CCS Scholars Teach Federalism in Uganda

By Hank McIntire

See photos.

UgandaCCS Associate Director Dr. Andrew Bibby and senior researcher Sam Hill, center, with students at Ndejje University and the American Leadership Academy in May 2023 in Kampala, Uganda.

Two members of the Center for Constitutional Studies (CCS) team traveled to Uganda in May 2023 to teach and discuss the governmental concept of federalism with current and former leaders in that African nation.

Faculty and staff of NDejje University, which is based in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, hosted Dr. Andrew Bibby, associate director of CCS, and Samuel Hill, senior research assistant, who represented Utah Valley University and CCS.

Driving the interest of Uganda’s leaders and leading citizens in federalism—the combining of a national government with regional entities into a single political system that divides power between the two—is the nation’s long history of conflict, explained Hill.

A British protectorate until 1962, the newly independent Uganda established a federalist republic with a shaky alliance between a democratically elected prime minister and the Kabaka, head of the kingdom of Buganda, who served as president of the new nation.

This arrangement lasted but four years when the prime minister seized control of the government and rewrote the constitution to abolish the traditional kingdoms, and a succession of authoritarian regimes have ruled since that time.

“The federal constitution was in place only a few years,” said Hill. “In the early 1980s federalism was taken completely out of the constitution, and in 1995 some aspects of it were reinstated.”

“Over the years the kingdom of Buganda has maintained a semblance of federalism with some measure of civic power, and the central region of Kampala is very pro federal,” he continued. “But most of the rest of the country is ambivalent toward federalism.”

Against this backdrop, and at the invitation of former Buganda prime minister Joseph Ssemwogerere, who lectured at UVU in October 2022, Bibby and Hill traveled to Uganda and found audiences at Ndejje and at the American Leadership Academy ready to learn about federalism.

The visitors from Utah presented on the following topics during their two-week stay in Uganda:

  • The U.S. Constitution and the Founders
  • Montesquieu’s Philosophy of Government
  • Separation of Powers
  • Originalism vs. the Living Constitution
  • Sovereign vs. Government
  • Constitutional Conventions
  • The Written Constitution
  • Critical Theory
  • Bill of Rights

“We could not have had a warmer reception,” recalled Hill. “We had near rock-star status because of being American. And students were very hungry for knowledge and understanding of what federalism is.”

“We were teaching federalism to people interested in restoring Uganda’s federal nature,“ Hill concluded. “We shared ideas of what led to what we have in the West. They wanted to know how; we could only give them the what.”