Federalism, also referred to as "Federo" in Uganda, is a national political system in which two levels of government, the central government and the regional government control the same territory and citizens. It is a philosophy or ideology of political organisation which involves a combination of the principles of centralisation, non-centralisation and power sharing. Federal government, on the other hand, is actual organisation according to these principles, which seeks to maximally express all its ramifications including in particular its territorial ramifications. The word federal came into English via French from Latin. Foederatus means "bound by treaty" deriving from foedus: treaty and fidere: to trust. Under Federo, the regions surrender some of their political power to the central government, relying on it to act for the common good.
In a federal system therefore, laws are made both by the regional governments and by a central government. This is, for example, people who live in the region of Acholi must obey the laws made by the Acholi legislature and the federal parliament of Uganda. In such a setup, the central government decides issues that concern the whole country, for example national defence, foreign affairs, telecommunication, national projects (such as airports, dams, highways), policy development (e.g. education), railway network. The regional governments take over the rest, for example schools, police, health services, feeder roads, culture, agriculture, levying of some taxes (which are then shared between the federal and regional governments), local amenities and so on.
The philosophy behind the Federo concept is quite simple indeed: the people inside the house settle their matters on their own, because no body else can do it better than them. Federo is meant to give sovereignty and freedom back to the individual. They act in a manner in which they are able to decide on joint action without losing individuality. As a consequence, decisions would be the result of consultation, conciliation and consensus. Federo's major objective is to integrate the different constituent units, not by making them lose their identities and relative autonomy, but by providing for their differences and diversity in the central organisation and guaranteeing that they all have a say in the conduct of its affairs.
Federo is practiced in many successful countries in the world, such as the Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mexico, and Switzerland, and the United States of America. In Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia are practicing federo, whereas South Africa is alleged to be preparing to introduce federo on her territory. The United Kingdom which is nominally a unitary country, it is functionally quasi-federal since the principles of federalism have informed the devolution of administrative power to its constituent units England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Even France and Italy can be called federal-like.
Federo is based on (1) regional variation and (2) ease of administration. Examples of regional variation are Switzerland, Canada, and Russia. As to ease of administration, even unitary states like France and England are divided into departments or counties.
To guarantee productive intergovernmenta relations, Federo must be founded on seven principles. These principles include respect for the constitution, active cooperation, the preservation of autonomous action, flexibility, fairness, information sharing and transparency.
A confederation on the other hand is similar to a federal system, but gives less power to the central government. The loose alliances of countries or other political entities that make up the confederation seek to cooperate with one another while retaining ultimate control of their own internal policies. Unlike federal systems, confederations usually give each member nation absolute control over its citizens and territory. The central government decides only issues that affect all members of the confederation. Confederations tend to be weak and unstable because member nations often resist relinquishing final authority on any matters and insist on their right to withdraw from the confederation at any time. Hence the region, e.g. Ankole could decide to get out of the confederation at any time. Confederations are uncommon; most are international bodies with limited and specific responsibilities, such as the European Community (EC) and the British Commonwealth. A confederation in Uganda in not desired whatsoever.
