By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Kabula County MP James Kakooza, who is also Minister of State for Health, has sparked controversy with a proposal to extend the five-year term of elected politicians at all levels of government to seven years. He spoke to The Independent’s Mubatsi Asinja Habati about it.
Why do you want a seven-year term instead of five?
The political struggle in the 21st century goes with time, stability of the country, economic war, social transformation and technology. Any country without these will collapse. People vote a government hoping it will provide services like schools, roads, hospitals, access to markets, better trade environment, etc. It has taken government 20 years to stabilise the whole country, for the economy to gain ground it has taken 25 years, now we are going to refine oil. It is not something you can do in a five-year term.
So what makes you think a term should be 7 years?
You need a period that enables you to implement your manifesto. Most people go theoretical and think five years is enough time but practically it is not. For example, the 9th parliament will be sworn in on 30th of June and the new budget will be there to be debated together with rules of procedure. Parliament is expected to stabilise by the end of the year. This leaves us with three years and by the end of the second year people who want to compete with you at parliamentary level will have started campaigning against you. If you have made a manifesto for five years, are you going to implement it within three years? Three years is a short period.
What can one achieve in additional two years that cannot be achieved it in five years?
Any party that comes in government be it NRM, DP, FDC or UPC will have ample time to focus on developing the communities, creating jobs, industries, and policy implementation to benefit the people. For an economy to grow you need more years.
But what difference will it make?
These are 24 months added and it is a big time to complete what was pending in five years time. If somebody does not complete an electricity dam promised in five years but with only three years of concentration, they can complete it in the two years. Same with a road, a health centre, a school buildings.
Shouldn’t people be working within the five years to achieve whatever promises they made in their manifestos?
You can’t say you are constructing a road or building which takes a year and you have six months and think you will complete it as expected. If people are given enough time to prepare and implement their manifesto, politicians will not focus more on campaigns. Currently before a term of office ends, politicians are forced to campaign.
Has this proposal been discussed at any level in your party?
No. I have been researching. As a Member of Parliament I am igniting debate and people will weigh whether it is sensible. When I suggested the third term and opening term limits for the President it took me three years to win parliament and public approval. This proposal is not meant for NRM, it is for any party that will come to power in 2016. I would like it implemented after 2016 but debated and passed by the 9th parliament. It is not that I want this government’s term of office to be extended now.
There are people saying you are fronted to speak for the seven-year term as a way of testing the waters.
People are free to express their ideas. I am an independent thinker. I don’t see why people fail to grasp that. It is pointless to say that Kakooza is speaking for someone. People should begin thinking ahead. I am thinking beyond 2016. That’s why we need serious think-tanks.
So who is sending you with these ideas?
That’s my idea. I have written a paper I will publish it soon.
But are you not extending the time Ugandans will have to put up with bad leaders?
There are many avenues in our constitution of removing a leader from power. You can impeach that leader or people can vote that leader out of power. Power belongs to the people. Even a political party can replace their leader if they think he or she is bad.
Isn’t this proposal a grand project to extend NRM and President Yoweri Museveni’s stay in power?
It is not meant for NRM. I am floating this idea as someone in a multiparty setting. Parliament does not belong to NRM alone.
Some people have dismissed you as an attention seeker. Is this a fair assessment?
My record is clear. I have seen people accepting my proposals. I am consistent and I don’t seek attention from anybody. People should think about the seven- year term and see if it makes sense. You will have five years to implement manifestos and two years to prepare for elections.