While the functions and powers of each of the organs appear to have been clearly set out in the Constitution, in practice, there have been instances of conflict and tension between them
By Isabella Bwiire
In Uganda's constitutional order, the three arms of Government are all subordinate to the Constitution from which they derive authority. None of the organs is supreme, rather, sovereignty rests with the people from whom all state power is derived.
While the functions and powers of each of the organs appear to have been clearly set out in the Constitution, in practice, there have been instances of conflict and tension between them. In the recent months, the legislature accused judges and magistrates of being unpatriotic, partisan, biased against the opposition, corrupt, unprofessional, outrights incompetent, colluding with foreign firms and recently, being responsible for the increased rate of violent crime in the country.
Good governance demands that the three institutions ought not to squander public resources to fight each other. There is need for co-ordination between the three organs to ensure that the public good is fostered. However, the co-operation should not be open ended. To avoid abuse of power, there is need for a system of checks and balances to ensure that no single organ exercises absolute power.
As it is vivid today, where the two organs dance on the tunes of one that assumes all the powers and this bears shortcomings where failed political figures are used to fight opposition parties. Thus the co-operation between the three organs must be limited to enable the system of checks and balances to operate and ensure that each organ does not fall into temptation to exercise arbitrary powers. Such limited or tamed power can only meaningfully exist, if the co-operation between the three organs is limited to well defined areas.
Utmost co-ordination can be achieved with in these organs through a number of possibilities including defending the constitution. These arms have a duty to restore the full force of the Constitution. They have a duty to resist any persons seeking to overthrow the established Constitutional order and to do all in their power to restore the Constitutional order after it has been suspended, amended, abrogated or overthrown, however, this can be achieved only when there is coordination.
Accordingly, if our constitutional order is threatened, the three must co-operate to deny legitimacy to those who may try to subvert the constitutional order, not to just look on and be corrupted at the expense of the country.
As Uganda aspires to be a democratic state, the basic tenet of a democratic state is the protection of the rights for all, even the most despised minorities. Human rights and freedoms are not granted by the state or any mortal person. These are part and partial of human dignity. The Constitution simply recognises these rights as a restraint upon organs of state, are not to act arbitrarily in disregard of these rights and freedoms.
The recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Because of the centrality of human rights to meaningful, peace and social progress and human development, the constitution obliges all persons including all organs, agencies opposition parties to respect, uphold and promote the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups.
The writer works with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative