In Constitutional law, later generations should be able to make changes to their social contract as expressed in the constitution as they deem fit. It should be possible to amend a constitution to account for changes in human relationships and advancement in human knowledge but it should not be easy to change the constitution just for the convenience of a few. A good constitution is one that is not static but also not too onerous to amend. The Constitution of Uganda ordinarily would not have been too easy to amend because it requires either a referendum or two thirds majority of parliament but in circumstances where one party has controlled more than two thirds of parliament for 34 years, our constitution became extremely easy to amend.
Consequently, the Constitution of Uganda has been amended over and over again to remove the scanty safe guards against tyranny and abuse of power. This has been problematic given that the constitution was full of loopholes and ambiguities in the first place. In the circumstances, it is time for this generation to reform the constitution, strengthen our democracy and put in place stronger safe guards against mismanagement, tyranny and violation of individual rights and liberties. When the state can torture and kill its own citizens with impunity then it is a clear sign that the constitution has become irrelevant. The basic tenet of the social contract is that a person should live his or her life without undue state interference in his or her life and a dead man has no use or need for rights and liberty. Any constitution that is incapable of preventing the arbitrary destruction of the life of its citizens by the state is a worthless piece of paper.
Our proposals to strengthen the Constitution and with it our democracy are as follows:
- Make amending the Constitution a bit harder than simply developing a notion one day and implementing it the very next day. The Constitution should be only amended to address a compelling weakness in the legal framework or address a glaring injustice or loophole in the legal system. The process of amending the Constitution should be such that where there is sufficient consensus on the need to alter the social contract it should be accomplished. However where there is no consensus to alter the social contract, self interested members of the society should not succeed in imposing their will on the society as whole. This has happened before in Uganda with the term limit amendment and the age limit amendment. The electoral commission at the time was at the very minimum partisan and at the very worst corrupt and compromised. The legitimacy of a referendum overseen by such a body is clearly questionable. In respect of the age limit amendment, the stink of cash bribes in bags for the ruling party members of parliament will never fade. Obviously without an independent electoral commission, amendments by referendum are just an exercise in futility because those that control the commission will manipulate the results in their favour. It is impossible to ensure that such an electoral commission is responsible and puts the public interest before partisan and personal interests. Politicians are usually corrupt, selfish and interested more in personal survival than the interests of their constituents.
- Create a devolved electoral system where elections are managed by local governments and supervised by an a election commission manned by commissioners appointed by the local governments themselves. Local Governments are nearer to the people and therefore more accountable than the central government. In Uganda, the Public has been more conscious of abuses by local leaders than those of the central government. Local leaders have been changed at by the voters at a higher rate than central government leaders.
- There should be a provision in the Constitution setting aside the election of any incumbent who interferes or otherwise uses state power or resources to give him or herself an advantage.
- Amendments of the Constitution by parliament must be supported by two thirds of parliament including at least forty percent of members who are in the minority or not belonging to the parties in power.
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