By W. B. Kyijomanyi
terms (compared to the current five; and shall not be subject to a recall or term limits. The voters will decide to renew their term(s) or reject them in preference of other candidates during a general election. A parliamentary system does not also fit in well with federalism since most parliamentary systems, Uganda, included are top-down and dominated by the executive. Moreover, the parliamentary system has allowed Uganda's leaders a guaranteed term as "elected dictators". Nobody dared to openly oppose him then either in party caucus, movement caucus or cabinet. Whatever the leader says, MPs must obey period. That is more dictatorial than democratic. I would dare to say that there is virtually no democracy in parliamentary systems. MPs are robots with no independence to articulate the views of their constituents. To date you have MPs in the movement who cannot openly take the government to task over the woes in their areas. You have MPs from troubled spots (read war zones), who have never dared to criticize the Government.
You had MPs in the 60's who could not utter a word even when a state of emergency was declared in their area, Buganda. In the 1980's you had MPs who never uttered a word even when the government of the day carried out scotched earth policies in their areas. Many were contented to serve in cabinet even when their constituents were being massacred, all in the name of party unit demanded by a parliamentary system. Is that really democracy?Of course there are exceptions where democracy seems to be valued under parliamentary systems. While New Zealand and Australia have strong party discipline, the power lies with elected MPs NOT with the party leader (executive). Moreover, it is the backbench MPs who choose cabinet ministers and specify the cabinet post each will hold (New Zealand). Unlike in Uganda, Kenya, Canada, where party leaders dominate their parties and dictate every move, in Australia, MPs choose cabinet ministers while the party leader specifies what positions they will hold.
A congressional system as in the US, not only strengthens the separation of powers between the legislature and executive, but also allows MPs/Senators a great degree of independence, something unheard of in parliamentary systems. Members of the house are freer to break from party discipline in the knowledge that their votes against even leaders of their party are not confidence votes. In parliamentary systems, such a move would be interpreted as a no confidence vote in their own leader or party [in reality not all motions are confidence motions, but party whips will hear none of that]. That is why amidst all the scandals, ranging from the 60's to the present, even the most reasonable MPs have put party loyalty above national interests, thus creating the sorry state we have in Uganda.Accountability
Much more so, under a congressional system, house decisions are not binding on the senate; lack influence on the senate or executive. Likewise, the executive can do all the talk but most of their policies aren't binding on congress, which has oversight powers under the federal constitution. This counterbalance creates the proper environment for real accountability.Back to Top
Under a congressional system, representation in the lower house shall be proportional and shall be constitutionally fixed at a ratio of 2 to 1, plus one (House to Senate Seats). In keeping with proportional representation, regions will lose or gain seats depending on the outcome of the decennial census. Given that there shall be no recall provisions, MPs/Senators who cross from the parties under which they were elected shall be deemed to have effectively resigned with immediate effect from the house/senate, and shall have to seek a fresh mandate under the banner of their new found party.Representation in the upper house/senate shall be on equal basis irrespective of size. Each of the 12 states shall have six senators, who will serve for 6-year terms; three senators shall be elected every three years. This is intended to preserve some institutional memory.
Since representation shall be based on territoriality, the most useful data for determining how many physical seats each district shall be entitled to should be data by district. At the same time it is easier to get census data based on districts. Ideally, every district's total would then be divided by the per capita number to determine its true share of the seats in the lower house.We are envisioning having 143 and 72 MPs/Reps and Senators respectively, which is still lower than the current number of MPs. It is becoming increasingly likely that we shall have to work backwards from the Senate based on what it would take to have all the groups within the most multi-ethnic State represented in the Senate, and that number should help us determine a more reasonable ratio.
Equality among and within States will entail some trade offs, but that is the price Ugandans must be prepared to pay to create both the necessary and sufficient conditions towards a functioning decentralized federalism in Uganda. It is what must be done to ensure ethnic harmony, peace, tranquility and prosperity within our country. The costs involved are still a fraction of what the current unitary model has done to the psychic of our nation. It is the price Ugandans must be prepared to pay to recognize the centrality of ethnicity in our lives, the price to avoid military coups, the price to guard against dictatorships, the price to avoid endless wars, the price to have legitimate governments, the price to nurture accountability and so on and on. Let us keep searching; we shall strike the proper balance.Number of Representatives We may have to work backwards in order to have every small nation represented in the Senate. If we are correct in our assessment that the representative multi ethnic State may require 6 Senators to meet that criteria, for a total of 72 Senators (12 States, 6 Senators each) then the number of MPs shall be between 143 and 179.
