Governance Review in Uganda: How do we go from here?
Political parties in Uganda are important platforms for generating ideas from ordinary citizens and developing programs to mitigate them through advocacy, legislative, legal, economic and political means. All of these are relevant to the maintenance of good governance in Uganda. However, for successful operations, demonstrating internal good governance practices is key. The leaders of political parties are servants of the members and the citizens in general. Any flaw in how they best decide to serve the members and Ugandans implies a breaking of the covenant that binds them to the people they appear to serve. Of course, the consequences are severe and political party leaders pay dearly, be it in the short or long term.
The country has developed to a level where development stakeholders are taking parallel paths, unwilling to compromise and insensitive to the wishes of the people they lead. This is not a new phenomenon. The difference between the actions then and now is the boldness and lack of remorse as the gods of life who control whatever the consequences of their actions are.
The country has come a long way to where it is now. The country was found without strong systems of control to guide the leadership. The country was at stake, with no direction and no known future. At the time, the country was experiencing the worst levels of economic and political crises in history, largely self-inflicted by the elites of the day. This was a period of time spanning from the era of Amin (1971 to 1979), shortly after his fall (1979 to 1980) and into the early 1980s. It was by the same elites, more organized, that the imposition of law and order in Uganda, which the majority of the citizens yearned for, celebrated, took pride in and worked hard to support the country’s prosperity, was done. Since 1986, the country has been governed on the basis of ideological common sense, discipline of men and women in the forces, and elective offices, where citizens compete for the highest offices in the country and elect leaders of their choice, only until apprehensions arise on growing external interests in governance distorted trust in countries own products of struggle – democratic governance and rule of law. Otherwise, the country was freed from lawlessness, political decay and a collapsed economy to one of the fastest growing economies in the region. This changed as priorities shifted to invest more in security as the “foundation of good governance” rather than improving the quality of life of Ugandans as the best measure of stability. However, looking back from where the country was in the 1980s to, even more so, around 2011, a large number of Ugandans felt very proud, appreciating the instrumental leadership of the National Resistance Movement and the military. Even leaders from across the political spectrum were proud and found a great foundation on which to build towards a greater Uganda.
The leadership of the National Resistance Movement has arguably offered the most impactful leadership on the country’s development since independence. However, the time has come to reflect on ourselves as leaders and determine how much effort and citizen influence we still have in terms of reducing inequalities, alleviating poverty, eliminating corruption and rescuing Uganda’s collapsing indigenous businesses and rebuilding the weak institutions of government. We also need to ask ourselves as leaders whether individually there has been any added value to our respective roles in the last 10 years or whether new values and leaders can be found to accelerate the country’s growth and development. And if not, what succession plan do we have for a peaceful transition from less effective leaders to more visionary and results-oriented ones?
We are currently seeing a shift in mandate from the pro-people to a cluster of groups of “governments” who are in constant conflict and delay development programs and service delivery, or are simply determined to undermine the central government’s efforts to work effectively together. The atmosphere not only inhibits work and development but has given birth to the worst forms of corruption in terms of nepotism, siphoning of public funds and bribery to obtain office or favor, but these elements are almost unstoppable. The government of the day turns out to be toxic and the enemy of democracy. This means that Uganda will no longer have political parties and alternative leaders. As a result, it undermines the very achievements that Ugandans have been dying and toiling to win for over 40 years.
However, Ugandans hold the keys to save the country from the steep decline and impending destruction of the very beautiful country of Uganda. The future of the country is taking the path of its predecessors – the Uganda People’s Congress and the Democratic Party, which at their peak lost democratic values and collapsed with a crash into the ground. This would potentially mark the death of the ruling party, which its leaders do not wish to see. Fortunately, the ball is still in the hands of the same leaders who sacrificed tens of thousands of lives to dethrone ideologically corrupt governments, have all the resources to ensure that the worst does not happen to the ruling political party, our people and achievements from the same mistakes of the oldest political parties and their leaders. Each choice should be able to give everyone a thing or two, especially an understanding of people’s desires and humility in service.
The country must face new challenges with new solutions and drivers of the change Ugandans want to see. We cannot afford to rely on old ideas and rhetoric that have proven useless in the previous 2 decades. This is impossible and experience shows this dilemma. We must accept the dilemma and take responsibility for where we want our political parties and country to be. We cannot continue to resist good change, good proposals and the cries of Ugandans dying of preventable diseases, poverty and hunger simply because they painfully remind political parties and leaders of how miserably they have failed. After all, it is the Ugandan people who always suffer from corruption, electoral violence, poverty, inequality and marginalization. We must reform our political parties, bring them back to the members and reflect the wishes of the citizens whose membership and vote justify their existence. We need to identify mistakes and consistently change the responsible actors. First of all, we may need to revisit the 10-point program and implement it without deviation. It is still a solid program that does not require changes and challenges to implement. It was well-intentioned and purposeful, born of a consensus among patriotic Ugandans. The historical challenges after independence were covered by the same document – the 10-point programme. Indeed, revising the implementation of the same document is a direct solution to the current socio-economic and political problems facing the country. This will reduce tension within political parties and among Ugandans. We need look no further than his paper. The program that came after it proved useless to Ugandans.
It is also important to look beyond ourselves when discussing issues of national importance. The cries of ordinary citizens are what should concern us the most. The biggest mistake today is the use of vested interests to influence national policies instead of participatory democracy and civic roles and actions taken together. If we continue to follow a parallel line with the people, the citizens of this beautiful country, we risk throwing it into the unwanted past where leadership and grievances are met with violence and death. It is certainly not what we need to see happen, knowing what they mean to us as leaders and the people we claim to lead.
We urgently need to address the greed and violent attitudes that bind us together. This policy of elimination is unsustainable, as are the consequences of such barbaric tendencies. After all, the lives of human destroyers of life also end either through revenge or natural death.
It is therefore appropriate that leaders and political parties open up to the inevitable change that continues to knock on our doors: changing greed and violent attitudes, restoring the rule of law, responsive leadership and working for transparent elections and accountable leadership. It is the desire of all Ugandans that political parties and leaders bring the much needed change for which almost 1 million people died in vain, pro-people leadership, accountable leadership, consensual leadership guided by the constitution of the citizens and leadership that protects not kills or steal from Ugandans.
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