The merits of federalism
Concerns against a Return to Unrestricted Operation of Political Parties
Recommendations on Political Parties
Finances of Political Parties
Conduct of Campaigns
Duties of Political Parties
Some supporters of the federal arrangement argue that it is the ideal arrangement for Uganda. They say the unitary system has been discredited by Uganda’s experience from 1967 to date. A range of attributes are claimed by various supporters, including that a federal form of government:
(a) encourages local initiative and participation in development, while the unitary arrangement suppresses both;
(b) stimulates healthy competition between different areas of the country, encouraging each area to strive for self-reliance and development while the unitary system encourages unnecessary jealousies and antagonisms and uncalled for dependence of some parts of the country on others;
(c) provides a check on the powers and activities of the central government and thus makes it difficult for dictatorship and tyranny to emerge while in the Uganda experience, unitary government has become synonymous with dictatorship and tyranny;
(d) enhances peace, understanding and harmony as it strives to achieve unity in diversity by preserving the traditions and cultures of each area and is flexible enough to allow local choice of a suitable system of government while unitary arrangements tend to suppress or ignore the real diversity of the country in the attempt to enforce artificial unity;
(e) provides alternative centres of political power and so alternative political positions to local politicians with leadership ambitions, who otherwise would be striving for jobs and positions at the centre, and so it thereby reduces negative competition and consequent tensions;
(f) minimises corruption, bureaucracy and inefficiency in government as services are brought nearer to the people, who are able to exercise direct control and supervision, which they are unable to do under a unitary system; and
(g) has demonstrated its practicality in this country because it worked well for those areas which had the federal relationship under the 1962 constitution while the unitary arrangement has proved a nightmare for them.
Arising from 25 years of centralisation, the people have emphasised a number of basic principles which should form the basis for decisions on the form of government. These matters are discussed in detail in Chapter Eighteen (Local Government), and need only to be summarized here. People agree that the form of government chosen should:
(a) give the people full opportunities to participate in making decision about matters that affect them, through participation directly and through elections to offices in local councils;
(b) bring power and services closer to the people so that they can manage their own affairs;
(c) reject any system of appointments to local political offices by the centre;
(d) ensure strong local institutions which can act as a check on the central government and allow local governments to have such names, structures and other features that they feel can keep their ethnic identity;
(e) ensure local control over matters of local concern by giving local authorities at all levels the power to make and implement policies and laws on matters relevant to them;
(f) ensure that local authorities exercise control over financial resources and personnel to be able to fulfill their obligations effectively; and
(g) reduce tensions between different parts of Uganda by reducing imbalances in development between them.
8.37 There is a range of concerns expressed in the views of the people about the possible return to a system where the operations of political parties are no longer restricted as they are under the movement system operating since 1986.
Parties are seen as having performed badly in the past and as having shown little willingness to change in any fundamental way:
8.38 The views of the people indicate that the major institutions seen as performing badly in the post-independence era have included political parties, especially the party in power, the conduct of which has often created great confusion, which in turn has given rise to dictatorship and oppression of the people. Members of opposition parties crossed the floor of Parliament to join the party in government, thus betraying the trust of the electorate had placed in them. In 1962 the leaders of Kabaka Yekka (KY) made an alliance of convenience with the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) enabling the latter to capture power. Having done so it was unable to prevent the development of an effective dictatorship by the party it had assisted to power. Between 1980 and July 1985, the UPC either ignored or harassed political opposition. The views from the people have included many suggestions directed towards controlling dictatorial tendencies of the presidency and indiscipline of the Army. People seem to have much hope that these two institutions will be "domesticated" under the new Constitution, giving rise to fundamental change. But in the minds of many people, there is continuing fear that the political parties are unwilling to make a fundamental change. The representatives suggest that parties seem to have learnt nothing and to remember nothing. There is, therefore, a legitimate fear and concern that political parties may refuse the call of the people for critical self-examination and fundamental change in the interests of development of true democracy and nation-building.
