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Museveni, too, can suggest changes

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st January 2002 03:00 AM

Was Bishop Onono right to accept a prize from beer manufacturers?

Ofwono-Opondo's Opinion IF a man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of grain, at what stage of starvation will you prefer the grain to the vote? asked English philosopher Bertrand Russell in his Silhouettes in Satire. Going by press reports, Anglican Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng of Gulu who has just won and received the “Guinness Power Of Goodness Award,” for peace efforts in northern Uganda should be the last person to query President Yoweri Museveni’s relations with Col Muamar Gadaffi. From the above account, it is doubtable that if Gadaffi were to donate money to Gulu diocese, or for peace efforts in Gulu Rev Onono would decline to receive it. However, since the beginning of time, governments have been mainly engaged in kicking the people around. But one of the unprecedented achievements of the Movement political system for Uganda is the idea that the people should now do the kicking — and they are really kicking hard. The Onono gift is from a would-be unlikely source, the Uganda Breweries Ltd, an alcoholic beverages company, which the Christian Anglican teaching abhors. While Bishop Onono disagrees with Uganda’s membership in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), and Museveni’s friendship with Gadaffi, he happily travelled to Luzira breweries to receive his award! Uganda has been a member of the OIC since 1984 but has never been declared, gazetted or practised as an Islamic state. In fact Article 7 of the Constitution prohibits adoption of a state religion, let alone Islam. But be that as it may, Bishop Onono should be aware of Article 6 of the Constitution, which declares English as the “official language of Uganda.” Has the mere existence of that provision alone transformed Uganda into an English country and why not condemn our association with Britain! It is really kicking a storm in a teacup. And Bishop Onono is alone in this crusade against what the President does, as he is joined by some critics on Museveni’s intention to submit “radical” proposals to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). They are sceptical of Museveni’s suggestion to forward “radical” proposals on amendment to the Constitution seeking more powers for the president than at present. Obviously Museveni may be wrong in many respects including the tact, timing and the forum he chose to put his initial suggestions. Firstly, he been misunderstood and misrepresented by his usual critics as power hungry. Secondly, all commentators are likely to rely on the media reports, inaccurate as the contents may be. But while we all yearn for democracy, it seems some people think it is criminal for Museveni to hold strong views on governance. Yet like every other Ugandan, he is free to present even the most extreme proposal to the CRC. But the final decision lies with Parliament, other bodies or the referendum that will debate and pass the amendments to the Constitution. In some democracies like the US, the president has power to veto decisions by both houses of Congress. Recently, using the executive order, President G.W. Bush outlawed alleged Al-Qaeda network organisations, seized their funds and investments on terrorist charges, and not proved before any court of law. That sort of power was necessary to protect US liberty from indiscriminate outlaws. In Britain, which Uganda has copied so much, the prime minister has powers to dissolve Parliament (House of Commons) and determines when elections are held. This will be neither new nor extra-ordinary as has been done before by the NRC, CA, sixth and seventh parliaments. Instead, they think only those outside the state apparatus should dictate to government on how to lead the country. This is illustrated by the angry reactions from some MPs and some mmembers of the public over Museveni’s remark that a president needs to be strengthened by the Constitution to push through unnecessary intransigence. What else would Ugandans wish to have if not for a president to follow the constitutional framework to put his/her views? The critics should study Museveni’s proposals and counter them logically and powerfully both before the CRC and Parliament when time for debate comes. One need not agree with Museveni on every detail but one thing that should be clear is that the law should bind us all. You may say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But as Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1937, “as intricacies of human relationships increase, so power to govern them must increase — power to stop evil; power to do good.” There is no contradiction as it is up to Ugandans to find where and who to give more powers over the country.

Museveni, too, can suggest changes

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