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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 16:42 GMT
Uganda to hold vote on party ban
By Will Ross
BBC News, Kampala

President Yoweri Museveni
Mr Museveni says a multi-party system would divide the country
The Ugandan government has announced the new political roadmap ahead of elections early next year.

It includes a broad referendum on whether to return to a system of multi-party politics.

In an attempt to counter divisions after years of war, parties have been severely restricted since President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986.

But as the political parties prepare themselves for the 2006 election, the tension is rising.

Currently, the Ugandan parliament is debating a constitution amendment bill which contains numerous proposals - from Swahili being declared the second official language to the issue of dual nationality.

'Landlocked ship'

There are also hotter topics - like the two-term limit on the presidency and whether a return to multi-party politics is a good idea.

We are still eating breakfast, so why do you want to discuss supper?
President Museveni

All the proposals have been heaped together in what is known as an omnibus bill, and having debated the issues, the MPs must vote on the bill by the end of April.

Causing the sharpest increases in blood pressure around the country is the proposal to lift the two-term limit on the presidency.

President Museveni will have served two terms by next year, although his total time at the helm of the landlocked ship will have been 20 years.

Publicly, he has given little away about the proposal allowing him to stand again, swatting aside questions with replies like, "We are still eating breakfast, so why do you want to discuss supper?"

With the numbers stacked on his side in parliament and plenty of cash flying around, it seems likely he will get the two-thirds needed to lift the presidential term limits.

All or nothing

Then, in a referendum to be held on 30 June this year, Ugandans will be asked whether or not to approve the whole bill which comes from parliament.

However long they stare at the form, they will not be able to say, for example, "Yes, please" to multi-party politics but "No, thanks" to opening up the presidential term limits.

It is a straight "I like all the proposals" or a "No, thank you".

But if parliament does approve the lifting of term limits, it will not matter one iota what the people of Uganda say in the referendum - the two-term limit will be lifted and the road will be clear for Mr Museveni to contest.

So why put it to the people?

Some argue the government's decision to put the proposals all together is designed as propaganda value.

If he gets his way, the Ugandan president can say, on all counts, "It was not my doing - it was the will of the people."

But there is a lot to be done ahead of the referendum and, given how much the Ugandan MPs like talking, the clock may tick too quickly for the timetable, causing a traffic jam on the roadmap and chaotic times ahead.




SEE ALSO:
Opposition hails Ugandan ruling
21 Mar 03 |  Africa


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