Parties are seen as divisive, using and exploiting religious, ethnic and regional differences. They therefore tend to militate against national unity and nation building processes:
8.39 As discussed in more detail in section three of this chapter, the origins of the allegiances of people to the main political parties in Uganda can be traced to the religious allegiances formed during the 1880s and 1890s. They were then allegiances involving the aim of total elimination of rivals. Only when this failed was coexistence of religions reluctantly accepted, but not without some groups being politically marginalised. During the 1950s, as politico-religious allegiances tended to be mirrored in party allegiances, there was a resurgence of past animosities. Political murders and assassinations took place. People were persecuted and had their properties destroyed by supporters of rival parties. Before independence the country was thrown in turmoil, and after it the party in power continued to victimise and marginalise others forcing many to flee into exile. By 1971 the Amin regime massacred, initially in Lango and Acholi but later more widely. It was then the turn of the UPC supporters to flee into exile, soon to be followed by many others. With the UPC in power for the second time (1980 to 1985) it was again the turn of the leaders of other parties to be imprisoned or forced into exile. It has been mainly this vicious circle of suffering and reversals of fortune for party supporters and leaders which has made national unity and nation-formation mere illusions in Uganda.
There is a tendency for parties to marginalise ordinary people, especially women, who may be manipulated by self-interested members of the political elite:
8.40 Even in the countries of Western Europe and in other so-called “Western democracies”, political parties have been instruments in the power struggles of the political elite. Ordinary people are often important to parties only when casting their votes every three or four years. Party politics have not given rise to full participatory democracy. Decisions which concern local people are often made at party headquarters in capital cities. Even choices of party candidates are not necessarily made by party members in the locality concerned. Parties everywhere have tended to usurp people’s rights to take initiatives and think for themselves. To whatever is happening in the country, the tendency is to ask party leaders what to do and how to react to the situation. Many electors in “liberal democracies” habitually vote for “their” party regardless of the issues at stake or the suitability of the candidates. Because of the basis of long standing allegiances they are psychologically unable to do otherwise. (It is such behaviour which, in 1908, led Wallas to describe a party as “an entity with existence in the memory and emotions of the electorate, independent of their opinions and action”). In the past, the political elite in Uganda have failed to address the real needs of the people. In the main, they have been guided by self-interest, often amounting to self-enrichment. This helps to explain why many of them have been able to change allegiance once elected, in order to join the “eating” party.
Through the methods they use to consolidate support (patronage and nepotism), parties polarize the populace, and fail to make full use of the most talented people for the advancement of the country as a whole:
8.41 From the 1960s onwards, the party in power sought to consolidate its position not through popular electoral support but by rewarding its political supporters through making numerous political appointments in the civil service, parastatal bodies, national commissions, foreign service and large companies. Even members of local governments (district and urban governing bodies) were often appointed by a national minister. Promotions in virtually every arm of government (the Army, police, civil service and so on) depended on sympathy to the party in power. In the situation of conflict at the time, and in the extended period without elections, this patronage became essential for maintaining support for and “legitimacy” of the government. This was true not only of party regimes but also of the various military regimes. But one of the terrible consequences of building of a political system based on patronage rather than popular electoral support was that many people of talent, professionalism and integrity were by-passed because their sympathies were suspected by those in power. Those unfit for jobs took the most important positions, while many who could have assisted the country develop, languished on the sidelines. Much of the corruption and under-development experienced since the early 1960s can be ascribed to this discriminatory system.
