By W. B. Kyijomanyi
Believers in federo have been challenged to justify its applicability and relevance in Uganda. Many have wondered whether federo will work, while some have asked, why federo anyway? In a few lines below I try to make a case for federo in Uganda.
We are arguing for a federo system of government because it will give Ugandans a chance to reform domestic institutions, be they economic, political, judicial etc. We believe that reforms under a federo system will actually strengthen our institutions, not at the expense of unity, but rather in the service of unity, and in particular unity of the country. Federalism does not intend to weaken Uganda, but rather to strengthen it and revive its ability to serve its citizens better.
Those of you familiar with our troubled past know too well that regional alienation, corruption, squander, sectarianism, indifference to suffering in other regions, lack of equal development etc. have been facilitated by political control from the centre - political control, that was contested and remains highly contested. As a consequence, those in power, with no exception had little incentive to conserve our resources and institutions. Past and present leaders made consumption of resources and abolition of institutions their priorities. Indeed many treated the country's resources like a common pool, over which they possessed ill defined ownership, or should I say, no political ownership. In fact to our leaders with no exception whatsoever, killing the goose that laid the golden egg was always their goal.
We are advocating for the radical restructuring of our institutions in ways that will reduce the ability of our leaders and their governments to use power in capricious and self aggrandizing ways. Reforms from a unitary to a federal form of government will make it impossible for Uganda's future leaders to do what Dr. Obote did in 1966 and 1967, when he single handedly overthrew the Country's constitution, imposed an emergency in parts of the country, ruled well beyond his mandate, from 1962 to 1971, with vigour.
Federal will also make it impossible for what Mr. Museveni has done to the country - supplant his own views over the will of Ugandans. Federo will make it impossible for future leaders with Museveni-like arrogance to economically ignore certain regions of the country, let alone preside over a corrupt and sectarian government. We seek to make it impossible for future leaders to tinker with the country's constitution and other institutions to serve personal goals. I am sure Mr. J. Senyonjo will come up with a bulletproof strategy that will make it impossible for future leaders to amend our constitution at will. We hope that federo will make it impossible in the future for Uganda to ever again be ruled by despots, enlightened or otherwise.
Under federo we are for participatory democracy. We believe that participation makes development demand-driven, bottom-up rather than top-down and supply-driven. We are positive that federo will greatly minimize waste of the country's scarce resources, since it will make people's voices heard, and their rights to participate in shaping their affairs respected.
When we talk about reforms in key institutions like the judiciary, the police and prisons, we hope to develop a culture where the rule of law will prevail - a rule of law that gives dignity to the weak and justice to the powerless. We are saying that federo will not create disunity, but rather unity, and that it will make Uganda work for its people. We are saying that accessibility to key services will be improved. We are saying that in the end these reforms will constrain the excesses of the past and current from the centre, and will therefore increase trustworthiness among the people. For example, the people of Karamoja will no longer have fears about their affairs and resources being dictated from Kampala.
Likewise, the people of Kitgum and Teso will no longer be left entirely at the mercy of cattle rustlers of any kind. They will demand protection from their leaders and will get it. They will no longer rely on the indifference of the army commanders in Bombo, but rather local solutions. In the same spirit, cultural institutions in Uganda, be they Obwakabaka, Obugabe, Obukama, Obwakyabazinga, and others, or customs and traditions will no longer be at the mercy of central leaders. We are saying that internal self-determination of our people will be respected - the right of certain population groups to combine their particular self-identity with that of being a citizen or national of Uganda. We are saying that federo will make it impossible for the 'stationary bandits' who have terrorized our people from the centre. We are saying that federalism will make poverty eradication, expansion of productive employment and social cohesion within Uganda possible. But above all, we are advocating for federo because Uganda is falling apart under negligence and plunder from the centre. This is my case for a federo system.Back to Top
By W. B. KyijomanyiThe federal idea in Uganda certainly has legs. The issue at hand is how Uganda should deal with the question of difference? To date Uganda as a country has not handled difference properly and that is reflected in our country's troubled and bloody history. Prior to independence, some parties settled on compromise by trading whereby some regarded Constitutional norms as "trivial" to the working of a pluralist democracy in Uganda. Both parties may have had differences on certain issues but they were allies on others. That is why there was no consistent majority but rather coalitions of minorities which varied on an issue by issue basis. To the then deal makers, politics was less of a zero-sum game since it allowed both parties to strike mutually advantageous bargains. The weakness of that arrangement is too obvious for all who have followed Uganda’s troubled politics. What is clear is that compromise by trading only favoured the elite and caused enormous misery and suffering to the peasants.
