The Rot Runs Deep: Why Uganda Needs Federalism Now More Than Ever

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The Rot Runs Deep: Why Uganda Needs Federalism Now More Than Ever
MP Cissy Namujju arrives at the antigraft court on Wednesday | Francis Isaano

The choice before us is clear: continue with the status quo and watch our nation drift further into the abyss of corruption and misgovernance, or boldly embrace a new dawn of federalism and unlock our true potential as a people. For the sake of present and future generations, let us choose wisely.

By Paul Kimbugwe, Political Analyst

The recent arrests of three Members of Parliament - Yusuf Mutembuli (Bunyole East), Paul Akamba (Busiki), and Cissy Namujju Dionizia (Lwengo District) - on corruption charges have once again exposed the deep-seated rot within our current governance system. This troubling incident is not an isolated case but a symptom of a much larger malaise that can only be cured through a fundamental restructuring of how we are governed.

The centralized unitary system, which concentrates power in the hands of a few in Kampala, has bred a culture of impunity, disconnect, and unaccountability. MPs, who are supposed to be the people's representatives, have become beholden to party bosses and personal interests rather than the constituents they serve.

It is telling that none of the arrested MPs even reside in the districts they represent. They are hundreds of miles removed from the daily realities and struggles of their constituents. How can they effectively advocate for the needs of communities they are so far removed from?

This spatial and emotional distance is a direct product of our unitary system, which allows for such misrepresentation. MPs are more focused on currying favor in Kampala's corridors of power than truly understanding and fighting for the aspirations of their people back home.

The alleged solicitation of bribes from the Uganda Human Rights Commission is a new low, even for our scandal-ridden politics. It is a betrayal of the sacred trust placed in these leaders by the electorate. While their constituents grapple with lack of clean water, healthcare, and education, their supposed representatives are busy lining their own pockets.

This is why the proposed "Regional Parliament Sittings" touted by the Speaker will do little to address the underlying dysfunction. It is a cosmetic band-aid on a festering wound. What we need is not a change of venue but a change of system.

It is time for Uganda to embrace federalism, a governance model that devolves power to the grassroots and ensures true representation at all levels. Under a federal structure, leaders are elected from and accountable to the communities they serve. They are not distant figures imposed from above but integral members of the local fabric.

Federalism would foster a politics of proximity, where leaders are in tune with the daily aspirations and challenges of their constituents. With power and resources decentralized, there would be greater transparency and accountability. The temptation for corruption would be checked by the close scrutiny of empowered local populations.

Moreover, federalism would allow for policies and development strategies tailored to each region's unique needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach dictated from Kampala. It is a system that celebrates and harnesses our diversity for the common good.

The corruption case against the three MPs is a clarion call for change. We cannot keep patching up a fundamentally flawed system and expecting different results. It is time to reimagine our governance architecture from the ground up.

Federalism offers a pathway to a politics that is more responsive, accountable, and people-centered. It is not a magic wand that will make all our problems disappear overnight, but it is a necessary first step towards building the Uganda we deserve - one where leaders truly serve, and power belongs to the people.

The choice before us is clear: continue with the status quo and watch our nation drift further into the abyss of corruption and misgovernance, or boldly embrace a new dawn of federalism and unlock our true potential as a people. For the sake of present and future generations, let us choose wisely.

The time for change is now. The journey toward federalism begins with a national dialogue, a coming together of all stakeholders to chart a new path forward. Let this latest scandal be the spark that ignites a movement for the total overhaul of our governance system. Uganda deserves nothing less

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