Ankole Citizens Implore Deputy Speaker of Parliament on Electoral Reforms

Published By UNNGOF |  September 27, 2023


The news article discusses a meeting between a delegation of citizens from the Ankole sub-region in Uganda and the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa. The primary purpose of this meeting was to implore the Deputy Speaker to advocate for constitutional and electoral reforms through parliamentary processes.

The article presents a snapshot of the ongoing efforts to push for constitutional and electoral reforms in Uganda. It showcases the persistence and determination of citizens and various stakeholders in advocating for changes that they believe will contribute to a more transparent and accountable political system. The dialogue between citizens and political leaders is a crucial step toward achieving meaningful reforms that address the challenges observed during the 2021 elections and improve the democratic process in Uganda.

The debate over constitutional and electoral reforms in Uganda continues unabated, with reform advocates showing no signs of relenting. A delegation of concerned citizens from the Ankole sub-region recently reached out to the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa, seeking his support in advancing these crucial reforms through the parliamentary channels.

Led by the Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), a coalition comprising members of civil society, local government leaders, youth activists, and media representatives, the stakeholders engaged in a pivotal conversation with Deputy Speaker Tayebwa on September 20, 2023. The meeting, which took place at his country home in Bitereko, Ruhinda North, Mitooma district, aimed to underscore the significance of electoral and constitutional reforms in shaping Uganda’s political landscape.

During the session, the delegation presented a position paper that encapsulated key insights drawn from the 2021 general elections and the recommendations emerging from citizen dialogues on the subject. These recommendations were the outcome of a series of consultations conducted by WACSOF under the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Elections (SCENE) initiative, supported by USAID through the Uganda National NGO Forum. The initiative involved engaging with citizens and leaders at the community, district, and regional levels throughout the Ankole region.

The insights gleaned from these consultations were compiled into a comprehensive Briefing Note, which was handed over to the Deputy Speaker during the meeting. The stakeholders urged him to use his influence and parliamentary platforms to advocate for these proposals and ultimately contribute to a better Uganda.

Having held consultations across the region and listened to citizens’ views and aspirations for a prosperous and democratically governed Uganda, it was prudent for us to find a way of bringing this issue to your attention. It would be a futile endeavor for us to collect citizens’ voices and just shelve them,” the paper read.

The position paper emphasized the importance of not letting citizens’ voices go unheard. It underscored the futility of collecting citizens’ perspectives and leaving them unaddressed. The citizens who had participated in these engagements expressed their concerns about several challenges faced during the 2021 elections. These challenges included low voter turnout due to altered voting patterns, a decline in interest in electoral processes, the influence of religion in politics, the commercialization of elections, and uneven treatment of candidates by the police, especially opposition who were sometimes restricted from holding public rallies in many places across the country among others.

To address these issues, citizens put forth a range of recommendations. They called for the establishment of a bicameral system to provide checks and balances within the legislative arm of government. They also advocated for the strengthening of decentralization efforts and the operationalization of regional governments. Additionally, they proposed a reduction in the size of parliament, along with corresponding reductions in the salaries and allowances of members of parliament. The aim was to allocate more resources to critical sectors like health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure. Other recommendations included the restoration of term limits in the constitution and continuous civic and voter education.

The citizens also highlighted the need for equal treatment of all political party candidates, emphasizing the importance of fair access to media and interference-free campaigning. They stressed the importance of protecting the freedoms of association, assembly, and movement.

Deputy Speaker Tayebwa expressed his gratitude to the delegation for their proactive engagement and assured them that their concerns resonated with his own views. However, he also cautioned that implementing these reforms would be a complex, long-term undertaking, given the need to address previous mistakes.

He told the group that most of the proposed reforms can be introduced by the government as guided by the constitution.

The business of political reforms is mainly government business. It has to be introduced by the government because most of these businesses have financial implications. Article 93 of the constitution limits a private member from introducing even a bill or a motion that has a charge on the consolidated fund. Most of these reforms have a charge on the consolidated fund, and you don’t want to handle these issues piecemeal” … He said

On using a bicameral system, the Deputy Speaker noted that it could be costly for Uganda, while resizing parliament was not the primary focus. Instead, the emphasis was on enhancing the capacity of MPs to legislate more effectively, making better use of the existing numbers.

When you go to other countries, MPs have researchers, but here because the cost of facilitating MPs is so high, we have no provision for researchers. That’s why sometimes the quality of research is poor. In other countries, MPs make presentations in parliament while reading from prepared and researched notes because their research assistants have done their work. In Parliament, I see people attacking me for giving them two minutes, but they have not used those two minutes profitably. I have found out that only one minute is enough for them because after one minute, someone is repeating themselves”.

In conclusion, Deputy Speaker Tayebwa pledged to facilitate the group’s presentation of their proposals to parliament and ensure that the responsible minister takes the necessary steps to address these pressing issues. As Uganda navigates its path toward electoral and constitutional reforms, the engagement of citizens and their representatives remains a vital catalyst for change in the nation’s political landscape.