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Compromise is a wiser alternative

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st October 2004 03:00 AM

The cabinet white paper on the constitution amendment process has finally been brought to Parliament for consideration.

The cabinet white paper on the constitution amendment process has finally been brought to Parliament for consideration.

By Emmanuel Dombo
--I am motivated by a disire to avoid polarising Uganda into negative factions
The cabinet white paper on the constitution amendment process has finally been brought to Parliament for consideration.

In order for Parliament to do a thorough job, it requires MPs to be well informed not only about the law and procedures, but also about various alternative views if an informative debate and a good constitution is to be adopted.

One of the most contentious issues so far is the proposed amendment of article 105 (2) to remove the term limits from the Constitution. One of the views by especially PAFO members is to defend the constitution and retain that article as it is. This is the most desirable position for constitutional development, if only the President could make a pronouncement and decline the temptation to seek another term. The debate on this article would be a foregone conclusion. Without such a pronouncement from him however, the only remaining option would be to mobilise Parliament to defeat the amendment. There is also the view by government to completely delete article 105 (2) and have a limitless presidential term, which many people have termed as the life presidency project.

Definitely this is not in the best interest of the long-term stability of this country because such an amendment would in effect create a lot of uncertainty as to when and how the democratic transfer of power from one regime to another can occur, a scenario that existed in this country before the NRA went to the bush.

I also made another proposal recently that has attracted varied reactions and outrage, especially from the people who have all along cherished my position on this matter. This outrage is understandable because to them my action is like a betrayal. For goodness sake, it is not and I will later on indicate my fears that have prompted me to do this!

The proposal I made was whether it would be practically and legally tenable to amend the constitution either to give only one extra term to President Museveni but still maintain the term limits in the constitution through a transitional arrangement, like it has been done in Namibia, or to amend and just have a three five-year term limit for the presidents.

The latter case would only be if the concession was acceptable but we wish to avoid a scenario where different individuals are treated differently under the same law. Please recall that this is not the first time this constitution is being amended. In 2000, the 6th Parliament amended it in two hours! We vividly recall the vibrancy of the 6th Parliament and the vigour with which it pursued its work. Despite its vigilance, it amended this constitution just in two hours to circumvent a court process and in spite of the glaring legal and procedural flaws. Some of the members who were least expected to waver were the first ones to cast their votes for the amendment when the time came!

The 7th Parliament has been a bit milder and more friendly to the executive, a fact that has been acknowledged by the President on several occasions.

When the 7th Parliament attempted to censure a minister, the petitioners’ list mysteriously disappeared and the chief petitioner has never explained what happened!
Under such circumstances, what should make me expect miracles from the present Parliament should the executive proceed with the proposal to remove term limits? Could be I am just being faint-hearted, to which I apologise to my colleagues, but once bitten twice shy!

It is against this background that I strongly feel that rather than proceeding with this debate in a combative mood, seeking a compromise position may be a better way of salvaging the foundation for a true democracy — certainty of change of government should a regime prefer to be brutal and fond of rigging elections.

Definitely PAFO and other members opposed to the lifting of the term limits are a minority, and in most cases minorities win or survive by building coalitions, allying and/or seeking compromises. In extreme circumstances they may just pick arms.
I wish to assure those people who may have been enraged by my proposal that I am not a sell- out at all!

My proposal is motivated by the apparent stalemate that could easily polarise Uganda into undesired factions. Before we finally amend the constitution, I would like to hear the merits and demerits of my proposal and what we should do under the circumstances.

The writer is MP,
Bunyole County

Compromise is a wiser alternative

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