By D. Jjingo
These two positions have been and are still a very important part of the federo debate. This article tries to explore the two and their implications not only in the federalism context per se, but also on the wider question of “At what level do we determine a people’s right to choice of governance.....is it at a regional or national level?
Federalists often find themselves being accused of wanting to impose their views on others, hence the position of "those who want it". However, if the contention that all regions of Uganda actually support federalism is true, then "federo for those who want it" still wins the day, obviously because every region will want it, and we'll end up with "federalism for all". So the two positions are not entirely antagonistic. If however there are regions that genuinely don't want federalism (irrespective of whether they are making the right choice or not) at this point in time, there is no point in forcing it on them, as this would contradict the spirit of federalism which is based on each region having its preference in terms of how its local government should be structured. The important thing is to keep the doors open for such regions to turn federo when they decide to, and that is a big shift from 1962 constitution when such regions did not have the prerogative to turn federo even when they wished to. The self evident strengths of federalism offer a lot of merit to the argument that if the regions that understand the value of federalism led the way, it's hard to see the rest failing to realise its value and following suit.
Federalism for those who want it is essentially the spirit of “live and let live” which is so essential in polarizing issues like these. If I enjoy ‘matooke’, I don’t expect the majority who may prefer ‘kalo’ to dictate that we should all eat ‘kalo’ in the guise of ‘uniformity’. Equally, they should not expect me to force them into having ‘matooke’. This analogy aligns with the argument that federalists and unitarists all have the same rights, which are best met by the “those who want it position”.
Another closely related ideological question is: Who has the right to determine the mode of governance? Is it the people in a given region to choose how they wish to be governed? Is it parliament to decide for them? Or should the question be solved by a national referendum. In case of a referendum for adoption of federalism....how would the results be treated? Would it be a case of the majority in the whole country has chosen this or that system and that is what everyone will follow, or will it be a case of the majority in this region has chosen federalism and that’s what they will have, while the other region has chosen unitarism and let them have that? Which of these two treatment protocols will best meet the people’s desires?
For example not too long ago the province of Quebec in Canada had a referendum on the question of their autonomy or to put it differently on how they wanted to relate with the Canadian central government. The important thing we would draw from this is that this question was put to the people in Quebec and not to the Canadian parliament or to other Canadians in a national referendum.My humble submission, would be “federalism for those who want it”, is the best bet for engendering national consensus. This is also what the Constitutional Review Commission concluded after listening to all sides of the debate and consulting widely. Indeed, with minor differences, this is what even the “Wild Committee” in the 50’s on the eve of our independence found to be the best way forward.