|A Complete Guide to Uganda's Fourth Constitution - History, Politics and the Law (Fountain Publishers, 1995, 118 p.)|
* Justice of the Supreme Court and Former Chairman, Uganda Constitution Commission
The Constitutional Commission, as a group of experts mandated to consult the people of Uganda and make proposals for a new democratic constitution based on national consensus, received overwhelming response from the people of all shades of opinion in Uganda and used their views as a basis for formulating its proposals, contained in its Report and Draft Constitution. After nearly four years of intensive work, the Commission submitted its Report and Draft Constitution to Government on 31st December, 1992.
The Draft Constitution was intended to reflect the values, interests and aspirations of the people of Uganda. It was aimed at redressing past injustices. It sought to establish the sovereignty of the people as repository of political power. It recognised the supremacy of the constitution as the fundamental law of Uganda and as a basis for constitutionalism and democracy. It sought to establish democratic institutions and processes which would ensure good governance, transparency, accountability, popular participation, and peaceful change of government. It provided for a form of government in which democratic local self government was guaranteed. It put in place a comprehensive bill of rights which was justiciable by an independent judiciary. It sought to create the necessary environment and conditions for peace, stability, national unity and socio-economic development. It was a home grown, socially relevant document largely influenced by Uganda's historical experience and its vision for the future, but taking into account international developments elsewhere in the world.
Thus, the Draft Constitution was a unique document which attempted to make a break with the past in many respects. The object was to ensure that the constitution was forward-looking and progressive; that it did not repeat the mistakes of the past, that it provided a peaceful transition to democratic governance; that it provided measures to prevent the vicious circle of dictatorship, instability and economic decline; that it provided room for constitutional development, and that it ushered in a new democratic culture that would promote sustained development.
It is most gratifying that the Constituent Assembly has endorsed most of the proposals in the draft constitution. This is a clear demonstration that the people's views have prevailed. The free and fair manner in which the members of the Constituent Assembly were elected and the open, public, frank, and transparent way in which they debated the draft constitution all go to give profound legitimacy to the new constitution.
Sovereignty resides in the people. The power to make a constitution which is a basic decision on how a people wish to be governed lies with the people themselves and not their government.
A constitution is necessary but not sufficient. It is only a foundation for an orderly democratic government. The people have to build democratic institutions on this foundation and nurture them. It is right for the people of Uganda to have hope that the new constitution might solve many of their problems. But they must be prepared to make it work, and to adapt it to changing circumstances. A constitution is a product of its own times but it is also a dynamic institution which must be kept abreast changing socio-economic and political conditions of the country. It is the duty of the people and their institutions to ensure that the constitution lives forever; that it is observed, applied, respected and interpreted in such away that it stands the test of time.