While at the centre for constitutional governance (CCG) participating in a debate about constitutional reforms I raised an argument that our constitution as a country is and has never been our constitution. This of course as expected made people tilt in the chairs with their hands up. This was a group of young people who were born between 1987 and 1997 most likely to be specific I am 28 and therefore like them. That means that in the room amongst the debaters most likely the eldest by the time the Ugandan constitution was promulgated was about 9 years backed by our low reading culture there could be a chance that their conviction was based on the lack of knowledge on how the constitution of 1995 was formed.
Those that were mature in the debate tended to have a belief that the document was working until 2005 when term limits were scrapped. I believe a house built in a swamp using week wood would ultimately fall and that is the case with the Ugandan constitution. And with the current discussion about age limit I can’t go further to give my reasons to explain my point that the Ugandan constitutional making process was a fraud and therefore changing it making easy.
It should be noted that Plans to create a new constitution under NRM leadership started with the establishment of a Ministry of Constitutional Affairs in 1986. The ministry did very little until 1989, when a constitutional commission was formed. Therefore we had a silent ministry keeping nothing for close to four years. This was intended to keep the citizens with hope when there was nothing being done.
The appointment of members of the constitutional commission is another factor to look into for it was ad hoc and done in batches. Some members who were appointed by the minister for constitutional affairs were not approved by the president, and some were appointed by the president without approval of the minister, as the Uganda Constitutional Commission Act of 1988 required. Therefore Museveni bleached the rules for self interest during the early stages of the process. This was done for he wanted control over the commission to do for him anything he wanted
The composition of the commission is also questioned because it simply had one DP member (most probably he was the founder of good DP) but otherwise the body was made up of strong supporters of the Movement system. It included both the political commissar of the NRM and his counterpart in the National Resistance Army (NRA). The commission was headed by Justice Ben Odoki, under the direction of the minister of constitutional affairs, and was financed by the government, which gave the executive additional leverage in running the commission. Those who cannot pay for their operation under week institution can never have sovereign decisions and such was the commission we expected to have and give us fairness.
The Constituency Assembly (CA) composition, while composing the CA Museveni made sure that he had control over the assembly such that anything could pass that he wanted and he insured it through the following measures;
Women representatives In the name of emancipating women during the elections of members every district in Uganda was to send one representative to the CA. These women were elected by electoral colleges that were closely associated with the NRM (Resistance Council Veterans). I can’t and no one should ever see these members as representatives of the people. These are the days ‘all women belonged to Museveni’
Museveni also got other 10 members who were simply presidential nominees these were NRM members who were given parliamentary seats most likely in recognition of their role in the guerrilla war that brought Museveni into power.
Army representatives; the army became special interest group and were allowed to enter parliament as law makers during the constituency assembly the method of choosing was also a funny one because the NRA didn’t vote. The representatives were given marks basing almost on their history not to allow trouble causers in the CA. The militarisation therefore is not is not in the enforcements of our constitution but rather its part of it since its formation.
The last blow is when the remainder of the delegates that were to be chosen were to chosen without a party while the Movement had a fully fledged secretariat that tagged people movement and partysts, these were harassed and rigged by the Akabwayi electoral commission. There was massive bribery and the partysts were defeated leaving the CA in the hands of the Movement. Therefore from this composition anyone who would expect a working constitution long lost the script.
Finally after Museveni doing all this, he further went ahead to control debate in the CA and the final outcome therefore to me this was a personal document that had an architect who would demolish at anytime he wants and that’s what we have!
In conclusion therefore knowing that there was no time Uganda’s constitution making exercise was a neutral and open process, free of manipulation; the entire exercise was part of a broader political agenda of those in power who sought to use the new constitution to remain in power at all costs I would advise the young people not to only reform this house on the bad foundation. The only solution being to demolish the bad house and build using metals and the right rations of cement for however much we remain with this foundation we can never have what the people of this country owns of course in the meantime we should continue to push for reforms but at the back of your minds you should know we are rather working for a constitutional overhaul.
Atuheire Brian Batenda is an Ethnobotanist, Farmer, Politician, Human Rights Activist and climate change candidate.