When my father hired a nutritionist for his meals, I knew they would disagree about almost everything. When he needed to take his usual hot cup of coffee in the morning, the nutritionist waltzed the table with hot water quenched with lemons and honey, his afternoon g-nut paste and liver was replaced with vegetable greens and passion fruits, the nightly supper meat was taken over by a hot cup of tea followed by a string of medications. All in an attempt to reduce weight, he had lost the whiff of freedom he had left!
This is no different from Uganda and its forged multi-party system. A recent ruling of the court on rebel Members of parliament sought to grant an injunction to a party to chase members of parliament, legally elected but denounced by the party. The peculiarity of the case and its workings aside, this is a case that will test the success of the ‘veiled multi-party politics’.
Who calls the shots on an M.P? From whom do M.P’s take orders? Who pays them? Who do they deliver their service to?
To answer these questions, one must try to understand the concept of power. As defined in the world revolutionary Elites book by Harold Lasswell, Power is simply the ability to make decisions. The power to decide is thus a contradiction. At the tail end of the decision making is where the power is concentrated. Should it be a party or the people who recall an M.P from parliament?
For one to become an M.P, they go through a party primary and then get the party flag from where they contest the polls and are voted into parliament by the people. What however is the failure of ‘multi-party ism’ is to apportion the power amongst different people,the NRM voters and other regular voters not from the same party for example, what excuse do you give to the voter who is not from the NRM but voted for Nsereko to become M.P? That the fella should get himself a party card? That a decision by a band of three from an office of Kampala affects all 50,000 constituents? These are some of the failures multi-party democracy does not address in the Ugandan political situation. The other way obviously is to broaden the space in the political party for all to participate which is unlikely with the patronage attached to parties in Uganda today
So there is that part of our constitution that says all power belongs to the people, what becomes the measure of people in multi-party democracy? Three against 50,000? Where should the power lie?
Uganda is no different from my father; the choice of multi-party democracy comes with hurdles that are as hurting to the nation as the joys, if any. If you hire a nutritionist to cater for your meals, what they prescribe becomes what you eat, you do not like their prescriptions, fire them and get another or recommend your own.
Which draws me to the second part, I have for long had this debate with a colleague and political analyst Angelo Izama over whether the 1995 constitution has run its course. Initially I laughed off the idea that we could have hit snag, but with all the evidence in my face it is not long before the cracks open and the rubble dawns.
A constitution is an embodiment of a people and how they wish to be governed, as it stands now, the multitudes (by personal polling) are increasingly resisting the mode in which they are being governed. We can apportion the blame partly to the gloating failures of NRM’s leadership and the other to the lack of national consensus.
The lack of national consensus is as a result of the lack of a forum where all ideas meet (meant to be parliament initially). If parliament actually reflected the views of the citizenry we wouldn’t have this debate but since our politics throws the carcass to our faces we have to face it.
A constitutional crisis is inevitable at this time, the views of the wanainchi can only be intergrated into what people call government after we agree to a new mode of governance.