, Luyimbazi Nalukoola, who was also on the talk show, said that, that required a constitutional amendment.
However, Nalukoola went further and said that it would have been easy if Uganda was still under a parliamentary system where a leader with majority seats could form government and another leads Opposition. He however emphasized that it was not automatic, – if it was so, then Ben Kiwanuka, DP President General, would have been Leader of Opposition in 1962 but he could not because he was not an MP.
Proportional representation as proposed by Dr. Paul Ssemwogerere to Odoki Report in 1991, where he said that despite massive rigging in 1980 elections, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, as a UPM Presidential Candidate could be one of the Opposition MPs, can work even under a presidential system, so long as it is accommodated in the constitution.
The other innovation can be borrowed from the French system as suggested by Uganda’s former Ambassador to France and UNESCO Eng. Winnie Byanyima, when she was a C.A. Delegate for Mbarara Municipality. She wanted a directly elected President who shares executive powers with a Prime Minister. The latter could form government but subject to the approval of the former.
In many Franco-phone countries, there are no parties with absolute majority, the leader second party in parliament is appointed a Prime Minister, and hence a coalition government.
Byanyima’s proposal did not go far as one of the army representatives, then Maj. Gen. David Sejusa, amended it to a return to a 1962 scenario with a ceremonial president and an executive Prime Minister, and that was rejected.
Mayengo also, like Arch Bishop of Kampala Arch Diocese, Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Katikkiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga, Presidential Advisor on Buganda Affairs, Robert Ssebunya, called for a federal form of government. But as Senior Presidential Advisor on Special Deities, David Mafabi asked, why not operationalizing regional governments first whose provisions are already in the constitution? Food for thought.
Since the President said that he could talk to his opponents and reconcile with them as he has done in the past so long as they don’t use threats, violence and stealing votes, there is a need for constructive engagement.
Haji Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi the author is a veteran journalist.