What Exactly Is The “Beast” Called Federalism?


What Exactly Is The “Beast” Called Federalism?

Do we know?

I need to start my brief response on this “federal” system of government that Baganda are demanding for, in the country, from the position of a layman, because quite frankly, I myself still have serious difficulties getting my fingers on the pulse of what exactly it is, that is called federalism! So bear with me, and I sure this might be a bit long write-up.

Therefore, to begin, my question to you all is, what exactly is the “beast” called federalism? Do we know? Does anybody out there know what this federalism is all about? If there is any person out there who know what this federalism is, he/she better come out quick and explain it to us, blow by blow, what the beast is, so that we can make informed choices without wasting time.

In my limited understand of how the issue of federalism cropped up in Uganda body politics, it was by the dawn of independent that British suggested that Buganda be granted a federal status in an independent Uganda.

The British did not grant Buganda a federal status by 1962 when Uganda popped out of colonial womb to become an independent country; they, the British, left that task to the new Uganda administration. If this is true, then it means the federalism that Buganda has been demanding for all these 47 years of the country’s independent, is actually federalism between Buganda, the Kindom, and the rest of Uganda – the secular rest of Uganda.

Now, is there an example in the World, where there is a federation between a Monarchy and a secular State? Lets assume for a moment that at the dawn of independent, Buganda Kingdom was granted independent by the British while at the same time, the rest of Uganda was also granted independent. So, it must have been therefore out of mutual agreement between the two, in 1962, that they formed the country called Uganda: a loose form of federation between a Monarchy and a secular State!

My question however is: Where in the World is there a federation between a Monarchy and a secular State? I don’t think there is any. So, if Buganda wants to federate with the rest of Uganda as was suggested by the British, then personally I think it would be safe to say that that kind of federalism is probably very difficult to put together, because the doctrines that are found in a secular State are totally different from what are found in a Monarchy. If the rest of Uganda was composed of Kingdoms as well, then federation would have been possible. But you cannot have a secular State federating with a Kingdom. That is not possible, simply on the basis of doctrines.

Having said that, how then can the question of “federo” being demanded by Buganda be dealt with?

In my humble opinion, before we even attempt to deal with this difficult political problem of Uganda, we need to first of all understand in detail what it is, that we are dilly-dallying with; that is, what is that, which is called federalism. Without understand federalism in detail, we would not be able to deal with this issue. Instead, the problem is ever going to get complicated, and might lead to yet another war. So, lets suppose that we want to resolve this issue once and for all. Which means we decided that Uganda go federal so that we put this question of federalism behind in order to move the country ahead. How are we going to bring about a federal system of government in the country?

Well, first off, we will need to know what kind of federalism we will be able to put in place. This means we have to put on the table, a menue of federal form of governments possible in a Uganda setting, and then pick from the menue, the one that fits better. Therefore, what do we have, in the case of Uganda? Are we going to:

1) Create Federal State of Uganda between Buganda Kingdom and The rest of Uganda, like it was suggested by the British, which Buganda is demanding for?

2) Create Federal State of Ugabda from the many tribes we have: Acholi, Alur, Ankole, Baganda, Banyoro, Basoga, Bagwere, Banyole, Itesot, Karamojong, Madi, Kakwa, Lugbara, Kumam, Jopadhola, on and on?


3) Create Federal State of Uganda by going back to the Provinces as they were during Amin’s time? Then we had Southern Province; Western Province; Eastern Province, Northern Province, and I believe, West Nile Province.

Obviously the first and the second options cannot be possible. I have already explained why the first option is not possible. The second option is not as well possible. Why? Because there are two many little tribes in the country; some of them are just a handful. Which means once you choose to federate on tribal line, you cannot deny anything “tribe” to become a federating member. So basically we will end up with over 50 Federal Tribes of Uganda, forming a Federal State of Uganda, like the Baganda are demanding. In fact this is also one of the reasons why the Buganda demand for federo is ridiculous, because, like we see it developing, even the Banyala will demand “federo” status. No one will say, let Baganda have their federo status with the rest of Uganda. The rest of Ugandans see Baganda as a tribe. Therefore, the immediate question that will come to their mind if and when “federo” is granted to Buganda, is, why should Baganda be treated different from say, Banyala, or Bagwere, or Madi, or Lugbrara, or even Bafuruki? Rwandese are also a tribe for heaven sakes! So, where is the country going to end up on a tribal federal system?


