By: Beti Olive Kamya
My attention was drawn to an article by Remember PD. Miamingi, titled “Electoral reforms are crucial for Uganda’s democratic growth”, which was published in the Daily Monitor of January 20. Miamingi decries electoral fraud in Uganda and calls for the Electoral Reforms’ Bill to be passed into law, as remedy for Uganda’s fledgling democracy.
I find his analysis ‘half-full’ because elections are the tail end of the democratic process, so, beginning with electoral issues to solve a democratic problem is like walking backwards. The journey to democracy is a hard trek marked with rocky hills, slippery valleys, thorns and wild animals, therefore, choosing to deal with those challenges at the end of the journey is missing the point.
The democratic process begins with a Constitution, out of which come laws, Acts and Penal codes, which ultimately impact on elections. It is superficial to appraise elections rather than the entire democratic process of which elections are just the last leg.
According to Chapter 99 (1) of the Constitution of Uganda, “The Executive authority of Uganda is vested in the President… who shall exercise it in accordance with this Constitution…” The problem, though, is that 70 per cent of the Constitution of Uganda gives the President authority to be/do just about everything of consequence there is to be/do in Uganda.
Implementing such a constitution is every president’s joy because it enables him / her to place the faithful in strategic positions, making the next election easy to win, even when electoral reforms take away his/her mandate to appoint the Electoral Commission.
Focusing on electoral reforms is a quick fix, which could boomerang on its proponents in case Museveni wins the next election, in spite of the electoral reforms. For a lasting solution, we have to go back all the way to the beginning of the problem – the Constitution, which needs surgery, first to disentangle the State from Government, currently fused, and to provide a conducive environment for the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary to be independent of each other.
For now, as long as the Executive, acting on constitutional mandate, appoints judges, 20 per cent of the Legislature and the Clerk to Parliament, there can be no separation of powers and no independent electoral commission, no matter what name you call it.