A monarchy (monarchism) is a territory ruled by one individual, the King or Queen, who has absolute power over everything in her/his sphere of influence. She/he is the undisputed supreme law in the land. At least for Buganda, monarchism died at the Buganda Agreement in 1955 where King Mutesa was forced to become a constitutional monarch, i.e. some of the "absolute power" was taken away and given back to the people. This was reflected in the fact that some members of the Lukiiko had to be directly elected by the people.Let me start by saying that I have a lot of interest in federalism, especially its merits towards creating some stability in Uganda. I don't know how you feel, but as things stand, full-fledged federalism is on hold, but Uganda is experimenting with decentralization, which is the next best thing IF well implemented. The goal is to decentralize or rather empower people at the grass roots. There is however, one disturbing trend in Uganda: myopic politicians are agitating for the creation of more and therefore very small districts. I will refrain from naming names, but many of these new districts will not have the tax base to implement meaningful projects. In my view we need fewer, but strong entities [districts] if decentralization is to yield the intended benefits for Ugandans. I understand many politicians are busy demanding new districts because some form of equalisation package from the centre to the have-not districts is underway. While I'm opposed to creating more districts, those advocating for them should be allowed to do so on conditions that they don't expect to fund their expenditures/programs using "other people's" money. Decentralisation or federalism for that matter is intended to minimise wasteful expenditures at the centre. The less the money flowing towards the central treasury the better. If regions were truly autonomous, all the waste (read corruption) in Uganda would not be going on unchecked. Of course in a federal system, regions are free to levy taxes and set their own priorities. As things stand, the power to levy taxes is still with the centre. I'm sure if districts/regions were truly autonomous at least in policy setting, many would have probably abolished that horrible graduated tax, a tax imposed on the poor who frankly get very little if any in return. Here in the West some states/provinces levy no sales tax, while those that do have different rates. The best thing federalism would do is allow regions to be innovative. I envisage for example, Jinja and Mukono coming together to jointly manage the area surrounding the Nile, the way New York and New Jersey manage their common resources. That way, no district will be disadvantaged tax wise, as the resources will be jointly shared. You have people who work in Jinja but live in Mukono, and vice versa, so it makes sense to share certain tax revenues. The same arrangement would apply to people who live in Mpigi/Mukono but work in Kampala.
I must say that it is a total disappointment the way things are going in Kampala City. In my view, Kampala City should be one entity for tax purposes. I am not sure divisions that exist upcountry should apply to a city. You may have read the wrangles between the Mayor of Kampala City Council (KCC) - Mr. Ssebana Kizito, and the Chairman of central division, Wasswa Ziritwawula. The question is: who should have jurisdiction within Kampala? Basically, KCC has been left with no tax base since most of commercial activities fall under central division, yet, KCC is expected to remove garbage, repair city roads etc., something central division does not undertake. The lesson here is that Uganda should get the arrangements right. Where does central division take the money, or put separately, what services does central division render to those who live and supposedly pay taxes in that division?The idea of the decentralizing the police force is long overdue. What the central government should do is share police expenses with the regions (federal states when we get there) - the districts in some percentage. As things stand, the folks who live in rural areas have no [police] protection of any sort yet they too pay taxes. The current model of having police in mostly urban areas is outdated and elitist. Districts should be able to recruit their own police services IF the centre is not willing to re-deploy the police widely. From what I read there is something called the Local Defense Unit (LDC) - can anyone tell us more what they do and how they are recruited and compensated if any! Many districts had administration "Askaris" mostly at Ssaza and Gombolola headquarters. I am sure if there is the political goodwill, police services could be decentralized to such centres for now. Our country faces far too many problems, and we must not be naive to think that decentralization or federalism for that matter will be the panacea. Far from it, as the wrangles in Kampala district demonstrate, things could actually get messy if not implemented properly. W.B. Kyijomanyi
The NRM central government is anti-Federo under the pretext of the IMF sponsored decentralization scheme. This is not surprising since Federo would limit their powers and expose their failures. But decentralization as implemented in Uganda has only an administrative character, a camouflage for IMF on the one hand, and the Ugandan officials on the other to embezzle development funds. The so-called local governments have no influence whatsoever on the decisions taken by Kampala on their behalf. This is one reason why dams are never built, and teachers never paid in the regions. This makes the decentralization scheme soap bubbles. It is a way for the NRM to cover peoples’ eyes and cling to power. Federo is meant to do away this form of exploitation.
Decentralisation should not be confused with the constitutional sharing of powers. In a federal system, the central government centralises power within the constitutionally allotted sphere, and can decentralise to the regional or local governments as it pleases. But the powers which belong to the regions is non-centralisable.
