Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 June 2005
The paper considers several recent constitutional cases in Uganda, including Constitutional Petition No. 5 of 2003, which struck down several sections of the Political Parties and Organisations Act, aimed at suppressing opposition party activity, and Constitutional Appeal No. 1 of 2002, in which the Supreme Court held that a constitutional amendment which had enabled the 2000 Referendum on political systems was unconstitutional, as examples of an emerging constitutional dialogue in Uganda. The paper examines the history of constitutionalism in Uganda, the 1995 Constitution, and recent constitutional cases in order to analyse the tools available within the Ugandan constitutional framework that make a meaningful dialogue between the courts and the legislature possible, and the ways in which these have, or have not been used in recent decisions. The paper discusses dialogue theory with an emphasis on the use of dialogue in the comparative (and particularly Canadian) context and considers whether dialogue is possible in nondemocratic systems. The recent cases indicate that not only is there the beginnings of a process of dialogue in Uganda, but that this dialogue may in fact be more important in some senses than it is within the democratic framework, since given the lack of open debate in Parliament and other fora, the dialogue between the courts and the legislature is often the only place in which important issues can be debated. However, recent developments, such as Museveni's reaction to the court's decision in Constitutional Petition No. 3 of 2000 which nullified the results of the 2000 Referendum, show how fragile this process of dialogue may be.