The Chairperson, Members and Staff, UHRC;
President Uganda Law Society & entire Legal Fraternity;
Distinguished Fellow Workers& Walkers;
Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Ugandans;
I thank you for coming to be part of this endeavour and for inviting me to be part of it as well. I cannot take my participation for granted.
The walk was timely. The music was superb.
The Constitution (vide Article 52 (1) (e) enjoins UHRC to create an enabling environment for the appreciation of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land. In a country where people think a Constitution is like any other legislation / instrument which can and should be changed when circumstances warrant, such a task to UHRC becomes even a lot more necessary.
Yes, I have heard people say that there is nothing special about the Constitution, that just as bread can be eaten without butter, this country can be governed without a Constitution.
We need a day like this for such people and for such attitudes.
Adherence to a Constitutional system of governance requires a culture of constitutionalism, a combination of ideas, attitudes and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law called the Constitution.
Constitutionalism must therefore be understood in the context of limited governance under a higher law.
What then are the elements of Constitutionalism?
- Government according to the constitution;
- Separation of powers;
- Sovereignty of the people and democratic governance;
- Constitutional review – determining the Constitutionality of the laws;
- Independent Judiciary;
- Limited government subject to a bill of individual human rights
As regards sovereignty of the people, our Constitution makes it very categorical in Article 1 that all power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution.
Clause 3 is pertinent: all power and authority of government and its organs derive from this Constitution, which in turn derives its authority from the people who consent to be governed in accordance with this Constitution.
For me if we all stopped paying lip service to our Constitution and looked at it as a blessed (best, sanctified) legal instrument, which is the fundamental and supreme law of the Country, Uganda’s challenges would be cut by half, if not completely eradicated.
I can hear people say, is that possible?
The answer is yes it is. All we need is to develop a culture of Constitutionalism, the realization that the Constitution governs the three arms of State: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, as much as it governs the ordinary individual and the society at large within its jurisdiction.
The Background to any Constitution and indeed to the Constitution of culture, can be traced to the history of this country as reflected in the pre-amble to the Constitution. The Framers of Constitution noted that the same was promulgated bearing in mind the history of Uganda that was “characterized by political and constitutional instability” and “struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and Exploitation”.
We can say that the Constitution is sacred, that any unlawful interference with it amounts to the capital offence of treason, that citizens have the right and duty to defend it by all means.
Even then, for as long as that spirit of Constitutionalism is absent, that spirit of ruling or being ruled by basic standards and ideals with an overriding rule of law or ethics, talk about constitutionalism shall remain empty rhetoric.
All said and done, the 1995 Constitution has been hailed by many as one of the most progressive in Africa, and may be even world over.
It is a good law. The challenge as with all laws lies in respectability, implementation and observance.
It is very important to promote the culture of Constitutionalism, not just mechanical adherence to the Constitution, as well as the culture of Rule of law.Activities such as the instant commemoration are therefore highly welcome.
I therefore challenge UHRC to drive mindset change which is all we need to instill a culture of Constitutionalism.
Thank you so much Uganda Human Rights Commission for coming up with this activity. May we see the culture of Constitutionalism take more roots in this country than ever before.
For God and my Country.