Concerns about the destabilising and disruptive effects of the ways in which party conflicts have often been conducted:
8.42 The party in power in Uganda has always feared opposition parties, and used whatever means available to undermine them. Opposition leaders have been imprisoned as saboteurs, plotters against the government and traitors. On the other hand some of the opposition parties have tended to follow any course available to bring down the government and capture power themselves. They cultivate the fears of the ethnic, regional and religious forces which might be at odds with the government, and seek to exploit every other government weakness in efforts to appeal to the people to lose all confidence in the government and thus bring it down. It is therefore natural for each to regard the other as an implacable foe. This “game” is played in many countries of the “West” according to long established and accepted rules. (In England, the opposition parties can be accurately described – as they often are – as the Queen’s “loyal opposition”). But when played in Uganda, at the very infancy of parties, the “game” becomes something quite different. Not only can it often confuse the people, but it can make democratic governance almost impossible to maintain. What has tended to happen is the very opposite of a multi-party system; instead, opposition parties are gradually eliminated and there is a steady movement towards an effective dictatorship of a one-party system.
Parties in Uganda have no clear socio-economic basis for formulating alternative ideologies which are not so much divisive as providing competitive models or visions of development for the nation:
8.43 In many countries of the “West”, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the major parties emerged as champions of distinct economic interests. In many cases, labour parties developed to foster the rights of and interests of the poor, especially workers, while conservative parties tended to speak for the wealthy, especially employers and the old landowning aristocracy. In the United States, the origins of the Republican and Democratic parties were different, and sprang from separate interests – both geographical (the North/South divide) and economic (industrialists and agriculturists). But study of the manifestos of Uganda’s political parties reveals no major differences in their socio-economic agendas; none of them stands for a clearly distinctive approach to the organisation of society. This lack of clear policy differences highlights the origins of party allegiances discussed above, and helps to explain why it has continued to be difficult for the parties to get supporters other than by exploiting religious and tribal feelings and tensions. Hence parties have continued to utilise issues which have nothing to or little to do with liberative ideology and development in order to mobilise cheap mass support.
The concern that an immediate and full operation of multi-parties would negatively affect the existing cooperation of members of various parties working together under a national movement:
8.44 People have been able top compare the performance of political parties with that of the movement system operating since 1986. Many have found several positive elements in the latter not observed in the former. This evaluation has been based mainly on performance in relation to building national unity, encouraging return of exiles from diverse groups, conducting free and fair elections without victimisation, defining a common and consistent programme and development of participatory democracy freely involving all people. Many people have hailed the NRM government in power since 1986 for the initial steps taken to make senior government appointments on the basis of talent. The experience of seven years of the current government’s successive cabinets comprising members of the DP, UPC, CP and former Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) working together under one leadership has tended to impress people, because it indicates that despite the chaos of the past, it is possible for various groups in Uganda to co-operate within a single democratic political system without feeling the need to take control of it for the benefit of any single group.
The freedoms of assembly and association are guaranteed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a number of other covenants and conventions to which Uganda is a party. Freedom of association cannot be effective without a right to associate in political parties:
8.56 The proponents of this principle are of the view that a fundamental right cannot be curtailed or modified by any government or even by the people as a whole. Human rights, they correctly argue, are not given by government or people but they are inherent in all human beings. They are only protected and promoted by society. Under this view, even a popular universal referendum has no power to decide on the abridgement of the freedom of association and assembly. Some do not go as far as that. They simply argue that the freedoms of association and assembly are constitutive of democracy. Without them democracy is made a mockery. They are, however, aware that human rights can be curtailed if the situation so warrants but only for the common good. They would even allow the sovereignty of the people to decide on the issue through a free and fair national referendum.
Any democratic government should be based on the consent of the governed, which can best be obtained through making available to the people free choices among organised political parties:
8.57 The healthy competition involved in political parties offering alternatives to people to choose from is seen as basic to democracy. In modern societies not every individual is able to analyse society and its trends on his or her own. People need political parties to keep them informed, to point out where the party in government is erring and to alert them whenever their rights and freedoms are tampered with by the forces of government. The essence of democracy, in this view, involves a free choice between several clear alternative political programmes presented to the electorate. This outcome can only be achieved by organised political parties which have the support of the people to provide an alternative government in case of the failure or defeat of the ruling party or coalition.
