Freedom of expression will liberate Uganda

Countries that have progressed have had citizens that fought for their inalienable (natural or God given) rights and freedoms including freedom of speech. They have also taken risks. When you shy away from them chances are that you will remain behind. Some efforts create quick results – negative or positive – others take a long time. Sometime reversals occur. But a start has to be made.

Uganda has just ended fifty years of independence. The overall assessment is that things haven’t happened the way we wanted them. That means we have to revisit what we did and find out what we need to discard, refine or retain as is.

One of the common complaints in Uganda is the system of governance that has concentrated power in the central government and suffocates efforts for regions or districts to decide what they need to do to improve the quality of their lives. The tier system that Uganda has introduced through decentralization is not sufficient because the central government determines what states/provinces or districts should do and the minister of local government is empowered to take decisions that could frustrate local initiatives.

The federal conference scheduled for October 27, 2012 in London offers an opportunity to examine the federal system of governance as an alternative to a unitary system. It is hoped that participation will represent the interests of all stakeholders. The first thing to discuss is the merits and demerits of federal versus unitary governance in Uganda. The Odoki Commission (1992) collected information about a system of governance and 65 percent of Ugandans are reported to have favored a federal system. But that was in 1992 – 20 years ago! We need to revisit the notion of federalism and the London conference should have that as the first item on the agenda and I see some speakers will address this topic.

I have presented my thoughts on the notion of federalism and the roadmap in two articles titled “What do we know about federal governments?” and “Roadmap to achieving a federal government in Uganda” which have been widely circulated well in advance of the conference including to MPs that represent the people of Uganda. The articles are available at and

Questions have been raised about the capacity in which I have been invited to the conference. I have been invited in a personal capacity and what I have written and will say at the conference are personal views.

Ugandans are urged to make their views known so there are no complaints that there were no consultations before the London conference. In the end an all inclusive Task force will need to be appointed to examine in detail what a federal system entails principally in terms of sharing power between the federal and state/provincial or district governments. And it entails a lot of work and patience.



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