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The people of Uganda have had many types of governments during their long history, but until the coming of British Colonialism, there was no central government. Originally government was in the hands of the tribal groups who elected their own leaders and made their own laws, which all members of their group were expected to follow. Later some central authority was given to the kings of the various tribes, including the largest of these, the Buganda, whose ruler, the Kabaka, was considered the king and had ultimate authority over his people and their land ( Cavendish, 31). Mutesa II, whose full name was Sir Edward William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa, was the Kababa of the East African State of Buganda, which is now part of Uganda from 1939 to 1953, and again from 1955 to 1966 (Thompson, 134). During the 1940s although he was nominally king, Mutesa was essentially controlled by the British resident and his Katikiro, or prime minister, and was personally unpopular. In 1953, when elimination of the privileged position of king of Buganda within the protectorate of Uganda seemed imminent, Mutesa II took an unyielding stand in meetings with the governor of Uganda so as not to completely alienate many of his increasingly suspicious and anti-British subjects. His key demands were for separation of Buganda from the rest of Uganda and the promise of independence. When he refused to communicate the British governments formal recommendation to his lukiiko, or parliament, he was arrested and deported (Cavendish, 32).
Buganda leaders engineered Mutesa IIs return in 1955, as a constitutional monarch who still had a great deal of influence in the Buganda government. When Uganda became independent, Prime Minister Obote hoped to placate Buganda by encouraging Mutesas election as president in 1963, but a conflict over the continued integrity of the Buganda kingdom with Uganda followed. When Mutesa II tried to incite trouble between the traditionally stateless northerners and the southern "Kingdom" members, Obote suspended the constitution. The conflict between the two escalated and Mutesa II was forced to flee to Britain in 1966 where he died in exile (July, 502). But like many African countries, Uganda is in transition, searching for a form of government that meshes with its own unique social systems. Although many Ugandans hoped independence would lead them to self-sufficiency, they soon realized that this process would not happen overnight.
In the years since independence, Uganda has had a series of constitutions, but the countrys leaders have rarely upheld them. Both Milton Obote and Idi Amin adapted the government to suit themselves. During their years of power, the structure of both local and national government dissolved as leaders were appointed and dismissed at whim (Creed, 67). Nowadays, the Republic of Uganda is headed by President Yoweri Kugata Museveni, who leads the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which has governed the country since the overthrow of former president Obote in 1986. Currently, under the constitution adopted in 1995, the president is directly elected by the people of Uganda. The legislative branch of the government, the National Assembly of Parliament, has 276 members of these, 214 members are elected to single seat constituencies, in the same way senators and congresspersons are elected in the United States.
Thirty-nine seats are reserved for "indirectly elected" women; similarly, 10 seats are set aside for the army, 5 for people with disabilities, 5 for youth, and 3 for trade unions (Creed, 67). Many political complications have come from the way Britain treated Ugandas tribal kingdoms during the protectorate. When Britain established the boundary lines for the districts, some rival tribes found themselves in the same districts. In addition, some of the kingdoms have had hostile relationships with the central government. Buganda, for instance, was reluctant to give up its autonomy after independence. Although the Museveni government has said that individual tribes are not as important as a united Uganda, many of the tribes people have found this hard to accept (Creed, 68). But the central question facing Uganda after the National Resistance Movement led by Museveni was whether or not this new government could break the cycle of insecurity and decay that had afflicted the country since independence in 1962.
Each new government had made that goal more difficult to achieve. Despite Ugandas hopes for improvement after the war that ended President Idi Amin Dadas rule in April 1979, national political and economic difficulties worsened in the seven years that followed. A new guerrilla war began in 1981. The NRA, military wing of the NRM, seized Kampata and control of the national government in January 1986. The NRM pledged it would establish legitimate and effective political institutions within the next four years. It failed to achieve this goal, however, partly because new civil wars broke out in the north and the east, and in October 1989 the NRM extended its interim rule until 1995 (Byrnes, 147). The NRM government promised fundamental change to establish peace and democracy, to rebuild the economy, and above all, to end military indiscipline.
The new governments political manifest, the Ten-Point Program, written during the guerrilla war of the 1980s, traced Ugandas problems to the fact that previous leaders had relied on ethnicity and religion in decision making at the expense of development concerns. The Ten-Point Program argued that resolving these problems required the creation of grass-roots democracy, a politically educated army and police force, and greater national economic independence. The new institution and policies that the NRM announced it intended to put in their place involved drastic changes from the practices of earlier regimes (Byrnes, 148). By the end of 1989, Uganda was in the middle of a transition period in which the structure of government was being defined. President Museveni served as head of state, head of the military, and chair of the highest legislative body, the NRC. Below the NRC was a hierarchy of district, county, subcounty, parish, and village RCS, each with decision making authority in that area. Uganda has also developed a complex hierarchy of counts under British rule for resolving disputes (Byrnes, 156).
Under the 1986 Proclamation, however, the President became head of executive branch with the power to appoint a cabinet of ministers with NRC approval. He was also empowered, again with the approval of the NRC, to appoint a prime minister to conduct the business of government. Provisions in the 1976 constitution continuing in force authorized the president to organize the ministries of public service and implementing government policy. In addition, the president appointed an inspector general of police, an auditor general, and a director of public prosecutions (Byrnes, 156). The Judicial system of Uganda consists of magistrate courts, a High court with 21 judges, and a Supreme court. The High court has full jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases in the entire country. The magistrates courts are lower-ranking courts with a more limited jurisdiction.
The Supreme court hears appeals from the High court, and the High court hears appeals from the magistrates courts(Creed, 68). There are 39 districts in Uganda for administrative purposes, each headed by a resident district commissioner and chief administrative officer. Government services are provided by technical district officers who represent their ministries at that level. The urban authorities are comprised of Kampala City Council, 13 municipal councils, and 18 town boards (Cavendish, 34). At the local level, there is a council system that divides each district into five zones: village, parish, county, subcounty, and district. The village council is made up of all residents of a given area, with an executive committee members with in a parish, constitute a parish council (Cavendish, 34).
When it comes to the Electoral process, Museveni believes that political parties encourage ethnic and regional divisions, He has argued that Uganda needs a "no-party" system, rather then the multiparty system found in most democracies. Under the 1995 constitution, all political candidates must run as individuals, without party labels. But the ban on party labels may be lifted in the near future, however. Under the constitution, Uganda is supposed to hold a national referendum after the current system has been put through a trial period. If the people vote in favor of parties, Uganda will become a multiparty state. In the mean time, parties can exist, but they cannot sponsor candidates in elections (Creed, 68).
The literature on Uganda, particularly, on the past two decades, is relatively small, but informative. There is no published guide to Ugandas political and administrative institutions, perhaps because the government has been in a state of flux for many years. However, Ugandan government publicators are frequently useful in explaining both policy and the purposes of public institutions and it is through these publications that one can generally grasp the major concepts and key principles of Ugandas democracy without it being etched in stone. Bibliography: Works Cited Byrnes, Rita. Uganda, a Country Study. Washington: D.C., 1992. 147-156.
Cavendish, Marshall. Cultures of the World, Uganda. New York: Tarrytown, 2000. 31-34. Creed, Alexander. Uganda. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, 1999.
67-68. July, Robert. A History of the African People. Fifth Edition. Illinois: Prospect Heights, 1998. 501-504.
Thompson, Leonard. African History. Second Edition. London and New York, 1995. 134-135..
Research essay sample on Uganda