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Regional tier does not mean ‘no federo’

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th February 2006 03:00 AM

A learned friend With a historical perspective
Peter Mulira Mayanja

THE recent decision by the Buganda Lukiiko to reject the regional tier arrangement will create a constitutional crisis since it is unlikely that Parliament will revisit the issue on the grounds that

A learned friend With a historical perspective
Peter Mulira Mayanja

THE recent decision by the Buganda Lukiiko to reject the regional tier arrangement will create a constitutional crisis since it is unlikely that Parliament will revisit the issue on the grounds that

A learned friend With a historical perspective
Peter Mulira Mayanja

THE recent decision by the Buganda Lukiiko to reject the regional tier arrangement will create a constitutional crisis since it is unlikely that Parliament will revisit the issue on the grounds that one party to the agreement which preceded the constitutional amendment changed its mind or was misled.

The idea of rejection or boycott as a policy to advance its beliefs has in the past cost Buganda dearly. After the 1955 agreement with Britain in which the kingdom agreed to send members to the Legco, the Lukiiko reneged and boycotted the first direct elections of 1958.

The bone of contention then was that the Government had breached the agreement by passing a law that replaced the governor with a speaker as chairman of the Legco proceedings. The political parties which opposed the boycott were banned in Buganda, with the result that when the elections were held in 1958 without Buganda’s participation, people like Apollo Milton Obote, who were elected, found a vacuum in national leadership. This they immediately filled and Buganda has been at their mercy ever since.

In 1961, Buganda boycotted the self-government elections but DP rebelled and participated, leading to Ben Kiwanuka becoming the first Prime Minister of Uganda. To spite Kiwanuka and DP, at the independence conference in London Buganda entered into a pact with UPC, which ensured the party of all the MPs from Buganda. Thereby the kingdom denied its own son, Ben Kiwanuka, the chance to lead independent Uganda.

The then DP publicity secretary, Ssenteza Kajubi, described the arrangement between Mengo and UPC as “a malicious device to destroy all hope of a stable government in Uganda”, while its president Buganda province, Anselm Ntale, may have been prophetic when he said at a press conference on September 20, 1961 that “UPC was conspiring to destroy Buganda by its agreement with Mengo.” The rest is history.

It is not true, as the Lukiiko seems to argue, that the regional tier or provincial government cannot bring about federo. Region can mean province or state and tier means a level where power is devolved from the centre to form an autonomous government. In this sense the regional tier proposals satisfy Buganda’s proposals to the Ssempebwa Commission, save in financial matters where it proposed the sharing of pre-agreed percentages between the centre and the regions and the issue of federal constitutions, which are matters to negotiate with Parliament when making the necessary implementation law.

Under the Commonwealth of Australia Act 1900, the former colonies were united in a Federal Commonwealth of Australia under which legislative, judicial and executive power were shared between the federal government and the six states. There was a provision for the creation of new states by separation of territory from a state with the consent of Parliament or by the union of two or more states, just as is recommended for districts in our Constitution. Local administration in Australia was the function of local constitutions.

Pursuant to the British North America Act 1867, the two then colonial provinces of Canada were formed into the dominion of Canada and since then four provinces have been added. Again power was shared between the centre and the provinces and the lower local governments. Our regional tier is based on this prototype. In Australia all revenue collected formed a consolidated fund from which the surplus was distributed among states while in the case of Canada national revenue was distributed according to a formula based on population. We can learn a thing or two from here.

On page 67 of the proposals Buganda submitted to the Ssempebwa Constitution Review Commission, the return to the 1962 Constitution was emphatically rejected on the grounds that every federal system had to be adjusted to meet the demands of the times.

The 1962 Constitution, which was rejected, was based on the American federal formulation. The alternative recommended in the constitutional amendment is based on the Australian and Canadian prototype of federo that has been applied in modern times through devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Britain as well as India and South Africa. So in rejecting the American and Australian/Canadian models, what other type of federo does Buganda want?

Federalism simply means regional autonomy coupled with sharing of state power and functions between the centre, regions and local government in such a way that there is constitutional entrenchment to guard against encroachment on another unit’s terrain. There is also equitable sharing of resources and functions not reserved for the centre but automatically residing in the periphery. All these requirements are met in Articles 178 (as amended), 189 (3) and 260 of our 1995 Constitution, however imperfectly. Accordingly this aspect needs only to be improved upon but the Constitution itself is federal in nature.

After a careful study of all the official Buganda’s documents on the issue, including Buganda’s Constitutional Proposals Submitted to the Constitutional Review Commission by the Ssabataka’s Supreme Council, 1991, Buganda’s position on the Draft Constitution (the views of the Buganda Lukiiko), 1994, Major Issues to be Submitted to the Constitutional Review Commission (Prepared by the Buganda Constitutional Review Commission), 2001, Proposals for Constitutional Change (submitted by the Lukiiko to the Ssempebwa Commission), I am satisfied that apart from the details which can be improved on at the stage of making the implementation law, the regional tier satisfies Buganda’s demands.

The government itself should be brave and allow substantive governments based on provinces to be formed with their own constitutions and a fair sharing of the national revenue.

Edmund Burke, whose ideas all liberal constitutions have followed, advised that “to make a government requires no great prudence; settle the seat of power, teach obedience, and the work is done. To give freedom is even more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go of the rein.”

Regional tier does not mean ‘no federo’

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