17 February 2013

Uganda: Lord Mayor Should Lead By Example


One of the biggest challenges facing democracies, especially in the developing world, is the failure by those who hold power to let the opposition be; to realise that power does not come to them by divine right, but is supposed to be won by selling a superior programme to the electorate.

Another big challenge facing our democracies is the failure by opposition politicians to come up with and competently market alternative policies evidently superior to those of the sitting governments. Quite often, opposition politicians behave like those they are trying to dislodge from power.

Here in Uganda, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has been one of the fiercest critics of the government of President Museveni - a government that has been persistently criticised for muzzling critical media and infringing on other constitutional freedoms.

Going by that description, Mayor Lukwago should be expected to show a good example, by upholding the rights of the people he leads. However, it was reported last week that Lukwago barred a New Vision journalist from his press conference. The mayor is reported to have victimised the journalist because of a story that newspaper had published, which amounted to an attack on his integrity.

This kind of thing should not happen, Lord Mayor. There is no doubt that the newspaper article upset the mayor; but while the accuracy or inaccuracy of the story is not the issue here, leaders like the lord mayor should be mindful of the implications of their actions for democracy.

If the lord mayor, seen by many as a champion of alternative leadership, certainly starts resembling those he opposes, this could leave his supporters deflated as they revert to erroneous maxims like "all politicians are the same." It is because of such negativity that voters end up staying way from polling centres and good people refuse to get involved in elective politics.

And the lord mayor should remember to target the bad message rather than the messenger. A postman who brings news of a wedding party will be the same carrying a letter announcing a tragic death.

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