By Henry Mukasa
LIFTING term limits for President Yoweri Museveni to stand again will be a setback to Ugandaâ€™s democratisation, the United States government has said.
The American government, in a comprehensive report to Congress, said the Government of Uganda made important progress in democratisation last year when, under court pressure, it relaxed restrictions on the operation of political parties.
It said, however, that the progress could vanish when the kisanja (third term) Bill is passed.
â€œDemocratisation could suffer a setback if members of the National Resistance Movement are successful in removing presidential term limits from the Constitution,â€ the report noted.
â€œUnder the current constitution, President Yoweri Museveni must step down after he completes his current term in early 2006. President Museveni has been in power since 1986. Uganda has never had a democratic handover of power from one leader to another,â€ it added.
The report titled, â€œSupporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 - 2005â€ was released on Monday. The report is mandatory under the US Foreign Relations Authorisation Act, to show actions taken by the US government to encourage respect for human rights. This third annual submission complements Country Reports on Human Rights practices for 2004, and moves from highlighting abuses to publicising the actions and programmes to end the abuses.
The report said US ambassador Jimmy Kolker held meetings with Museveni specifically to discuss constitutional issues and corruption. It said two visiting US senators, Mary Landrieu and Sam Brownback, also raised â€œmany of these issues with President Museveni and cabinet-level officials.â€
â€œUgandaâ€™s Parliament, which will take up a series of highly controversial political questions in 2005, was a particular focus of mission outreach. In meetings with Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, the ambassador stressed the importance of respecting the Constitution and strengthening the balance of power between different branches of government.â€
It said under court pressure, the Government relaxed restrictions on the operation of political parties and a referendum was expected to endorse the governmentâ€™s push for a multiparty system. Both Parliament and the Judiciary, the report stated, have shown independence, but neither institution is strong enough to serve as a counterbalance to the powerful executive.
â€œConstitutional changes proposed by President Museveniâ€™s cabinet, which are scheduled for a vote this year, would make the executive still more powerful,â€ it said.
It said the Governmentâ€™s human rights record remained poor and although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained.