By Sala N. SenkayiIntroduction:
The second annual Federo Workshop took place on Sunday, August the 31st of 2003. This workshop was held in the Copley Marriott Hotel from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM (ET). The workshop commenced with a welcome note from the moderator, Dr. Kigongo. The keynote speaker was Mr. Ochoro E. Otunnu who eloquently spoke about the root causes of institutional violence in Uganda and the Federo type of government could be the key to establishing stability and democracy in Uganda.
Following the keynote speaker was Mr. Joseph Senyonjo who outlined the proposed federal constitution for Uganda developed after consultation with and input from members of the FedsNet Internet discussion list.Summary of Discussions:
1) Keynote speaker:
The keynote speaker, Ochoro Otunnu (a lawyer by training) started his presentation with the question "Why Federo?" He answered this question by revisiting Uganda's past history, before the colonial era. Before the colonialist came to East Africa, we had our own African culture and distinct cultural practices of self-government, which included participatory government at the grass-root level (African democracy). The colonialists combined these different cultural entities to create what is known as Uganda today. He noted that colonialism created Uganda's present situation because it destroyed the African culture and replaced it with something else, which is not even African. For example, many of us were taught in schools to speak English and were discouraged or even punished for speaking vernacular languages.
He spoke of Reactionary African leaders who replaced the colonialists. These African leaders promoted their concept of "nation building" by discouraging all forms of ethnicity and tribal institutions. To have pride in your tribe was considered to be negative and reactionary. Following independence from the colonial rule, African Nations were pushed to support this kind of a nation building concept, promoting French and English culture, and demoting all that is African, including vernacular languages. Postcolonial African governments (Uganda is a good example) became ruthless and suppressed our African languages, our African histories, and even our own African identities in the name of nationalism and "nation building". The outcome is an African Continent made up of countries whose boundaries were curved out by colonialists to suit their own objectives. This mistake created countries whose inhabitants were destined to become free floaters, who are not grounded in true African culture. Free floaters are half African and half Europeans. Mr. Otunnu concluded by saying that we need a Federo system of government to put a check on the tyranny by the central government, promote grass root African participatory type of democracy, and promote unity in diversity. The Federo type of government will promote our African type of democracy whereby each Federal unit in Uganda will be free to reclaim its African identity and to address issues which are most critical to the local people who reside in that particular Region. Federalism will build an authentic African democracy and will resolve conflicts, which arise due to the fight for control from the center.
Federalists are the progressives and must not be portrayed as the reactionaries. Federalism has only one agenda - local participation, which is true democracy. Talk of Pan Africanism is empty talk without grass root participation. Conflict resolution in Africa must start with federalism. Civil society in Africa means federalism, which means local participation. Mr. Otunnu recommended that each workshop participant should read "Things Fall Apart" and "Song of Lawino" to understand the issues, which he outlined in his presentation.
The question of how we get federalism in Uganda is tricky. Mr. Otunnu suggested that what we need is a constitutional convention to explore the feasibility of Federo. However, he indicated that a lot of ground work needs to be done to convince people who believe that "If you allow federalism, Buganda will dominate". He characterized this point of view as the politics of envy, which is destroying us. Mr. Otunnu expressed concern that if you suppress federalism in Buganda, then you will not have democracy in any part of Uganda. What is needed now is for Ugandans and Africans to reclaim our African political history and identity. We must discuss our differences, we must seek out visionaries, and we must advocate for a true democratic form of government in Uganda with checks and balances (remember that true democracy comes from mistrust). He concluded by advocating for a constitutional assembly to discuss and agree on the best form of government for Uganda.2) Proposed Federal Constitution for Uganda:
Following the keynote speaker, Mr. Joseph Sebulime-Senyonjo outlined the proposed Federal Constitution for Uganda. Mr. Senyonjo defined federalism as a form of government in which the union of states recognizes each other by giving all areas equal power. He mentioned several examples of countries where federal systems of governments are currently practiced. These include: USA, Germany, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Switzerland, and Belgium. The Federo model he outlined is very similar to that found in the United States. A copy of the proposed constitution has already been delivered to the Constitutional Review Committee. The proposed federal constitution can be accessed from the Internet (FedsNet Federal Proposals).3) Action Items:
Professor Lugira suggested that copies of the proposal discussed by J. Senyonjo (a long one and a short one) should be made available to everyone who needs it upon request. Professor Lugira also expressed some concerns as to whether the word was getting out to the grass roots people in Uganda who are our ultimate targets. He suggested that we try to get as many recruits as possible to spread the word. We need to design a package, which can be sent by email or snail mail, or used to communicate the message orally. This message should be widely distributed through newsrooms, on the radio, and in the newspapers within and outside of Uganda. He noted that the FedsNet group should become a non-profit organization in the U.S.A note from the writer:
Ms. Sala N. Senkayi, one of the participants in the Federo workshop, compiled this information. As an attendee, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the organizers of this workshop, especially Ms. Christine Nabukeera, for the time and effort that she put into planning for this workshop. I would also like to thank the keynote speaker, Mr. Otunnu, and the follow-up speaker, Mr. Senyonjo, for the information that they provided. Special thanks to Dr. Kigongo for chairing the workshop and Prof. Lugira for his ideas and suggestions on how to get the word out to the grass roots folks out there in Uganda. A special thank you to all the workshop attendees and participants. We all had a great time and we hope to see you in Seattle next year.