The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Elections Don't Provide Needed Leadership

opinion

Photo: Newvision
Florence Nebanda Andiru casting her vote.

Butaleja district has been the scene of a great deal of bustle billed as a gigantic political contest in a by-election in the area for its Woman MP to replace the deceased Cerinah Nebanda.

This Monday's voting in Butaleja is bound to shine a spotlight on the gloating-in-victory by the declared winner and the crestfallen mutterings of the losers. Yet, such a focus cannot irradiate all the vitally larger portrait of the existing panorama of the country as a whole. Political activity in Uganda has been relegated to the highly seasonal.

It depends largely on periods of electioneering when bidders for the various high offices of the land swoop on the grassroots to harangue the electorate for votes. They then retire to enjoy reclining in their acquired offices, or to lick their disappointments in case of failed outcome, as they disappear from the general scene like migratory birds to wait for the next season.

The only residual activities that remain are those hacked in the corridors of power or during behind-the-scenes dealings done out of sight. Accessing elected officials to address or redress any concerns by voters is literally like pinning hopes on seeing a long dead grandmother resurrect.

Ordinarily, acclaimed political parties are expected to maintain activity of their political structures as a platform to voice voter interests, but they are themselves the first to go into abeyance. When, therefore, the Butaleja Woman MP seat was declared vacant after the sudden loss of their vocal MP, turmoil ensued even further within the inactive and leaderless structures.

Because parliamentary candidates do not emerge from the crucible of their party organizations and activities, anyone motivated to become something springs up out of the blue as a possible leader. Famed recluses have emerged from their normal hideouts to be in the public arena for the first time so as to take lordship of the parties. Only the NRM and the FDC fielded candidates. All the myriads of ostensibly registered partiers could not marshal an appearance, quite clearly attesting to their nature.

The majority of the mushroomed contestants had no alternative but to claim being independent. Their fight for parliamentary seats was, indeed, truly independent of any social cause. Quite naturally, the masses that were long divorced from pursuing interest in their affairs found themselves swamped with an array of candidates whose history they could not trust. The yardstick for choice of such people to Parliament then took an entirely non-political ambience.

Political bigwigs who had never found time to be in Bunyole, now showed their presence, turning the hitherto desolate landscape into a sea of merrymaking and drumming. The new atmosphere drew the people from their usual village drudgery and dreariness to the throb of the rare carnivals. The Banyole were particularly captivated by the splendour of the sleek 'royal chariots' that snaked through their villages, their occupants waving to them in conveyance of mock attention.

They, in turn, congregated in numbers to wave back in astonishment at this seeming recognition for the first time. Money bags were hauled back and forth. It became a festive season. Even those who had no government responsibilities solemnly promised the Banyole dispensaries stocked with drugs if the candidates they were campaigning for got elected.

President Museveni repeated the assurance he had made since 1993 that he would tarmac the main road in Bunyole. The assembled admirers and his supporters could not hide their scepticism by shrugging it off with mirthful laughter. The Bunyole by-election suffered horrible Kwashiorkor from the collapse of our country's politics. Consequently, the by-election could not be conducive to the building of genuine leadership and democracy.

Uganda's patriots must seek the overcoming of this type of political dilapidation in the country. The foundation of the present-day politics is not based on the people and the needs of their organization but, rather, lies on the self-esteem of a tiny group of individuals who seek to swamp our country's political life with their hirelings and protégés.

This inevitably kills the replenishment of leaders in the generations within our society and undermines the hopes of our people for democracy. It gathers pent-up forces from unresolved problems and endangers our country to a looming, possible flare-up of a supernova of destruction.

A hen that devours the eggs it should brood into its own chicks deserves to be rushed to the cooking pot. Political scheming and a system that cannot build veritable leaders for our country should be expedited to its death.

The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals.

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InFocus

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