Differences between parties are not so much divisive as the essence of democracy:
8.58 Those who support this view argue that by their participation in competition for power, political parties provide alternatives to the people in terms of ideology and leadership, thus putting pressure on the government of the day to be accountable and responsive. They are therefore effective guarantors of democracy and human rights and operate as a protection against dictatorship. This argument is given support in a number of memos that point out that even when elements of the dictatorship of the ruling party in Uganda (1966–71, 1980–85) were suppressing people’s rights, the opposition parties kept the world informed of the atrocities committed by government. Many supporters of these parties organised both peaceful and subversive activities to bring the dictatorship to an end. The fact that political parties divide people into competing camps should not be seen as undemocratic provided such groups act constitutionally and within the law. Once a movement system develops into a dictatorship without the effective checks of the people organised under parties, the individual citizens will have no focal point to resist it and restore democracy.
The abuse of power by one ruling party should never lead to the conclusion that political parties are undesirable:
8.59 Many people have argued that an abuse of something positive and valuable like democracy should never lead the country to outlaw the value itself. The political party in power between 1962 and 1971 and between 1980 and 1985 abused its power and caused immense suffering. At the same time the institutions of the Presidency and the Army have in the past grossly abused their powers. If political parties were to be outlawed because of the tyrannical rule of one party, it would logically follow that the institutions of the Presidency and the Army should also be outlawed. Since, however, the last two institutions can be radically improved upon and fully contained in the new Constitution, the institution of political parties can also be reshaped, regulated and fully contained in the same way [emphasis is my own].
The culture of political parties takes time to take root in people’s mentality and to be fully utilised for the good of all and for the defense of democracy:
8.60 Many people have argued strongly that the short periods (1962–1969 and 1980–1985) in which political parties operated and often in abnormal circumstances of a rather intolerant party in power, are not at all sufficient ground for judging the value and positive contribution of political parties. In Europe and elsewhere parties have taken over a century to be fully appreciated and to be seen as an integral part of democracy. The same process must be allowed to take place in Uganda. There is no short cut to this evolutionary growth to the political maturity of pluralism. To argue, as some have done that let Uganda first achieve political maturity and then introduce party-politics is in fact to delay the day of that maturity. Political pluralism is only achieved when it is practiced under the direction of the law but not when it is simply taught theoretically. The views point out that law-enforcing institutions shared much of the blame for failure to control and discipline unruly party agitators who acted unlawfully and disrupted the rule of law in the country. They argue that it is the “marriage” between the ruling party or any other party with the law-enforcing institutions which is most likely to cause unnecessary tensions and pave the way to tyranny.
A multi-party system is more likely than any other to bring development through competition to produce the best programmes for the future:
8.61 Where every political party is motivated to be elected to government, either alone or in coalition, each one has the incentive to be developmental, to champion people’s causes and to make development happen in the areas it controls at local levels and to show the electorate, through examples, what it can do if elected to government.
The following aspects on political party establishment procedures and operations should be regulated by a law in accordance with principles laid down in the Constitution.
(a) Any organisation which operates as a political party should be duly recognized and registered as a political party by the Electoral Commission or such other independent body as should be established for the purpose of conducting elections.
(b) Prior to registration, a political party should furnish the Electoral Commission with a copy of its constitution and manifesto together with the names of its national officers or leaders and:
(i) Its constitution should clearly show its commitment to the respect and defence of the national Constitution, independence, sovereignty of the people, supremacy of Parliament, principles of democracy, respect for human rights and democratic governance in its internal organisation.
(ii) Most of the party’s founding members should be ordinarily resident in Uganda and all should be citizens of Uganda.
(iii) The party’s leaders and members should not be of one tribe or religion.
(iv) The party should have organised branches in at least two thirds of the districts of Uganda.