Another important factors that we will seriously need to look at, if federalism is what we decide to go for, are: a) Formation and establishment of local legislations, called it assemlies or local parliaments, like the Buganda’s Lukiiko, except Buganda’s Lukiiko is a cultural institution whose members are not elected by the people of Buganda, but appointed by Mengo; b) Formation and establishment of local tribal parties that only operate within the boundaries of each tribal enclave; or c) Formation and establishment of provincial parties that operate only within the jurisdiction of each province; and then d) Reformulating the central government.

All these are going to be needed done, one way or another, depending on which federal system one looks at, because those are the central pillars of a federal system of government. The question is, do we have extensively developed infrastructure to support all these, on a tribal federal system of government? The answer is NO!, we don’t. So, the only option that we can work with, and therefore create a Federal State of Uganda on, is the third option. Because in the third option we have only five provinces. Therefore, creating local legislations or assmeblies or parliaments, for these five provinces cannot be too much of a task. To see what I am talking about let us pick an example to work with.

If we decide to go federal on the second option, which is practically impossible, then what are we going to be looking at?

We are going to be looking at two important things. The first is establishment tribal legislations or assemblies. So, we are going to be looking at constructing a legilative building for each tribe. For purposes of simplicity lets pict Teso. Teso will therefore need a Teso legislative building. After we have a Teso legislative building put together, then we are looking at galvanizing Teso politicians to fill local Teso legislative positions, because these are the people who will be concern with Teso affairs; porposing and passing local bills into laws that only are effective in Teso area.

But these local Teso legislators cannot just be grabbed from the streets of Teso towns. They are going to have to be elected by Teso people. But how are these people going to be elected by Teso people to fill the local Teso legislative positions without any party institutions that would enable them campaign to Teso population so that Teso people can vote them in to fill the local Teso legislative positions? This means we are going to need local parties formed in Teso; parties that only operate within Teso area.

Once such parties are formed, then party members can then campaign under the umbrella of those parties so that they can be elected to fill local Teso legislative positions. Once that is done, then we know for sure that we have a Teso local government whose politicians are directly elected by Teso people. It is this Teso local government and local politicians that can now work for Teso people, while at the same time work in concert with the central government in Kampala, to address issues of concern to both Teso people, and Uganda at large.

For instance, the question of natural resource exploitation and management will obviously something to make decision over, between the two government. Which government should be responsible over the exploitation and management of natural resources in Teso area? Should it be the central government, or Teso local government? In many cases across the globe, the jurisdictions are carefully assigned. In this hypothetical case, Teso local government may take control over mineral resources; human resources,&c; while the central government gets control of forestry and wildlife; & transport and communication, &c. That way, the areas of jurisdictions would be clearly defined between the local government of Teso and the central government of Uganda, in Kampala. Other areas that will have to be carefully vetted are tax collections. Teso local government will have to collect certain local taxes, while the central government collect other form of taxes that are apllicable nationally. Where all these become intricate and interesting is where transfers and remittance of funds to either the central government from local governemts, or from the central government to the local governments, depending on which local government is needy, must be carried out. Using Teso again, let me try to explain this.

In a federal system of government, governments work at two levels. The local government, like that of the Teso local government I have explained above; and the central government. Between these two levels of governments, revenue collections and budgetary allocations get carried out. The central government always must take control of financing and funding issues of national character. Local governments, like that of Teso in the hypothetical example, normally performs their duties locally. Anything that falls within the jurisdiction of local government, the local government must foot the bills. If and when a local government does not have enough money in its budget for a particular fiscal year, then it has to turn to central government for top ups. However, the local government will have to prove first, that revenues it collected from all sources, were not enough. Once it is established that indeed, such and such a local government does not have enough money to finance all its projects and programmes, then the central government turns around and tops its budget up. That is what is called transfer of funds from the central government to the local government. So, in the case of Teso local government, if in a particular fiscal year Teso local government fails to collect enough revenue to meet its financial obligations for that year, it will have to turn to the central government and demand some top ups.

But where does the central government gets money to transfer to needed members of the federal government?

Note that I stated earlier that the central government as well collects taxes. Beside that, it also might be responsible in managing institutions of national nature and that are vital to the nation. I mentioned wildlife and Tourism; and there could be a few more of other such institutions. On top of these, the central government gets to collect remittances from the local governments. These remittances are very vital in that, the central government can transfer them to local government jurisdictions that need financial help because of their budgetary shortfalls. Now, if the central government is responsible for helping local governments in cases where a local government has budget shortfall, then why and under what condition, should a local government remits funds to the central government?

