Subjecting Federalism To A Referendum Is 'Crap'


Nevertheless, troche my interest has been drawn to an article she wrote recently and was postedon Ekitibwa Kya Buganda (EKB) blog under the headline: ’Kamya’s Appeal to Ugandans’. She wrote:’…………. UFA has formally declared that we shall evoke Article 74 of the constitution of Uganda to cause a referendum come 2015 for the purpose of changing Uganda’s political system to federalism..…’

While I agree with Kamya that federalism is the way forward, capsule I never imagined that there’s still any sensible opposition leader out there who still believes that systems can be changed in Uganda through elections under the present leadership of president Museveni. Elections of national importance are useless in Uganda because president Museveni can use them to get whatever he wants. He only allows the opposition to win mainly byelections because they are some how difficult to rig.

Without going into the presidential rigging that is often rightly cited by the opposition. Let me give you an example of the two referendums to either stay with the Movement or Multiparty that were conducted between 2000 and 2005, and the vice versa. The first one was held in June 2000 and the second was held inJuly 2005.

Those who voted ‘‘Yes’’ to Movement system were 4,471,681 that represented a 90.7% according to the Electoral Commission. Those who ticked orvoted ‘‘No’’ to Multiparty system were 442,843 which represented 09.3% of the total votes.
The second referendum was held after less than 4 years but the results again came out as President Museveni wanted them to be. Those who said ‘‘Yes’’ to Multiparty system were 3,736,367 which represented a good 92.4% of the totalvotes cast. Those who ticked ‘‘No’’ to Movement system were 297,865 representing 07.6% of the total votes.

So basically a referendum or elections in Uganda cannot change a system to anything which has not been endorsed by president Museveni. He gets whatever he wants, and if Kamya wants us to have a referendum on federalism, she better finds ways of convincing president Museveni, and leave Ugandans out of it for now.

That said, Ugandans should not allow anybody to scare them off federalism.There are people who use Late Oyito Ojok’s scare tactics of 1980s: telling the rest of Ugandans that any changes in status-quo means the return of slavery by Baganda. He used the same tactics during the 1980 elections scaring othe rUgandans against voting for DP’s Paul Ssemogerere. Oyite Ojok while speaking in Luo urged the Acholi and Langi to unite and elect Obote who would cater for their interests.

But I would like Ugandans to look at federalism as a potential stabilizing force for the country if it is adopted by any incoming government. Stability in most federal states is measured on the basis of three yardsticks: the constitutions, fiscal arrangements and party systems. Switzerland, which is considered as highly federal on all the three counts, is stable (that is, free of secessionism and violence).

Uganda has got noises about secession from some Baganda but the government can easily put an end to this by granting full federalism to Buganda or the rest of the country. The reason why secessionist voices won’t go away is because there isn’t even a small bone to cling to at the moment, and as a result, the secessionists are more powerful than us.

The central government in most cases accords autonomy to the region in the first place if it is assured that secession is unlikely. If a right to secede is justified as remedy for oppressive and discriminatory practices towards a region, then the same objective can be achieved using other means such as: federalisms, checks and balances, entrenchments of civil rights and liberties,and judicial review.

I don’t support secessionism but let me also remind anti-federalists that Buganda, just like Quebec, are asking to secede because they just want to run their own things. May be one of the reasons why some Baganda aren’t happy can be found in the fact that some people in the present government are doing everything possible to weaken Buganda’s culture and economic foundations such that some people see secession as the only way to protect them.

By the way secession is a normal thing as it has happened in some other parts of the world. For instance, Norway and Sweden in 1905, UK and Ireland in 1922, Iceland and Denmark in 1918. However, I can’t see a Buganda and Uganda going separate ways because there is still a chance that everything will be sorted out in thepost-Museveni era.

Canada, which is believed to have an ambiguous constitution, quasi-federalfiscal relations and a federal party system, is partially stable since it facesa peaceful secessionist movement in Quebec. The Quebec secession movements have gone quite because the Canada government gave Quebec federalism. Nevertheless, Canada is a federal society despite its constitution which is only quasi-federal.

Quasi federal means the federal government is the dominant partner. Canada was quasi federal between 1867 and 1896 under Macdonald’s leadership. Most ofthe decisions were made by Otawa not provinces. Then Canada became a classical federalism between 1896 and 1914 –meaning the power became equal between Otawa and provinces.

Then it became an emergency federalism between 1914 and 1960-meaning the balance of power swung back towards the federal government. Then it became a cooperative federalism between 1960 to present –meaning the provinces now have much power to raise revenues and exercise power over their respective jurisdictions.

It also means that the two levels must constantly bargain and coordinate their actions. So this cooperative federalism is run on a quasi federal constitution which makes it a bit tricky for analysts to call Canada a full federal like USA.
India is also believed to be quasi-federal in all three respects (the constitutions, fiscal arrangements and party systems) and is therefore facing violent secessionist movements and thus is unstable.

Uganda is still lucky that the secession movements are not violent and it’s in government’s interests to grant Buganda and other parts that want it- federo to keep them that way. The longer they delay it, the more ‘’chilli’’ these guys will put in their sauce at some point.
All in all, Federalism is not bad at all. I even don’t know why some people call it ‘crap’ as if it is one of those MacDonald burgers and chipsor Chelsea’s Torres on a bad day. But subjecting federalism to a referendum right now is crap.


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