Fast forward to the current Constitutional arrangement and one discovers that it is closer to consociationalism, that is, it promotes compromise by segregation. For instance, when some military officers defied the High Command, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and supporters of his position argued that those differences could best be settled within the military establishment. Likewise, when conflicts arose within the women caucus on whether the Electoral College should be discharged, most [elite] women argued that those issues are better addressed internally among women. Defenders of these positions claim that political autonomy arises when groups feel it is more appropriate to resolve their disputes between themselves (internally) rather than in conjunction with others, hence the term segregation.Accordingly, the 1995 constitution aims at producing a mixture of autonomy and power sharing amongst distinct, national, ethnic, religious or other cultural groups. On paper, it was meant to ensure that the necessary collective decisions are consensual among different parties. Defenders of the status quo claim that the 1995 constitution promotes constitutional neutrality, in that it tried to abstract from people's differences. In reality we have not had constitutional neutrality in Uganda. We have not sought compromise by trimming issues that divide us from the political agenda and settling on a supposed set of core political values on which we ought to agree. Ugandans do not seem to have demarcated the scope and nature of politics through agreement on a set of basic political liberties and rights, within which all may thrive on an equitable basis with others.
There have been claims by defenders of the status quo who are opposed to federalism that there is no need for a federal revolution in that “Federal will divide the country or that it is not a priority”. The question that arises is: Has Uganda ever been united by an overlapping consensus focused on the institutions and rights of the existing legal and political system? The answer is no, hence the need to rethink our governance structures.
Subsequently, Ugandans need to embrace compromise through negotiation. Democratic liberalism requires the negotiation of differences and the search for conditions of mutual acceptability that reach towards a reciprocal compromise that constructs the common good. Ugandans need to “hear the other side", which has never been the case in Uganda.Consequently, Federalism is a sufficient means of dealing with difference in that in a future Federal Uganda, citizens will lack the capacity to dominate each other by ensuring that laws track their various interests and ideals. If only Ugandans had "heard the other side" before may be the outcomes of the political process would have been more peaceful. May be Uganda’s political and economic paths would have been different. A negotiated federal system offers Ugandans rare opportunities to accommodate the clashes of preferences and principles associated with pluralism by seeking integrative compromises that view the concerns raised by others as matters to be met rather than constraints to be overcome through minimal, tactical concessions. All in all, compromise not consensus should be the goal in a future federal Uganda. That is precisely why; we propose federalism for the entire country through negotiated compromise. It is the best approach because federalism promotes of diversity, balance and solidarity among Ugandans.
Furthermore, Federalism has the potential to prevent domination by any specific group as has been the case in the past and currently where two or less groups have dominated Ugandans. Moreover, Federalism recognizes that group unity does not require uniformity. Accordingly, Federalism that ushers in a political community based on negotiation and compromise will tie people together through a series of "family resemblance" and affinities. In the process federalism will produce a deeper and more stable union, while still recognizing diversity and difference in Uganda. Ultimately, a negotiated federal arrangement for the entire country is the price Ugandans must pay for liberty and diversity. In sum, trimming, trading, and segregation that have been embraced in previous and the current constitution must give way to a new constitution through negotiation: Federalism for all regions of Uganda.
Ultimately, a negotiated federal arrangement for the entire country is the price Ugandans must pay for liberty and diversity. In sum, trimming, trading, and segregation that have been embraced in previous and the current constitution must give way to a new constitution through negotiation: Federalism for all regions of Uganda.
By J. Senyonjo
The army has been a key element in Uganda and indeed in Africa due to our failure to address the issue of regionally based ethnic diversity within our countries (i.e. our countries are not only ethnically diverse, but the ethnic groups are also territorially based). And because politics and economics are intertwined, open regional competition for economic benefits that was bottled by the "nationalists" found expression in ethnic competition for top posts in the Central government and other national institutions such as the army, the civil service etc.
Following independence, regional self-governance and determination was considered a threat to economic and political control by the center, and was thus crushed. The maneuvers to eliminate or diminish local and regional self-determination and cultural organization for African peoples who had managed their affairs for centuries were never accepted and are still being resisted. The resistance, both real and imagined, forced the weak and now less than fully legitimate national leaders to increasingly rely on security organizations such as the army, the police and intelligence agencies in order to maintain their authority. Once these institutions got a taste of the power they had as arbiters in national power plays, they loved it. Soon they took their role as the final arbiters of their nations' politics for granted. Gradually the belief that control of security agencies was the only secure means to secure power became implanted in the population, further legitimizing their role.
The costs of Uganda's forced unitary system are immense both in terms of mis-allocated resources (to finance army and other security agencies' operations, largely against internal threats), costly civil wars, and missed economic opportunities due to instability. A well constructed Federal system that clearly empowers the regions to develop themselves with little interference from the central government would eliminate a lot of these costs and make it easier to reform the army.
In my view, due to the potential savings realized due to the stability dividend, federalism is both affordable and feasible in Uganda. Not only would it allow the central government to reallocate money saved in security operations to the states and to national development initiatives, it would also unleash the latent economic potential of the various regions when they are empowered to develop and exploit their natural and human resources, bringing even more money to the local state and national treasuries through taxation, export, service and trade revenues.
Once instability is eliminated due to the open accommodation of various regional and political interests through both federalism and unrestricted political parties, the army, the air force, and navy (if it exists) can then be paired down to small, diverse, highly educated, professional, non-political bodies that guard against external threats to the integrity of Uganda. The police except for a national investigative agency similar to the FBI in the United States will be strictly a state and local body accountable not to the President but to the people and elected local officials. The investigation agency would also not be directly accountable to the President and other politicians, and will only act when in its professional assessment its intervention is necessary.
At independence our enlightened leaders tried to engineer new states that paid no heed to ethnic diversity and differences in political organization. And they did so without consulting or seeking the consent of the governed. They in fact denigrated these differences. The motto was out with the old (the wisdom of centuries of African political and economic organization) and in with the new (the European political systems derived out of western philosophical thought developed over centuries of European experience). The consequence of that choice was that the new post-colonial states found themselves in a crisis of legitimacy as old loyalties to region, clan, or ethnicity never disappeared and new ones to the state were superficial as they were based on foreign concepts, cultural amnesia, and a sense subtly incalculated into us by European education and the church that there was very little, if any value in pre-colonial African political organization and identities.
The neglect and forced subjugation of our African essence has led to instability the fruits of which include underdevelopment, poverty, civil strife, and dictatorships. This situation has resulted in the army and other security agencies gaining disproportionate political influence. A federal system which takes into account the stubborn realities of our country while empowering the people to make independent economic and political decisions would almost certainly diffuse the tensions that have cost Uganda hundreds of millions of dollars. The resources saved would then be released to the people to develop a dynamic, viable, proud and truly nationalistic federal nation of Uganda. The army and security agencies will then be freed to play their proper role as protectors of the population rather than oppressors. Change of both Federal and state government would be left to the people through regular elections.Back to Top
By Dr. Kigongo
I am encouraged to note a growing consensus that some form of Federo is a goal worth considering. Some of us see it as a tool to enable the formation of a united and prosperous Uganda, others suggest that Federo is a fruit we may reap after achieving a united and prosperous Uganda. As a member of the "Federo as a tool" school, let me float a few thoughts on the key questions we would have to tackle.
Dealing with economic inequality
It is evident that the distribution of commercial activity, means of transport, roads, taxable income, agricultural production, schools, banks and telephones is heavily unbalanced. The Kampala area has probably more than half of the nation's GDP, and most of the rest is found in a fifty-kilometer wide area stretching from Jinja to Kabale. Whichever way we divide up the nation, a large chunk of the population will find itself in provinces with a weak economic base, many of these are also in need of postwar reconstruction.
The framers of the Union Treaty must have the political courage to craft an agreement from the more prosperous areas of Uganda for an income transfer system that will probably need to last decades. This will be no easy task, because even the "prosperous" areas are themselves in great need. But it is politically necessary to create a new sense of common destiny which we lack now. Today many Ugandans from the most devastated areas believe (though they rarely say it) that economic recovery will only come when they recover control of the army and government.
On the government side the approach has been to appoint a Minister in Charge of the area concerned and urge foreign nations to be generous. No politician today can tell the taxpayers of Kampala that they are obliged to pay out of their pockets to finance the reconstruction of Karamoja, though the same politician will happily brief a visiting British minister to the same end.