(v) The party’s name, emblem, motto or any other symbol should have no sectarian connotation and should not convey the impression that the party’s activities are confined to only one part of Uganda or to one section of the people.
(vi) Party members should have a right to seek redress for grievances, discrimination or oppression within the party by reference to special organs of the party or the ordinary courts of law.
(vii) All political parties should have their headquarters in the national capital, Kampala.
(c) A party’s leader and all members of its national executive should be persons who qualify to be elected as members of Parliament or eligible for other public office under the constitution.
(d) The executive committee and any other party organ of any political party at the national, district and lower levels should be democratically elected at regular intervals not exceeding five years.
(e) The local branches of every political party should have their autonomy respected so as to enhance participatory democracy.
(f) All Ugandans who are eligible to vote may become members of a political party of their own choice.
(g) A member of the Public Service or Armed Forces should not be a member of a political party but may resign from the Public Service or the Armed Forces to contest as a candidate on a party ticket.
(h) A prospective political party whose application for registration has been rejected by the Electoral Commission may appeal to the High Court before three judges whose decision should be final.
(i) A political party should renew its registration within three months from the date of general elections and failure to renew should result in forfeiture of the right to continue to operate as a political party.
(a) Within thirty days after registration, every political party should submit to the Electoral Commission a statement of its assets and liabilities as of the date of registration.
(b) Within three months, or ninety days, of the commencement of each year, a registered political party should submit to the Electoral Commission a statement of its accounts, covering the period from 1 January to 31 December of the previous year, audited by an auditor approved by the Electoral Commission.
(c) The Electoral Commission should give instructions to political parties regarding the books or records of financial transactions which they should keep. The Electoral Commission should examine all such books or records on a regular basis.
(d) The Electoral Commission should submit to Parliament, a yearly report on the accounts and balance sheet of every registered political party.
(e) Any citizen of Uganda should be entitled, on payment of a fee prescribed by the Electoral Commission, to inspect or be given copies of the audited accounts of any political party filed with the Commission.
(f) Each and every political party which takes part in elections should submit to the Electoral Commission an account of its election expenses audited by an auditor approved by the Commission. This should be done irrespective of the political party’s performance in the recent elections.
(a) It should be the duty of the State to provide equal opportunity to all political parties to present their programmes to the public by ensuring equal access to State-owned media of mass communication.
(b) A common platform should be encouraged for all candidates in a constituency to present themselves and their programmes to the electorate and to respond to questions.
(c) All political parties should be entitled to equal treatment by all public authorities.
(d) Parliament should furnish the Electoral Commission, the public and the political parties with a Code of Conduct to be followed in campaigns and elections.
(e) Individual members of political parties and political parties as institutions which do not follow the Code of Conduct should be strictly dealt with according to the law. [I should add such practices, as the Museveni faction of the Movement disclosed in the presidential elections 2001 should be immediately disqualified]].
(f) Parliament should enact a law providing guidelines on election procedures, donations, financial and other contributions to political parties and set limits if necessary.
(g) Political parties which violate the Constitution, destroy the peace of the nation and act against the rule of law should be proscribed in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the country.
(a) Political parties should educate their members on the Constitution and the rights and obligations of citizens and how to defend them.
(b) Political parties should do all in their power to see to it that there is no breach of the peace or any other illegal act committed by their supporters during election campaigns and at all other times.
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19.4 Throughout the colonial period, the traditional rulers, played an important role in the politics of the country, the creation of law and order and in the struggle for independence. Ever since 1967 when the institution of traditional rulers was unilaterally abolished, it continued, in certain parts of the country, and more especially in Buganda, to be loved, recognised and respected by the people.
19.5 As many of people’s views expressed, the institution of traditional rulers is essentially an issue of fundamental human right to culture and unity in diversity. Since people fully wanted the new Constitution to be based on fundamental human rights, the institution of traditional rulers had to be seriously reviewed from this important perspective.