By Ofwono Opondo
Lawyers of old, used to say “He who comes to the temple of justice should do so with a clean pair of hands,” but perhaps not anymore, because, today the path to justice is littered more by fraudulent behaviour, where genuine counsel to clients are rarely offered, and consequently many people think that substantive justice is being subverted.
Mid this week the leader of opposition in Parliament (LoP), Betty Aol Ocan, (FDC), Gulu woman MP, accompanied by toxic firebrands, Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, and Betty Nambooze, unveiled their proposed constitutional amendments, supposedly to facilitate fairer and more transparent elections in 2021 and beyond. But as they spoke, Andrew Baryayanga a.k.a. Aja, (Independent MP), Kabale municipality, was tabling, “The Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill,” which many think is aimed at trimming FDC in selecting parliamentary leadership. Opposition appears working at cross purposes.
While electoral reforms and some of the amendments are necessary and have been delayed, most of those being mooted by Aol and company, are more of political fantasies, and if they succeed, NRM should surely pass some roses to the opposition. What goes round comes round, as the old saying goes! NRM MPs, and cadres ought to collectively have the intransigent and bellicose opposition MPs who often practice enemy politics, on their own ropes, through organised, methodical, and systematic counter political punches of logic and numbers. We hope, this time round, as the proposers, they won’t use intimidation to get their way.
And as the Luganda adage goes, ensibambi edibya mutere, (Bad packaging undermines a good commodity), at the media briefing, Nambooze typically, came out loosely wagging her tongue alleging that most NRM MPs get elected through cheating, and still somehow, expects them to support opposition sponsored amendments laced with arrogance and character assassination.
Among the high-hope proposals is to have presidential candidates who score 10% of total votes, become ex-officio MPs, allegedly to strengthen their parties in holding the majority party, and government in check. It’s an inadvertent admission by Aol, Semujju, Nambooze, and their political sidekicks of collective ineptitude, incompetence and inability to offer leadership in parliament. In 2010, the opposition tabled a proposal that the presidential first runner-up should automatically become LoP. The other lofty proposals include introduction of presidential running-mate, and federal system of governance, long rejected by most Ugandans since 1966, and more recently in 1995 when the current constitution was promulgated because of the likely inherent power struggles that could emerge. It is also surprising, that the opposition now appears to be settling for less when earlier they proposed had proportional representation in parliament and a government of national unity allegedly because there isn’t sufficient national consensus to hold Ugandans together.
They also announced that they would seek to re-instate the two-term presidential limits, and age limit for elective offices removed in 2005 and 2017 respectively. Many see these proposals coming as they do from an opposition with hardily a combined strength of one hundred MPs as filibuster maneuver to waste valuable time. Mostly, they perhaps hope to gain some relevance towards a really tough forthcoming 2021 election, otherwise they should constructively work the Minister of Justice, and Attorney General because on their own, Aol Ocan, Semujju, and Nambooze, are headed to the dead end, but simply trying the waters.
These three, having just recently suffered a drubbing by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga over COSASE, may be finding it hard to swallow their false pride, and could be taking another aim at her. After-all, she has directed government to ensure that all critical election related reforms are tabled by April this year. As a reminder, this was the same group that vigorously opposed, including through physical fights in parliament, assaults, the Raphael Magyezi 2017 amendments, arguing that constitutional amendments were ‘too important’ to be sponsored through a private member’s Bill. The same people, who shouted that the constitution shouldn’t be amended, are now seeking its alteration, most likely eying donor money.
If the amendment passes, then, clearly, every party whose presidential candidate garners 10% of the national vote, including the president, should seat in parliament to strength their sides. But perhaps, this is one way to smuggle in Kizza Besigye, a perennial sour-grapping loser. Alternatively, it could be meant to undercut Norbert Mao whose faction of the Democratic Party, although too thin on the ground, has all along found it hard recognizing Besigye and FDC as the leading opposition elements in Uganda. Actually, Norbert Mao, the optimist, considers himself and allies, as the rising political underdog alternative in parts of Buganda and Acholi, and possible messiahs.
However, even without much logic and analysis, it is really a very tall order, almost unachievable for the opposition to get those amendments supported and passed in parliament, partly or perhaps, because of their intransigence, bellicosity and enemy politics against the NRM. It is most unlikely that NRM MPs who were ostracized and physically assaulted during the last constitution amendment in 2017 will support opposition motions on such a grand scale to alter the fabric of our politics.