The NRM is among the governments preaching "national unity", but Uganda has no functional unity today. There have never been a government with a wide political base for decades, and as of now there are no mechanisms for creating one. The unitary system has been around for well over 30 years now and it certainly does not work. In fact, it has been characterised by jealousy, violence, intrigue, envy, tribalism, you name it. Even decentralisation, which was smuggled in through the back door, has not done enough to address these issues. The reason being that there is micromanagement of the districts from the centre in Kampala. This leaves the local governments at the mercy of the central government about decisions on their finances, local projects, et cetera. The central government is supposed to dish out grants to the districts, thereby contradicting the principle of autonomy. It also dictates how much to give to them.
Furthermore, the NRM blames all past woes in Uganda to have been brought about by parties. This is not case as has been well documented in the media.
Thus the major political issues facing Uganda today are:
1. The lack of accepted terms of union between our people; the current common government based on military force doesn't fit the bill.
2. The loss of economic independence.
3. The massive misuse and theft of public resources.
4. The endless internal and external wars, there is at least two civil wars going on in Uganda today.
5. The massive drag upon the citizenry and the private sector caused by government ineffectiveness.
These questions keep coming up in the Ugandan press for the last 14 years, and that no significant progress has been made on these questions. This is the reason why Federo is envisioned as a radical reformulation of governance. There is no need to pretend that Uganda is already united; it is better to negotiate and plan that unity. It is then better to decide which functions are appropriate to central government and force it to concentrate upon those. Most important though, Federo advocates for the regions to manage their day-to-day governance in smaller units because there are simply too much difficulty running everything from the center. One could quote examples all day. The Ministry of Health, for instance, is responsible for services all over the country. They recently built, with donated money, a new headquarters. Putting up just the one building proved to be beyond the abilities of the Ministry, after two false starts and wastage of millions of dollars the donating country actually took over the work.
There are currently four or five rebel groups fighting in the country. The NRM government has been fighting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), dominated by members of the Acholi ethnic group, since 1987. It is based on the border with Sudan and its aim is to replace the current government with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments. In addition to this Christian fundamentalism, the group is further inspired by a complex mix of superstition, agitation for multiparty politics and federalism. The West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) is headed by Juma Oris, a minister under former dictator Idi Amin and is based in the northwest. It began fighting in May 1995 with the aim of returning Amin, exiled in Saudi Arabia, to power. The Allied Democratic Front (ADF) has been fighting the army on the Congolese border since November 1996.
It is further alleged that in November 1997, senior officials in the opposition Democratic Party (DP) formed the Federal Democratic Army (FDA) to fight for the establishment of federalism. The National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (KNEEL), the National Democratic Alliance, and the Ninth October Movement in the east are smaller groups who also have been fighting the NRM government.
Federo is a proposed tool for the correction of mis-governance.
The key characteristics of a Federo arrangement bringing together autonomous regions are as follows:
1. Rule of Law: Anarchic relations between the federal government and the regions are replaced by the rule of law which is guaranteed by common institutions. The law of the federal government is superior to the law of the regions in the fields defined by its constitution.
2. Law enforcement: To ensure the rule of law these common institutions include law-enforcement bodies such as an Executive and Judiciary which have independent law-enforcement powers and responsibilities.
3. Applicability: The law of the federal government is applicable both to the regions and crucially to its individual citizens living within its borders.
4. Independent legislative & policy-making institutions: These common institutions have their own independent legislative process which is distinct from those of the member regions. Their laws do not require ratification in the parliaments of its member regions.
5. Democracy: The common institutions, as well as those of the member regions, are democratic.
6. Constitutionally defined responsibilities: The common institutions are asked to implement common policies where problems are shared in order that these problems may be addressed jointly, but no more. Other levels of government would do everything else. The areas to be addressed in common would normally include commercial policy, monetary union, and security issues. Other policy areas could also be included. The constitution of the federal government would set down these powers.
Federo is the best system to guarantee democracy, pluralism and cultural diversity while maintaining national unity.
