Kamya Referendum Running Out of Time

Despite her optimism, Beti Kamya is struggling to get the 1.3 million signatures she needs to force a national referendum on federalism.

Already, the president of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) has missed the April 2014 deadline she set to file the requisite petition with the Electoral Commission because she lacks the required number of signatures.

“It is unfortunate that we [UFA] have not been able to beat the deadline due largely to financial constraints. Maybe we shall push to June or after,” she said. “This means that the intended referendum can’t now be budgeted for in the next financial year [20142015].”

Kamya fears that if she submits her petition after June, government is likely to politicise the delay and frustrate her efforts. In December 2012, Kamya, a former Lubaga North MP, proposed a change from the current unitary form of governance to federalism through a national referendum, as per Article 74 of the Constitution.

Consequently, UFA started collecting signatures to petition the Electoral Commission to organize a referendum in which Ugandans would vote either to adopt federalism and also trim the powers of the president, or to maintain the status quo. The Constitution says that resolutions or petitions for purposes of changing the political system shall be taken in the fourth year of any parliament, which, in this case, is 2015.

This means the proposed referendum can only happen next year, putting Kamya under extreme pressure for time. For a referendum petition to stand, it must be backed by signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters. So far, Kamya says, they have collected 950,000 signatures, which is 350,000 short.

In December last year, Kamya told The Observer she was “sure” she would be through by April 2014, which is already halfway gone. Petitioning the EC this month, she said, would give the commission time to prepare the budget and submit it to Parliament for approval.

But last week, Kamya admitted she was struggling. In response to Kamya’s dilemma, EC Spokesman Jotham Taremwa said: “I think Kamya or whoever is collecting signatures, should concentrate more on collecting signatures than budgeting for the referendum. Let them [UFA] submit the signatures then we shall verify and begin from there to see whether it is out of time or not.”

Kamya said that due to limited resources, UFA was now collecting signatures from people’s homes. She remains tight-lipped on where she’s getting the money from and how much UFA has spent on the exercise.

Paul Bukenya, the deputy EC spokesman, admitted that because of the process outlined in the law, timelines were very important. For instance, after submitting the signatures, the EC has to first verify all the petitioners to establish whether they are all registered voters. It is after the verification that the commission can issue a verification certificate, and then draw up the plan and budget, which must be approved by Parliament.

Source : The Observer

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