Scottish Federo Model for Uganda?!



Ugandans must be told the plain truth about federo
Peter Mulira
As one of the staunch supporters of the federo idea in the sense of regional self-government I am becoming rather distressed by the way most people are going about the issue. Politics has replaced constitutionalism in the way most people address the issue and no attempt is made to articulate or explain what is involved in the term “federo.”
Constitutional issues should always be considered in a bipartisan atmosphere with a view to reaching consensual agreement and in this case efforts should be made to bring arguments within the constitutional framework.
FOCUS: Buganda’s Kabaka Mutebi
CENTRAL: President Museveni
Federo is not a scientific term but is a generic word which was coined in the early nineties by a newspaper columnist, Mr Patrick Kiggundu, to describe Buganda’s demands for the return of her assets and other things (“ebyaffe”) which were abolished or expropriated under the Obote 1 government in the wake of the 1967 constitution. These things included the monarchy itself and the assets of the former Buganda government as well as its constitutional status.
The present public outcry concerns mostly the return of the system of self-government which Buganda enjoyed before and the restoration of the former crown or public land to the trusteeship of Mengo. Although a lot of confusion shrouds the demand for the reintroduction of self-government, the issue was clarified in Buganda’s submissions to the Constitutional Review Commission at page 72, which makes it clear that Buganda does not want to return to the 1962 federal status.
The federal debate should therefore be about self-government and not independence.This new position means that the bogey of Buganda’s separatism is now a thing of the past and the issue should be how to introduce regional autonomy or self-governance for those areas which want it. In this regard there are only two models in the world which can be followed namely; that of the United States or Scottish one.
The 1962 constitution followed the United States model which presupposes prior independence and which Buganda has now rejected and leaves us to concentrate on the Scottish model in which power is devolved from the centre to the periphery thus preserving the unitary nature of the country.
It is interesting to note that our Constitution under the chapter on ‘National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy’ directs that: “The state shall be guided by the principle of decentralisation and devolution of governmental functions and powers to the people at appropriate levels where they can best manage and direct their own affairs.” This means that the country can save itself a lot of distress if the “federo” issue was argued by our leaders within the spirit and confines of this provision, which in effect sanctions the creation of self-governing units on the Scottish model.
The essence of internal autonomy or self-government is captured first and foremost in three things namely; a recognised region, a regional government which can variously be called a “state” as in the United States or “ provincial” as in Canada and thirdly, the region, state or province normally has its own constitution to govern its internal affairs subject to the national constitution.
Where autonomy precedes union as in the United States of America, the relationship with the centre is federal or a state within a state which does not exist in a unitary state.Apart from providing for decentralisation and devolution of governmental functions and powers our Constitution contains all the ingredients normally found in constitutions of a federal nature namely “entrenchment” (Article 261) which means that devolved powers cannot easily be withdrawn, reservation in the periphery powers and functions which are not given to the centre (Articles 178 and 189(3)), and providing for a three-layered system of government (Article 189).
In fact, the only thing the Constitution does not allow from this perspective is a horizontal relationship between the centre and the periphery as was the case in 1962. Our leaders; both national and local, have a heavy responsibility to tell the public the truth. It is untruthful, for example, to promise Buganda “full federo” because this would mean first giving her independence as was the case on October 8, 1962, before she entered into a full federal relationship with Uganda the following day. The only federo which is possible is the one which has so far been offered which is an impossibility — through decentralisation and devolution. It is important to note that the Constitution has recognised the principle of regions, regional governments and division of functions. What is lacking is the freedom of the regions to have their own constitutions and sharing of finances and resources.
It is unfortunate that the constitutional amendments which introduced the regional tier did not provide for regional constitutions. Most of the objections which were expressed against the tier system in Buganda, for example,, are matters which should have been contained in a regional constitution.
Mr Mulira is an advocate and social commentator
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