Remittance of funds to the central government by a local government takes place on one condition: When that local government collects, in a particular fiscal year, excess revenue. Now take the template we have: Teso local government. In the place of Teso, replace it with Bunyoro or Acholi local government. Either one works fine.

We know that in both places, there are oil deposits that have been discovered. Because of these oil, it is plain, for instance that, when the oil begins to flow, Bunyoro local government revenue, under a federal system of government, will shoot up compared to say, Teso local government revenue. So, since Bunyoro local government will have more money; more than its local budget would require, it is plain that Bunyoro local government would have excess money. In a federal system of government, some of that excess money, Bunyoro local government will have to remits to the central government. This is a must thing; it is called equilization of wealth. The central government uses that excess money remitted by Bunyoro to help the less-have local governments in the federation. This means, if Teso local government did not collect enough revenue in a particular fiscal year, Teso local government will approach the central government for financial help. And because wealthy local governments like Bunyoro would have remitted some of their excess revenue to the central government, the central government then turns around, takes that money and give it to Teso local government. This is the backbone of any functional federal system of government: Transfer and remittance of funds between the two levels of governments. Without this, a federation is merely a federation by name, and may just pass for fraud.

What we have in the country today is of course not a federation; it is merely an extension of the central government to the outlying areas of the country. That is why all the local governments look to the central government for fundings. But because the central government is virtually not even functional, it looks to donors for fundings so that it can fund its local government branches. And in some cases, due to illiteracy, those very same fundings dished out by the central government to the local governments get returned back to the central government untouched! Yet when you look around, you see poverty everywhere.

My intention in putting this brief explanation down is that, if we want a federal system of government, we need to know what we are up against. By using the Teso local government template, we can see that it is virtually impossible creating a federation out of tribal systems. So, our best bet would be to go provincial, like it was during Amin’s time. But even then, we must be prepared to establish local provincial legislations which will form the backbones of the local provincial governments; and then we must also be in position to start local provincial parties, that will only operate within each provincial jurisdiction. Some of you may therefore ask thus: If we formed new local provincial parties that only operate provincially, then how are we going to have member of parliament for the federal government?

Having local provincial legislations don’t stop us from having and operating a federal parliament for the central government. We have parties like DP, UPC, &c. These parties operate nationally. So, even under a federal system of government, these parties are still going to operate nationally. Therefore, in the case of Teso, while some Teso politicians will seek to fill positions in local Teso legislative assembly, others, who might be interested to represent Teso in federal parliament, will campaign under the umbrella of DP, UPC, &c, so that they are voted to become MPs in the federal parliament.

As you can see, creating federalism starts with establishing local governments first. These local governments and local legislative bodies are the pillars of federal form of government. What Buganda is currently demanding is simply impossible to implement. The local government that Buganda has as we speak is not the kind of local government requires for a federal form of government. The Buganda local government is merely a Monarchy form of government. So, if Buganda wants federation, it must first establish an secular local government; and then have members of Lukiiko elected by the people of Buganda, under local Buganda parties that only operate within Buganda region.

Currently memebers of the Lukiiko are appointed by Mengo. And even if Buganda meets the two conditions, the rest of Uganda will still needs to be re-organized so that local, preferably, provincial governments are established, including local provincial assemblies; and local provincial parties. Once these conditions are met, then Uganda can federate with Buganda as Buganda, in the process, becomes a part of the Southern province with Southern legislative assembly and Southern local provincial government.

That is the only way we can bring in federalism.

Obargot Paabwola

About ekitibwakyabuganda

Ba Ssebo ne ba Nyabo, Twebaza Abaganda bonna abulumulirwa Obuganda . Era twebaza ne mikwano gya Buganda gyonna wonna wegiri munsi yonna. Omukutu guno gwatandikibwawo nga e’kigendererwa kwe kuyigiriza abantu ebintu ebikwatagana no’Buganda era nokuwanyisiganya ebilowozo nebanaffe abatali Baganda. Abaganda ne mikwano gya Buganda mukozese omukisa guno muwereze ebirowozo byamwe no’bubaka bwona obunaagasa Abaganda na’baana Buganda berizala mu maaso eyo. Obumu ku bubaka obuwerezebwa ku mukutu guno bugyibwa mukuwanyisiganya ebirowozo okubera kumukutu gwa Ugandan’s at Heart (UAH) Forum ogwatandikibwawo Mwami Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba. Era twebaza muzukulu wa Kintu ne Nnambi ono olw’omulimu gwakoledde bana Uganda bonna abali e’bunayira mungeri yo kubagatta mu byempuliziganya no’kutumbula okukolaganira awamu.

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