A survey report released in Uganda recently did not surprise many, though in a normal society it would have called for a revolution.
It said that citizens don’t trust their Members of Parliament. They also trust their village councils more than the courts of law.
Had it been a survey done by an NGO or by the Monitor newspaper, the government spokesman and a number of politicians would have rubbished it and probably branded the “ill-intentioned” sponsors as opposition political forces or “prejudiced” foreign powers who do not respect the fact that Uganda is an independent country.
Well, the survey was conducted by the government’s own Bureau of Statistics, so we didn’t get to hear any interesting reactions and the matter ended there.
Then as the week came to a close, a long-awaited ruling by the constitutional court was read in the eastern town of Mbale. It was about a petition challenging the recent amendment to the Constitution that removed the 75-year cap on the age of a person seeking to be president of Uganda.
As the matter was being considered by parliament, an additional clause was added, seeking to extend the MPs’ term of office from five to seven years. And wait, the proposal was to even cover the sitting MPs who were specifically elected for five years so that instead of going to the polls in 2021, they would remain in the house for a further two years until 2023.
If some Ugandans thought the proposal had been made in a fit of madness, they were shocked when it was actually passed, moreover by an overwhelming majority of MPs!
So, the constitutional petition was of great interest to many. Though almost everyone knew that the lifting of the presidential age limit would be upheld since the limit was discriminatory, the matter of increasing the MPs’ term by themselves was going to be the test.
Suppose the court had upheld it? Then there would be nothing in the law to stop the same MPs from giving themselves another hundred years in office.
The court expectedly threw out the selfish extension and redeemed the judiciary after the survey that made village councils look more just than courts. Will the MPs also redeem their image?
But what did the MPs have in mind when they attempted to steal another two years from the people without going through the vote?
Some people have been saying that they saw it as a way of scratching their own back after scratching that of the incumbent president by making him eligible for office since he will have crossed the 75-year mark come the next election in 2021.
In other words, the MPs don’t have enough regard for voters as the ones who give them the mandate to go to parliament.
Some police studies have shown that the average IQ of people in a mob falls to that of the least intelligent member in the group, or even lower.
Apparently then, when MPs are in a hurry to grab advantages for themselves, their average reasoning can fall below that of the sweeper in Parliament Building.
Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala.