By Moses Mulondo
KAMPALA - Ahead of the 2016 general elections, former minister Daniel Omara Atubo has called for fundamental political reforms in the country, including the re-introduction of the presidential term limits and reduction in the size of Parliament.
Atubo, 67, the former Otuke MP, has been at the center of Uganda’s major political events like the 1979 Moshi Conference that led to the overthrow of Idi Amin and the 1994 Constituency Assembly which debated the current national Constitution.
Under President Yoweri Museveni, Atubo served as a minister in defence, foreign affairs and lands ministries.
The proposed reforms are contained in his new book titled Calming the Storm, which he presented to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, on Thursday.
Atubo gave a synopsis of what his book covers pointing out tribalism, corruption, excesses of the Executive, partisan nature of Uganda’s security agencies, dictatorship, violation of human rights and overstay in power as some of the political problems ruining the country.
“As President Yoweri Museveni’s days are naturally numbered and discontent appears to be rising, it is not yet too late for him to positively use his enormous power together with other Ugandans of good will to salvage the deteriorating situation and turn Uganda round onto the correct path of sustainable peace, unity and good governance,” Atubo writes.
Responding to Atubo’s proposals, the President’s Press Secretary, Tamale Mirundi, said: “We should congratulate President Yoweri Museveni for restoring the democratic process, which allows people like Atubo to give their proposals.
“Idi Amin never allowed elections as Museveni has done. Even the NRM has presented reforms to Parliament. It is upon other political actors to also present their proposals.”
Omara Atubo’s book. PHOTO/Hajarah Nalwadda
Atubo argues that there is need to restore presidential two terms limit, if strong and independent state institutions are to emerge.
The two five-year term requirement was scrapped from the Constitution by Parliament in 2005.
He credits Museveni with some degree of success in stabilising and pacifying Uganda as well as achieving good economic recovery. But says: “Since everything has its time, President Museveni must prepare to leave power smoothly and peacefully. Uganda cannot afford and must reject another phase of violence, instability and destruction”.
'A barren woman will remain barren'
In the book, Atubo calls for new electoral laws and a new independent electoral commission appointed after consultations with all stakeholders to conduct free and fair elections.
But Mirundi said: “A barren woman will remain barren even if you change the bed. Whoever loses an election blames the Electoral Commission. The opposition loses because they do not have enough support not because of the Electoral Commission.”
Atubo also suggests that the current Parliament of 385 MPs be reduced to 200 MPs to curb the huge administration cost.
The ex-minister calls for reforms to devolve power to regional governments and presidential powers to be trimmed. He also cites regional imbalances in the top ranks of security agencies and calls for measures to stop tribalism, nepotism, and the marginalisation of any groups or areas.
He wants measures to end to the personalisation of the army and involving it in partisan politics including removal of army MPs from parliament.
He also argues that although Uganda appears to be stable and peaceful, “we must still ask fundamental questions whether the situation will be sustainable, especially when Museveni is out of power.”
On her part, Speaker Kadaga said: “You have done what is rarely done by senior citizens. Sometimes when a senior lawmaker dies, people lament that he/she did not write books.”