Advocacy for Federalism in Uganda
January 31, 2001
Mr. Aggrey Awori
Col. (rtd) Dr. Kizza Besigye
Mr. Francis Bwengye
Mr. Chaapa Karuhanga
Mr. Mohammed Kibirige Mayanja
H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Ref. Federalism is not such a divisive issueGentlemen,
Since the Presidential campaigns began, we have read contradicting statements on federalism from some of you. At first, we were delighted that all of you had finally recognised the merits of federalism as a form of governance for Uganda. During the initial stages of your campaign you promised that you will revisit the issue of federalism, and listen to, and address federalism demands in the context of all of Uganda, not just of Buganda.Recently, we have been dismayed by comments made by some of you. Even before the votes are counted, some of you are already backtracking from your promises. We were particularly saddened by comments made by President Museveni to the effect that demands for federalism are divisive and restricted to Buganda and to some extent the Muslims. Such remarks are sectarian and divisive, with the sole purpose of dividing Ugandans into two camps: 'Us' versus 'Them'. We believe that such remarks are not only designed to promote sectarian biases, but also to marginalise legitimate federalist views, and stifle debate even before it starts.
We believe it is time for Ugandans to get an opportunity to meaningfully shape their economic destinies in a nation that at the same time honours our diversity in cultures and political history. Such reforms require giving serious consideration to federalism as an alternative to the failed tendencies of unitarism. We are prepared to engage fellow Ugandans in an open and inclusive dialogue on the merits of a federal system in Uganda.We realise, like you do, that the Constitution is a legal and political document that can be revamped to ensure a stable and prosperous future for our nation. We believe this can only be accomplished through federalism. Consequently, we urge you to formulate a strategy for translating your federal views into action, either now or shortly after the elections. In the meantime, we request that you continue to generate public interest in reforming our national institutions but also in the broader effort to stimulate renewed citizen engagement in the national political process, through the adoption of federalism as a viable alternative to the centralised model in Uganda. Accordingly, as you canvass for votes, we urge you to:
Educate the population: It has been alleged that most Ugandans are ignorant of what their constitution says on federalism. As you move across the length and breadth of Uganda, you should endeavour to educate them on the merits of other forms of governance, particularly federalism, which you have all committed to revisit in the days after the election. We, federalists will do our part in articulating not only the merits of federalism, but on the kind of federalism we want for Uganda.Reach out and across: Governance reforms must not only address democratic deficiencies in Uganda, but also promote citizen involvement in the political process. We urge you to reach out to all regions and groups within Uganda that feel marginalised by the centre. Multi-party leaders, their members and interest groups of every viewpoint must be welcomed into the federalist debate within Uganda. Divergent political beliefs must be bridged to find a common commitment to political and governance reforms in Uganda. As federalists, we urge you to work with those you may despise and disagree with for the sake of Uganda's future.
Ensure political legitimacy: Your efforts must be genuine and honest attempts to improve governance beyond the March 06, elections. We urge you to refrain from making sectarian and biased statements on federalism. Such statements are meant to manipulate voters for narrow political gains at the expense of national consensus. Federalist demands are legitimate and will continue to exist in Uganda. Such demands are not meant to divide Ugandans, but rather they are meant to unite them in the search for governance and democratic reforms. It would be tragic if in the heat of the campaign, you were to send confusing messages disparaging federalism, by manipulating certain groups of voters over others. Such tactics are likely to leave Ugandans more divided and cynical about the political process.Be transparent: We urge you to engage other leaders openly. You have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership. We remind you that the depth and breadth of reform efforts, particularly their relevance in rejuvenating Uganda, demand meaningful involvement by all stakeholders. As a beginning, we urge you to share with Ugandans more details on federalism beyond that which you have expressed in your campaign rallies and manifestos. Ugandans from all walks of life and shades of political opinion have useful contributions to make in making their country work better. As you hit the midway of your campaigns, we urge you to bring them in and refrain from fanning sectarian fires.
None of you individually or collectively can change the past, but you can change Uganda's future for the better. We remain steadfast that once Uganda's governance shortcomings are addressed through federalism, Uganda's true potential will be unleashed, since federalism will bring Ugandans into closer touch with their own government(s).Finally, we urge you to recommit yourselves towards federalism in Uganda, by clarifying any statements to the contrary.
Yours sincerely,(Signature) (Signature)
Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, DP President
Mzee Boniface Byanyima, DP Chairman
Prof. Frederick W. Juuko, TFM, Kampala
Mr. Mulwanyamuli Ssemogerere, Katikkiro of Buganda, Mmengo
Mr. Rwashid Kazairwe, Bunyoro-Kitara, Hoima
Mr. Charles Onyango-Obbo, Editor, The Monitor, Kampala
Mr. Andrew Pike, Chairman, New Vision, Kampala
Mr. Gehard Schröder, German Chancellor, Berlin
Mr. Edmund Stoiber, Governor Free State of Bayern, Munich
Dr. Thomas Knirsch, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Kampala
Mr. Frieder von Sass, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Dar es Salam
Mr. Fritz Kopsieker, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Kampala