For a total representation within both houses being anywhere from 225 to 251 depending on whether we have 2 to 1; 2.5 to 1 ratio. In my view we should strive for a number lower than the current total of 290.The key is to ensure that the small nations/tribes/groups are represented within both houses, which in my view can be accomplished if there is good will among the dominant ethnic groups in Uganda - namely, the Baganda, Banyankole, Basoga, Itesot, Langi, Acholi, Banyoro, Bagisu, Karamojong, Bakiga, Batoro. We should therefore identity the representative small nation/tribe/group to guide in us during the negotiations.Any group with 75, 000 should at least have one representative in the house. To accomplish that, the dominant ethnic groups will have to compromise. They may have to live with the fact that their constituencies could be made up of more than 75, 000 voters. But we have to identify who those small minorities are for that purpose. Actually, there may be less than 10 such constituencies. We would then proceed as follows:
a) Suppose the ratio was to be 2 to 1, then the number of Seats would be 143 (notice that it must be an odd number to avoid a tie).b) Suppose we identified 15 seats for small nations/groups/tribes, and then we would subtract 15 from 143 then divide 128 by the populations of all the dominant ethnic groups (excluding the total population for the small 15). c) That would then give us how many seats per each dominant group. Dominant means groups that can qualify for more than one seat no matter how the seats are shared out.
d) Such a process would meet the logic of having every small nation with at least 50 - 75,000 people represented.Would this be fair? The principle of equality would at least be observed within the second chamber/the Senate. That is also the reason equality within the multi-ethnic states shall be equally respected. If Busoga can have the same number of Senators like Karamoja, surely the Bagisu, who would be the dominant ethnic group should likewise have the same equal representation among the Senatorial delegation like the Jopadhola, Banyole, Bagwere, Samia, Sabiny in their proposed State. Simply put, if equality among states shall be promoted and respected, then equality within States, especially multi-ethnic states needs also be respected. But the same principle could apply to the more homogenous States too. For example, if the leaders/voters/ of the State of Lango wanted, they may invoke the same principle so that their share of Senate seats shall be equally shared out among Lira and Apach districts, or in Acholi between Gulu and Kitgum, or in Buganda among each of the respective areas, and so on.
It is important to know at this point in time that even within some of the homogenous States, there are tensions depending on which district one comes. It may therefore help to calm suspicions of domination within those States too, if the equality principle were to be applied. Under federalism, we are trying to avoid past mistakes where even within the same ethnic groups, accusations of domination and exploitation exist.Affirmative Action What happens then to the current affirmative action provisions for women; the physically disabled, youth; workers and the army? Such provisions shall be eliminated in a federal constitution. It will be incumbent upon the respective parties to woe members of these groups to contest elections under their parties. To wit, affirmative action will move from the federal constitution to party nominating commissions, where parties shall be mandated by electoral law to ensure that at least 35% of their nominated candidates are women. You can have broader representation without the current flawed affirmative action program. For example, In New Zealand, 30% of house members are women; in Australia, 23% women; in Britain, 18% are women; in the US, 14% of representatives are women. Some of the most effective members/Senators are physically disabled, while some representatives are very young-under 30 years old. A good number of members/senators have served in the military; therefore Uganda's military leaders who feel strongly and passionately about politics should seek elective office rather than being nominated.
Moreover, the nomination process has been terribly abused under our parliamentary system, hence the need for such arrangements to be eliminated. The power to nominate extra MPs has been abused in the past. Thus, to avoid such future abuses or stacking the deck, the whole affirmative action clause shall be eliminated. There is no room under the congressional system for MPs without actual physical constituencies. The respective political parties can and should be mandated by law to offer representative slates of candidates during a general election [see the 35 % rule or women] in order to accommodate other underrepresented groups through their nominating process. Parties cannot afford to antagonize these groups since they have enough votes to rally behind their own or support candidates sympathetic to their causes, and issues dear to them. Uganda's parliamentary system, is not only corrupt, but also deters independence and democracy.
Accordingly, to promote democracy, encourage independent thought, and ensure real separation of powers, a congressional system shall be enacted under federalism. Perhaps the greatest thing going for a congressional system in Uganda is that it will ensure equality, since there shall be no more front or backbenchers as ministers will be no longer members of the legislature. Ministers literally serve as bullies in legislatures, without any regard for the views/input of their parliamentary colleagues. This will change under a congressional system in federal Uganda.To make the system work for voters, the houses of the legislature need autonomy and independence. The President should not meddle into legislative matters and, for example, resolve parliament in the event of legislative deadlock. Legislative deadlock is not necessarily a bad thing. The current dictatorial system has created robots, with little independence to articulate the views of their constituents, hence the “democratic deficit” and mess in our country. The legislatures shall have their own budgets. It is unacceptable to have the legislature beg for operational funds from the treasury.
The legislatures shall set their own schedule, when and for how long to be in session or recess. They shall also have their own legislative service commission to hire and fire staff. It is incredible to see that the president appoints the clerk to the national assembly, something that does not augur well for the separation of powers.In addition to abandoning the system all together, we need strong electoral laws to specify the following: Minimum standards for political parties, and National Elections
The electoral law shall set out the minimum standards political parties will have to meet, such as the proposed 35% that all candidates running for office in each election circle be women. Party constitutions shall be subordinate to federal laws, instead of vice versa. The law should also accommodate independent candidates who want to run for elective office.
National elections for the legislature shall take place every three years on the last Monday in August [August seems to be the only month when schools and institutions of higher learning are on holidays]. Such a provision will guarantee that no leader stays in office beyond her/his mandate; and that the legislature[s] is not prematurely dissolved to serve the whims of the executive. The term of their mandate shall be fixed at 3-5 years for the lower house and 6 years for the senate [presidential mandates shall be fixed for 5 years].Back to Top