A Brief Argument for Federating Uganda

Buganda Kingdom realized a surplus budget this year—a feat that has eluded successive central governments for many reasons that my word-limit won’t let me expound. This revelation got me thinking over the weekend about some alternatives to the management of our shared homeland.

Immediately, we should break-up and rewrite Chapters Six (Legislature), Seven (Executive) and Eight (Judiciary), of our toxic 1995 Constitution, which creates, or at least provides fertile ground for the growth of an unrestrained presidency.

As an alternative, I propose a governance model which allows the fourteen pre-independence regions that formed Uganda (West Nile, Acholi, Karamoja, Sebei, Bugisu, Bukedi, Busoga, Teso, Lango, Bunyoro, Buganda, Toro, Ankole and Kigezi) to make their own laws (a small parliament for each region), collect and use their own revenue locally, finance their regional courts and administrative bodies at that level—only remitting a small percentage of the total revenue collected to support the capital Kampala.

The current arrangement is abusive, extortionist and unfair.

You see, Kampala, through URA, collects from the whole country and sends back less than fourteen percent every year!

Robbery by law. As a result, Local Governments have cried year in, year out, over their inability to deliver on development plans because of dismal funding.

In Kampala, we could have a small but highly qualified Senate (of less than thirty distinguished Ugandans) that only meets to discuss and decide issues like foreign policy, national defense and intelligence, the national reserve bank, electoral laws, and the education curriculum.

I also propose a five- or so member Supreme Court bench that adjudicates issues affecting the whole Federation and leaves the ‘lesser’ matters and disputes to the regional court system and regional parliaments.

I don’t see why the Parliament of Uganda, sitting in Kampala, for example, should debate and appropriate money for piped water in Soroti. Or why the Supreme Court in Kampala should hear appeals on matters arising from West Nile…those cases should be heard and dispensed with by the highest court in West Nile (Arua).

My estimates show that we would have a total of one hundred and forty MPs across the whole Federation. We have over 450 today, majority of whom do not comprehend the issues at hand! The current ‘ministerial inflation’ which currently stands at seventy ministers would be history—together with the hundreds of presidential advisors, State House desks, assistants and the entire patronage network that fattens a few families at the expense of majority Ugandans.

This would more than halve our public administration wage bill and free up funds for an agricultural bank and other public services.

With this model, Ugandans in, say, Busoga, would hold their MPs accountable because there would be no reason to spend time in Kampala hiding from voters. Local leaders in district councils would no longer blame the central government for collecting all the revenue and keeping it in Kampala since they would be the ones collecting the revenue and appropriating it within their very region.

Most importantly to me though is that we would have slayed the beast of an all-powerful, patronage-based, costly and inherently corrupt presidency. I am still thinking about whether we would need an executive or ceremonial president under this architecture but it is clear to me that this would be a cure for the strongman syndrome we’ve suffered from the time the Union Jack came down and gave way for the Crane and Stripes at midnight in 1962.

I will end by admitting one fundamental weakness of my proposal: it will not necessarily tame greed or prevent impunity.

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Written by Karamagi Andrew

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