The 1986 Constitution and its Amendments: A Brief Overview
The 1986 Constitution was the seventh constitution of Uganda, which took effect on January 29, 1986. It was promulgated by Yoweri Museveni after he seized power with his National Resistance Army (NRA) on January 26, 1986. Museveni declared himself President of Uganda under the new constitution.
The 1986 Constitution was based on the principles of democracy, national unity, social justice, human rights, and the rule of law. It also reflected the aspirations and demands of the various regions and groups in Uganda, who had suffered under the previous regimes of Obote and Amin.
The main features of the 1986 Constitution were:
It established a presidential system of government, with a president as the head of state and government, elected by universal adult suffrage for a five-year term.It created a unicameral legislature, called the National Resistance Council (NRC), which consisted of members appointed by Museveni from his NRA, political parties, interest groups, and independent candidates.It suspended the multiparty system and introduced a “no-party” or “movement” system, which allowed all Ugandans to participate in politics regardless of their party affiliation or ideology.It reinstated the bill of rights, which guaranteed civil liberties and human rights for all Ugandans, such as freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion, and movement.It maintained a unitary system of government, but also provided for some decentralization and devolution of powers to the districts and local councils.
The 1986 Constitution was a provisional constitution, which was meant to be replaced by a permanent constitution after a period of ten years. During this period, Museveni appointed a constitutional commission in 1989 to review the 1986 Constitution and propose amendments. The commission consulted widely with the public and submitted its report in 1993. The report was then debated and approved by a constituent assembly in 1995. The constituent assembly adopted the 1995 Constitution, which is the current constitution of Uganda.
The 1995 Constitution retained most of the features of the 1986 Constitution, but also introduced some changes and reforms. Some of the changes were:
It increased the size and representation of the legislature, which was renamed as the Parliament, and made it fully elected by universal adult suffrage.It restored the multiparty system, but also allowed for individual merit candidates to contest in the elections.It created an independent judiciary, headed by a chief justice, and established a constitutional court and a supreme court to interpret and uphold the constitution.It created an independent electoral commission to organize and supervise free and fair elections.It created other independent institutions to promote democracy and accountability, such as the human rights commission, the inspectorate of government, the auditor general, and the ombudsman.
The 1995 Constitution has been amended four times since its enactment. The first amendment was in 1997, which changed the name of Uganda from “the Republic of Uganda” to “the Republic of Uganda”. The second amendment was in 2000, which introduced a referendum system to allow Ugandans to choose between a multiparty or a no-party system every five years. The third amendment was in 2005, which removed the presidential term limits and allowed Museveni to run for re-election indefinitely. The fourth amendment was in 2017, which removed the presidential age limit and lowered the age requirement for parliamentary candidates from 35 to 18 years.
The constitutional development of Uganda from 1986 to present has been marked by both achievements and challenges. On one hand, Uganda has made progress in establishing a democratic system of government that respects human rights and the rule of law. On the other hand, Uganda has also faced problems such as corruption, insecurity, human rights violations, political violence, and constitutional crises. The future of Uganda’s constitution depends on how well it can balance the interests and aspirations of its diverse people and regions.
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