Metaphorically speaking a constitution of a country is the soul of its members individually and statewise. Its dictionary meaning is, that anything: quality, property, which gives life and energy to anything.
A good constitution will be reflected through whatever is done, and in whatever kind of life it is in that country. Give the country a wicked and muddled up constitution and the people under it will suffer wickedness, corruption, degradation etc.
For the constitution to be the soul of the country, it must express the will of the people of that country objectively and justly, because consideration must be given to the claims of every party concerned.
The making of a constitution is a sacrosanct undertaking. It is based upon the spirit of compromise, that of give and take, to all concerned. If this spirit is lacking, there cannot be a constitution because each one will stick to each one's individual rights and not to the rights of others, and hence there will be no agreement reached. And a lasting agreement is the fruit of frank discussion at the table of constitution-making. Therefore, to sit together and make a constitution calls for mature and developed attitudes, capable of discerning the issues at stake.
Constitutions are not made in a vacuum; they are geared to a great purpose of bringing unanimity where confusion would have been the order of the day, among people of different background, but who must otherwise find a solution to their differences for the good of living together. This agreement to live together would be:
(a) In a system of amalgamated unity, usually known as the Unitary system of Government, which means a system whereby people forget, or try to forget their heritage and traditions and live up to a new pattern of live of imposed sameness: in language, customs and traditions, when I Omukoki, cannot call my children by that designation of Abakoki, when I do so I am punished for it - a surface of inner dishonesty, or
(b) In a system of retaining their basic heritage and traditions under their separate local governments, with a new superstructure to be known as the Central Government of all Ugandans with powers in respect of such things as Defence, International Trade; Higher Education; Highway Communication; the Barter Trade, etc.
The above system, which allows two kinds of governments to run concurrently together with separate powers by the different governments, is what is called the Federal form of government.
These choices should normally be free choices by the people themselves, but unfortunately, in history we find that many a leader with dominant personalities have imposed their wills upon the people by making constitutions for them: the Napoleons; the Bismarcks; the Mussolinis; the Obotes; etc.
As it is well-known before the coming of the colonialists, Uganda was not one country but several countries.
After the coming of the British Colonialists, Uganda was not one country either but several countries under a federal form of government by the British.
After independence Uganda had a semi-federal form of constitution with one area and several other areas with quasi federal constitutions.
But during the colonial time, under a foreign power, and during the first five years of independence, under the first Obote's regime, when the country was ruled under a partly federal form of government, Uganda was very stable indeed, peaceful and developing.
Unfortunately, in 1966 when Obote seized complete power over Uganda he had first to use the army in order to abrogate the agreed Constitution by all the Ugandans. He replaced that Constitution with his Black Book Constitution of 1967. Therefore, to the rest of Ugandans, Obote's Constitution of 1967 is an ultra vires document, which they loathe so much that even many of the people who went to the bush to fight against Obote were to a great extent prompted by this reason of Obote having abrogated the agreed Constitution.
Ever since then, Obote became mad for power for himself. The whole of the government rule became haywire, and ruler after ruler in Uganda lost control in the mist of obscure forms of government. Hence the gross mis-government which ruined the country.
Systems of government are much like systems of mechanical powers. If scientists apply wrong systems of power, they will never get to the moon; if politicians apply wrong systems of government, they will never rule the country well. Greedy politicians have chosen unitary forms of governments to satisfy their ambitions of power in Africa and in the process they have ruined their countries. What is wrong with unitary forms of government, we may ask?
Evils of Unitary Form of Government
Let me try to enumerate the evils of a unitary form of government:
1. The man in power at the top aims at controlling the reigns of government by himself. Hence the dictatorships. All dictatorships have been through unitary forms of government, and there have been very few heads of unitary governments who have not been dictators here in Africa.
2. Single-shared power soon leads to corruption. I need not elaborate on this; modern Uganda history is enough to show this.
3. In unitary forms of government, there is always insecurity of tenure because no one feels safe in one's job, which makes the officers of government behave like robbers of the funds entrusted to them without anyone checking the other, so that when they are pushed out, they have collected something into their coffers.
4. Power vested in one person soon leads to envies and inner struggles causing coup d'etat.
5. Coups d'etat cause insecurity and bloodshed.
6. A one-man power show soon leads to war against one's neighbours, e.g. Idi Amin, Hitler, Mussolini, Khomeini, etc.
7. In most unitary forms of government the leader on top of the government is always the one who personally controls the public funds with all the attendant evils.
It would be a truism to say that since Obote abrogated the Uganda Constitution of 1962, the agreed Constitution for independence of all Ugandans, Uganda has suffered all the above evils.
Why a Federal Government for Uganda
In this respect we have to learn from the American system of Federal Government. Here in Uganda we do not know where sovereignty lies, or to put it bluntly, who holds the power in Uganda? All of us seem to think that it is the President of Uganda, who holds the final power of the country. This thinking causes the muddle in our country, as we imagine that the person who sits on the chair of state is the one who holds our destiny and, therefore, we let him act as he likes without any restraint from the people. The truth is that, that person is the Chief Servant of the people.
The American discovered the secret that:
1. Sovereignty (the power that rules the country) lies not in Government of individual states, but in the people themselves.
2. The sovereign people can delegate the basic powers of sovereignty to any Government or Governments as they wish.
3. If sovereignty resides in the people, the state governments can never lose their sovereignty, because they never possessed it.
4. The people can divide up those powers in anyway they see fit, delegating some to one level of government and others to another while retaining still others in their own hands.
5. The federal government is the more workable form of government in the world than the unitary because of the shared powers and shared experiences.
6. Today, countries which have federal forms of government are leading in the world, especially from the economic point of view: to take a few examples: USA, USSR, Germany, Switzerland (tiny but more sound) etc.
What a Relief
If we can get this form of government, what a relief it would be not only to Uganda, but to the whole Africa - all the coups d'etat would have gone because no man would be allowed to come to power by force of arms anymore and hence all the insecurity we have been suffering from would have come to an end.