|A Complete Guide to Uganda's Fourth Constitution - History, Politics and the Law (Fountain Publishers, 1995, 118 p.)|
* Chairman, Constituent Assembly
It is conventional wisdom that new constitutions more often than not, are made by constituent assemblies or constitutional conventions and not by houses of parliament. Following this wisdom, and in their own sense of nationalism, the NRC and the Army Council which had, earlier, been vested with the power to constitute the Constituent Assembly, by paragraph 14B of Legal Notice No. 1 of 1986 surrendered that power in favour of a directly elected Constituent Assembly. Paragraph 14B of Legal Notice No. 1 of 1986 was repealed by Section 33 of the Constituent Assembly Statute, 1993. The willingness of both the NRC and the Army Council, to give up their power in order to enable the people to elect a Constituent Assembly, perhaps epitomises the highest level of commitment to the nascent democratic process the country is putting in place through the promulgation of the new constitution.
There is no doubt that the new constitution will form the first stage in the continuous process of redefinition of Uganda and its political, social and economic aspirations, under the new constitution, the country must redefine its real character and abandon those aspects of inner self that have been responsible for its chequered political history as well as social and economic retardation in the past. The completion of the constitution making exercise which has cost a tremendous amount of human effort and other national resources, should be regarded as a significant positive move towards purposive nation building and for attaining the broader national goals reflected in the new constitution.
Perhaps the single most significant lesson the country can draw from the constitution making experience is that Ugandans of different nationalities, religions, languages, social status or political beliefs, can live together in peace and generate continuous consensus on those matters of general concern. They can shed off their fears and suspicions and develop friendly cooperation and understanding as a people with a common destiny.
When the delegates to the Constituent Assembly first met, most of them did not know one another. A good many of them had never entered the political arena before. Those who belonged to the political parties were suspicious of those who professed the movement politics and vice versa. These fears and suspicions, at the beginning threatened to stall the work of the Assembly. The delegates, for example, did not agree that during the consideration stage, specified areas of the Draft Constitution could be dealt with by specified select committees. They desired that all matters be dealt with by the plenary meeting of the Assembly or else the process "could be hijacked" by one or the other perceived enemy of the country. However, as time went on and particularly after the general debate, when delegates had assessed the various views on the floor and gained some confidence of one another, they were able to form consensus on the institution of the select committees.
Even on the most contentious issues of the form of government (Federo or Decentralisation) and on the political system (movement or multi-partism), the delegates, in spite of the long and acrimonious debate and a one time "walk out" were able to arrive at a purposive conclusion so that Uganda remains one and the constitution making process was not stalled or thrown overbroad.
The delegates, in spite of the often very strong views, one way or the other, chose to give Uganda a chance to continue as a nation and to strive for continued growth towards prosperity, politically and socially.
It is this faith in Uganda other than in our own selves or our own beliefs and concerns that has been the greatest experience of the Constituent Assembly. Ugandans should carry this experience into the new era of the constitutional democracy that comes with me promulgation of the new constitution.
The new constitution, as I said at the beginning, only sets the first stage in the continuous process of redefining Uganda and attaining its political, social and economic values and aspirations.
The faithful implementation of the new constitution will form the second stage; a stage through which the process of democratisation, which has been set loose through the new constitution, will be cemented through the constant building of both the democratic and the legal systems and practices. It is a worth while task that we should all undertake with vigour and dedication. The new constitution will provide the focus and set the pattern for the expectations of Ugandans to be formulated into reality.
I recommend to all Ugandans the acceptance of the new Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. It is the hope of all of us, who sat for long hours in the Constituent Assembly, and indeed, of the National Resistance Movement Government which initiated and championed the process, that the awareness of constitutionalism by all Ugandans will result into positive action in all spheres of life. In my view the new constitution gives the people of Uganda a viable second chance.