Democracy has been defined as “peoples’ power”, broken down from the two Greek words; Demos-cratos (kratein), meaning, peoples power, or people’s strength. Peoples power, yes? But one may ask; people’s power to do what? Pragmatically and realistically, it is people’s power to participate in their own governance! Why only participate in their own governance, when it would be best they “determine” their own governance? The reason is from the modus operandi and the inherent weaknesses of democracy and its processes!
For the people to use their power to determine their own governance, in absolute terms, would require to arrive at socio-economic and political decisions by consensus. Yet democracy, by its very nature, which reflects the very nature of human beings, never demands or guarantees decision making by consensus! Instead, it uses majority numbers which therefore implies that democracy is a “coalition of the willing”. And if you are part of the “unwilling” minority, then you have little choice but to abide by the majority decisions. That is why democracy is sometimes described as the “tyranny” of the majority over the minority! Be that as it may however, to compensate the decision “loser” minority, and for the sake of good governance, the majority also gives space to the minority views not only to flourish, but to be incorporated in the overall socio-economic and political development processes of the people.
It is in the context of the above that the current heated debates about the lifting of the constitutional age limit for judges must not be seen at as political heresay!It is part of democratic health! And now, while the lifting of the age limit for judges was still generating heat and temperature from those opposed to it, then came in the proposal to lift the Term limits for the East African Legislative Assembly members at the Arusha Parliament of the East African Peoples and States! Members of that Legislative Assembly want entry, tenure and exit to be determined by the “peoples’ power” –democratically, not by legislative constriction. Are they right or wrong? You may judge them in whichever way you want, but in a liberal democracy, floating any idea for debate, can’t but be part of people’s power! Indeed, those who are emotive and agitated against the judges age limit- lifting, are using all sorts of conspiracy theories, claiming that the current private Member’s Bill to amend the constitution and uplift the Judge’s age limit to serve, is simply a ploy, a smoke-screen to later allow the lifting of the Presidential age limit in the constitution to serve beyond the age of 75 years! Let me ask, at the risk of being insulted or even pelted with stoned by those who cant continence the idea of lifting presidential term limits, whether, this provision is “written in stone”, as they say, or whether, it’s not part of democracy to engage, debate, win or honorably lose an argument at the altar of democracy? If we look back at the time of 1994, in the Constituent Assembly that made the constitution, capping the presidential age limit had not been a popular idea in and out of the Assembly. Majority were in to let it free, including some powerful leaders in the political opposition today, till our late Brigadier Noble Mayombo (Lieutenant then) crafted a motion to introduce that age limit, serious caucusing and lobbying was done, and the motion went through to become article 102 in the constitution.
Fortunately for those who may, one day, wish to revisit that provision, and unfortunately for those against its amendment, it is not even one of the entrenched provisions of the constitution that require a referendum to amend; meaning that it, like many other provisions, is a clear subject of democratic proposal, debate, action and or decision.
“Democracy is messy”, as admitted and observed by President Obama recently, who said that it would be easier for him to make decisions for the good of America, but, often he has “to go to Congress” he remarked. Indeed, democracy is messy, as it can delay strategic decisions, even disadvantage the time-framed government programs, but that is it! In a democracy, you can’t always have it your own way, even if the majority may be wrong, which they sometimes can be! But that is “people’s power”! Democracy has its own weaknesses, failures and defeciences! But so far, humanity has not yet invented a better system!
And so, the current efforts on constitutional amendments are good to perfect the electoral processes, to better regulate the Ugandan body politik, to enhance democratic culture and practice, unlock individual and collective talent, etc. And while we were still dill-dallying, the Supreme Court has recommended fast-tracking some of their constitutional electoral reform amendments!. We can not support amendment of the constitution only when it favors some of us as individuals, whether in the minority or majority. Nor can we legislate for fear of the unknown, particularly to protect our individual or collective weaknesses.
If opening up time and space for competences among Generals, Professors, or any other categories will help Uganda to continue to advance, and the processes are subject to our democratic needs and demands, raising heat and temperature should not blackmail or intimidate anyone as it is part of the people’s power to participate in our own governance!
COL. SHABAN BANTARIZA