Today the Kampala taxpayers would assume, probably correctly, that the money would not be used for the stated purpose. They would also question why they should pay for problems "those people caused themselves". Those Kampala taxpayers have the same sentiment we have seen on this forum in various guises, a sentiment to the effect that "if THEY get something good it can only mean that WE lose something".
Federo is a possible way to get around these divisions, not by pretending them away, but by negotiating openly about them. When people live apart and speak different languages the feelings of US and THEM cannot disappear overnight. Our task is to create a political system whereby WE and THEM see each other as collaborators, not competitors.
It is useless to say "let us concentrate on national unity" because Uganda has no functional unity today. We have not had a government with a wide political base for decades, and we do not have a mechanism for creating one as of now.
The major political issues facing us are:
1. The lack of accepted terms of union between our peoples (by saying this I am stating that a common government based on military force doesn't fill the bill).
2. The loss of our economic independence.
3. The massive misuse and theft of public resources.
4. The endless internal and external wars.
5. The massive drag upon the citizenry and the private sector caused by government ineffectiveness.
If you review the Ugandan press for the last 14 years you will notice that the same questions keep coming up, and that no significant progress has been made on these questions.
This is why Federo has been proposed. What we are suggesting is a radical reformulation of our way of governance. First, we are saying that instead of pretending to be already united, let us actually negotiate and plan that unity. Then let us decide which functions are appropriate to central government and force it to concentrate upon those.
Most important, we are suggesting that we manage our day-to-day governance in smaller units because we are simply having 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.
Federo was officially abandoned by Uganda in 1966, and the move was eloquently hailed by the learned as an escape from an obscurantist backwardness into a brilliant future of Pan Africanism and unity. If you get a chance to do so be sure to thumb through the Uganda Argus and the People of the late 1960s, it is sobering reading. We were assured in those days that "correct" political philosophies were the key to everything. We know better now. That's why, after 35 years, we are revisiting the Federo question. Federo is not a solution, it is a tool.
To summarize, let me restate that Federo is a proposed tool for the correction of mis-governance. It is not a guaranteed solution. To those who believe that the governance of Uganda is good enough the discussion is of course irrelevant, the rest of us will continue the debate.Back to Top
By W. B. Kyijomanyi
As federalists, we are saying that the current unitary model in Uganda has ill-performed; is ineffective; lacks legitimacy; all of which are responsible for the current huge democratic deficit in Uganda. We are arguing that the resulting crisis of state is also a crisis of unitarism. Our premise is that unitarism in Uganda is obsolete and thus un able to deal with the problems of a complex multi-ethnic society or manage the political crisis in the country. We are refuting the notion by question whether it is true [if ever it was] that only the central government with a national perspective [have we ever had one] and control of the major fiscal, jurisdictional and bureaucratic resources can play this role.
Our view is that the Federal system can do better in managing the burden of bringing together an ethnically and regionally diverse citizen body within the confines of a single-nation state. It is our contention that the basic federal formula-shared rule could succeed in striking a balance between unity and diversity. We are arguing that that is an arrangement that can be both flexible and resilient in Uganda.
How has the unitary system fared on the 3 key factors: [ill]performance; [inn]effectiveness, and [il]legitimacy? What has been the unitary experience today? Have our basic institutions performed? The perception [nay reality] that unitarism is failing to strike the necessary equilibrium between unity and diversity in Uganda is everywhere. Today that perception is acute in Buganda, Northern and Eastern Uganda. Western Uganda may be the only region today that has yet to feel that perception [it has been the only region to benefit from the state from 1980 to the present]. The perception that governmental power in Uganda is concentrated in the hands of the President -a concentration that has exacerbated conflicts between regions and Kampala [centre of power].
What do the performance indicators of the central institutions and processes show? Are they workable? Do they have the capacity to balance diversity and unity? Have our institutions and processes provided the forum conducive to negotiation, consultation or simply the exchange of information? I invite you to reflect on our tumultuous political journey since independence to date, and see if any of these have been met. If not why not? Should we continue along the same destructive path? For how long? Is it not true that failure or lack of capacity to secure the balance between diversity and unity is responsible for the current condition where Uganda has been sliding towards anarchy? How can this be arrested or reversed? What contribution can federalism make towards meaningful citizen participation and accountability that is so lacking in Uganda?
