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The East African : November 3rd 2013
The EastAfrican NEWS NOVEMBER 2-8,2013 WHICH WAY, UGANDA? Are MPs rooting for return to ‘no party’ politics? Politicians say multipa≥tyism has not yielded the same level of democ≥acy as p≥evailed unde≥ no-pa≥ty system By JULIUS BARIGABA The EastAfrican S tatements by two Ugandan MPs expressing nos- talgia about the “no party” days are fuelling suspicion of a plan to reintroduce the system that ended in 2005 when the country voted in a referendum for a return to multiparty politics. The statements, coming barely two years before the country’s scheduled referendum to decide whether to maintain multiparty politics or change to another system, rekindle memories of 2003, when the campaign to lift the presidential term limits started with similarly isolated voices. Slowly, the idea gained momentum, leading to the controversial lifting of the term limits in 2005. In separate forums last week, Emmanuel Dombo and Rosemary Seninde, two long serving legislators of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), suggested that the House was less vibrant, a development they attributed to the coercive nature of party politics, where free debate is stifled. Let down “At times the populace has been let down because parliament, which was very effective under the [no-party] Movement system, is undermined under the multiparty system. Under the Movement system, MPs stood on individual merit, under no pressure from anybody,” Mr Dombo, a legislator since 1996, said in an interview with the Observer newspaper, a sentiment that Ms Seninde echoed elsewhere. The Movement system was introduced into the 1995 Uganda Constitution after nine years of military rule by the Yoweri Museveni-led National Resistance Army/ Movement, with candidates running for political office on individual merit, as opposed to party affiliation. Upon taking power in Jan- uary 1986, Museveni’s first act was to issue Legal Notice Number One of 1986, which suspended political party activities in the country, with only the NRM remaining ac- tive. Critics of the regime, including donors, argued that Uganda had been turned into a single party state and mounted pressure on Museveni’s government to return to party politics to allow Ugandans freedom of association as enshrined in the Constitution. Yet today, some politicians hold that multiparty politics was rushed, and has not yielded the same level of debate and democracy that prevailed under the single party system. “Individual merit was good, but it’s not conventional. That’s the only problem. But if there were a referen- “The populace has been let down because parliament is undermined under the multiparty system.” Emmanuel Dombo, MP but I would be more worried if the ruling party were not strong. Right now, NRM is still strong and they want to keep an opposition for window dressing, to show that we have a growing democracy,” said Phillip Wafula Oguttu, opposition MP for Bukooli County Central and shadow minister for works and infrastructure. State Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Freddie Ruhindi said that calls for a return to the premultiparty political setup under Museveni are “personal views of those MPs,” which the government is not about to consider. The discomfort of legis- HOW POLITICAL SYSTEM CAN CHANGE Article 74 of the 1995 Constitution says a political system can be changed through a referendum, held in the fourth year of the term of any parliament — 2015 in this case — requested by a resolution that is supported by more than half of MPs, or requested through a petition to the Electoral Commission by at least onetenth of registered voters from at least two-thirds of constituencies. But where a referendum may prove difficult to negotiate — technically or financially — a political system can be changed by the elected representatives of the people in parliament and district councils by a resolution supported by no less than two-thirds of MPs upon a petition to parliament supported by not less than a two-thirds majority of the total membership of each of at least half the district councils. dum today, there is a high possibility that most people would opt to go back to individual merit,” Mr Dombo told The EastAfrican. “Parties by their nature are coercive organisations used to pursue collective group interests that may not be popular with people. If the party president wants something, does that become a party position? This is what’s happening under multipartyism,” he said. These voices, for now, are few, isolated and unpopular, according to sources within parliament, but other MPs argue that this could change towards 2015, when Uganda is likely to hold a referendum to change the system of governance. “These are the offspring of the Movement system who are saying this. It [returning to a no-party system] is not a popular thinking in parliament, in the opposition and ruling party. It could change, Uganda’s parliament. Some MPs are quietly rooting for a return to the no-party system. Picture: File lators like Mr Dombo and Ms Seninde with the current political system, where parties caucuses whip their members, is manifest in the internal fights that have taken place in NRM. Since the start of the Ninth Parliament in June 2011, the executive has been rattled by its own NRM MPs leading to the suspension of one lawmaker and expulsion of four others from the party. The expelled REPUBLIC OF RWANDA lawmakers are Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga County), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga County West) and Wilfred Niwagaba of Ndorwa East. According to Mr Dombo, this development has forced MPs who were previously outspoken to retreat into silence. Yet, in the vibrant Sixth Parliament under the Movement system between 1996 and 2001, MPs censured Cabinet ministers without fear of reprisal from the regime. The other fear, if Uganda were to go back to the unconventional no-party system, is that it would become even more of a political misfit in the region. It is the only country in the East African Community that has unlimited presidential terms. Removing multiparty politics while the regional bloc is working towards a political federation would be a step in the wrong direction. The envisaged EAC political federation requires that partner states have common structures and governance systems. 5 MINISTRY OF EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP) TITLE: TRAINING INSTITUTION TO DELIVER TRAINING MODULES ON REGIONAL INTEGRATION TO THE MINISTRY OF EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY (MINEAC) NUMBER: PO/20120837 TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) on behalf of The Ministry of East African Community (MINEAC) Rwanda is looking to engage the services of an International Training Institution to provide capacity building services on regional integration. Detailed Terms of reference can be obtained at www.trademarkea.com. All queries related to this procurement should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org quoting the Tender Title and Number. This tender is restricted to International Training Institutions only. Interested and qualified firms must register and submit proposal online ONLY on the TMEA procurement portal: http://procurement.trademarkea.com. The closing date for submission is 6 December 2013. TMEA cannot answer any query relating to this tender three days or less prior to the submission deadline.
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