In Uganda, Federo has come to mean different things to different people. Here are examples of what Federo means to a majority of people, irrespective of their formal literacy (the list is by no means exhausted):
1. The rule of the Kabaka of Buganda over all citizens of Uganda
2. The return of lost glory of Buganda Kingdom to the Baganda, thus humiliating all others
3. Buganda’s autonomy from the state of Uganda, in a form of confederation
4. The supremacy of Kingdoms and Chiefdoms, or return of feudalism in general
5. The return of "Ebyaffe", the traditional status quo, which is conceived to divide the haves from the have-nots
6. For “loyal” partyists, Federo is a political party with which they do not want to be associated with
7. For the misguided and misguiding politicians, Federo is tribalism, and exploitation of certain peoples
8. For the staunch Movementists, Federo is anti-Movement, and thus anti-government, which automatically leads to anti-Museveni (a treasonable act), the know-it-all messiah
9. For the diehard republicans, it is going back to ancient (medieval) times
None of the above is true about Federo in modern times. Federo is meant to delimit the power of the central government on the regions and that of the kings and chiefs on the whole country. Federo is not meant to put Buganda and its people above others, nor is it meant to exploit Buganda and the Baganda.
By nature, Federo is an attempt by peoples who have differing points of view and differing expectations to find a way of forming a workable union. Federo advocates for Uganda to federate as a country with multiple autonomous region. Each of these regions must have the same amount of autonomy towards the central government in managing her affairs. The regions must be put under equal footing in their interaction with the central government, there is no special treatment that is granted to any region in any way. This interaction between the two levels must be agreed upon in the federal contract, or the Uganda constitution. It is envisioned to conduct the agreement in a negotiated manner. Federo advocates for negotiations as the best form of discussion method between equals.
"Ebyaffe" (literally meaning "our things") in this context means values of each community, tribe or region in Uganda. These values include, inter alia, the way people want to be governed, e.g. by a King or Chief, etc. and land. Thus Federo is a broader concept than "Ebyaffe", and hence "Ebyaffe" is an important component of Federo. In contrast, feudalism is something of the past.
A “Federal Commission” consists of a group of delegates from each region to determine the terms and conditions of the federation. On this basis, the regions must draft their constitutions on how they will manage their affairs in the framework provided for in the federation contract. Federo advices to have a regional constitution, which is common to all regions. Here are the basic ingredients of the commonality of regions put together. In addition, if there are any specifics particular to a certain region, these could then be included in that regional constitution.
The lessons learned from central governments in Uganda is that, incumbent presidents become despot dictators. In Federo, there is nothing like one man dictating to the whole country what is good or not good. There is nothing like dictating to parliament to pass bills in record time of three hours. There is nothing like one man appointing everyone in the country. There is nothing like know-it-all megalomaniacs.
In a Federo arrangement, every region in Uganda is empowered to make her own decisions for the benefit of that region. This is obvious in the sense that the civil servants in Kampala do not know what the people in Kotido, Kaberamaido, Nyabushozi, and Namunsi really want. The NRM central government has always nurtured tribalism and employed servants from their own region, which has made it difficult for other regions to develop. Mbarara for example is growing because the ruling tribe comes from there, unlike Moroto or Arua. But if decision making were to be removed from the center and placed in the regions, then Moroto and Arua would have an equal opportunity to grow too. Hence, Federo in this sense is competitive federalism, i.e. a state of affairs where the regions are encouraged to excel in their performance for the domains they are responsible for.
In a Federo arrangement, every person is encouraged to participate in the running of the country, especially the affairs that affect him and his place of living.
In Uganda, "Cultural Federalism" is guaranteed by the Ugandan Constitution of 1995. Chapter 16 of the constitution consists the enabling articles hereof:
246. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the institution of traditional leader or cultural leader may exist in any area of Uganda in accordance with the culture, customs and traditions or wishes and aspirations of the people to whom it applies.