On effectiveness, how resilient has Uganda's unitary model been in responding to various endogenous and exogenous challenges-the various crises shortly after independence todate; the wars; the regionalization? [see Mr. Ssebaana's story]. The Buganda crisis, the pigeon hole constitution, the Amin coup, the post Amin regimes, the wars in Luwero, Acholi, West Nile, Kasese, Teso and elsewhere have cast long shadows over the effectiveness of Uganda's institutions. How can our institutions be made effective? Is collaborative federalism the viable option?.
On legitimacy, it is true that in order for citizens to acquiesce in state actions, they must accept unequivocally the institutions and political processes of their system of governance. This reality takes us to the heart of the legitimacy of the Ugandan unitary system. No less than any other political systems, unitary system must pass tests on procedural and substantive legitimacy if it is to survive. With regards to procedural norms, have the rules been fair? Consider the pigeon hole /Mr. Binaisa's one man constitution; detention without trial; lack of elections from 1962-71; the late Prof. Lule's (RIP) and Mr. Binaisa's removal from the Presidency; the rigged 1980 elections; the Muwanga announcements; the Odoki constitution; the Referendum Constitutional saga etc. What have been the cumulative impact of these on the legitimacy question in Uganda? How well have existing institutions and processes conformed to citizen's expectations-think the Special force, General Service Unit, State Research Bureau and Army under Amin, Army, and NASA under Dr Obote; NRA/UPDF, ISO/ESO, under Mr. Museveni. Have these institutions conformed to citizen's expectations regarding their own roles?
Have these processes conformed to the norm of accountability and transparency in decision making? After the 1980 debacle, the late Muwanga (RIP) became VP and Defense Minister, as one among many dubious characters who have messed up Uganda and been rewarded instead. Do these actions reflect the distinct values and preferences of Ugandans?
Can we have an effective political system without legitimacy in a democratic system [we have not quite had any democracy]? Is it not true that in democratic systems, effectiveness is vacuous concept without legitimacy?. Dr. Obote I's reign may have been declared legal after he suspended the constitution, but did it have any legitimacy? Amin's coup may have been legal, but what legitimacy did it have? We are saying that as long as questions about the nature of of the political community in Uganda remain unresolved, effectiveness, that is, getting things done will remain meaningless. Dr. Obote, Amin got certain things done, Mr. Museveni got certain things done, but in the long run, they/he are/is more likely to suffer, as public attention becomes more and more divided over the proper delimitation of the communities fate. How long could the Luwero war continue? How long can the war in Acholi continue? How long can incursions in Congo go on?
History shows that an effective and efficient unitary system is not enough to legitimize itself in the eyes of most Ugandans. There are currently too many challenges to the legitimacy of unitarism in Uganda. As federalists, our role is to present alternatives as to what can be done to enhance that legitimacy. We are saying that federalism will outperform unitarism since it shall provide sufficient scope for regional particularisms to be expressed, thus enhancing the legitimacy of the system.
Why federalism? Seymour Martin Lipset (1981:64) states that legitimacy involves the capacity of the system to engage and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society. While we agree with that, we believe that legitimacy is principally about people's acceptance of the system rather than the system's capacity to engender and maintain support. We have had many regimes using brutal means to achieve the latter. Dr. Obote, Mr. Amin and Mr Museveni have all used more or less the same means to engender and maintain support in trageted areas. That has been and remains unitarism's greatest weakness, so it is time to let it go and usher in a new federal arrangement.
The unitary model in Uganda confers too much powers on the President. He (so far no she yet), is truly, Primus without any inter or pares. That is the source of Uganda's problems because that power has been abused. How do we limit those powers?
But it would be disingenuous if we did not point out the obvious: the principal source of weakness in Uganda's political system stems from the political parties. They are part of the problem for the existing democratic deficit in Uganda. They can be part of the solution if they choose to democratize from within. The resistance from some quarters is understandable: they have benefited enormously from the status quo at the expense of democracy, unity, peace and economic prosperity in Uganda. Parties can help Uganda move from the current democratic deficit to a legacy of democratic surplus in Uganda. But that won't happen until and unless we reform all our political institutions.
Federalism has potential to balance unity with diversity, but must be ushered in with attendant democratic reforms within our political parties. It is not a question of either or, but both, if Uganda is to have strong performing, effective and legitimate regimes. Please keep that in mind as we move forward in our dialogue.Back to Top