No Democrats, No Democracy [editorial]

Uganda’s two biggest political parties, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), are set to hold national delegates’ conferences within 10 days, beginning with FDC today.

Ordinarily, this should be a moment to celebrate because ten years ago, political party activities were banned as the country was still governed under the so-called Movement system.

It was believed then that opening up for political parties to operate would expand the political space, enhance freedom of association and bring democracy. Uganda should, therefore, be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the return of democracy.

However, in reality there’s hardly anything to celebrate. There is multi-partyism, yes, but the ruling political party remains intertwined with state institutions, making it difficult for others to compete with it on a level ground.

Incapacitated by poor funding and undermined by the regime’s politics of patronage and the abovementioned state-ruling-party fusion, opposition parties are limping. This is not helped by their internal leadership wrangles.

It’s, therefore, not surprising that as we head into these party meetings amid this political reality, the debate is not about what NRM or FDC plan to do about Uganda’s challenges of poverty and unemployment, among others.

The debate is, rather, about who should be in charge, with infighting tearing opposing camps apart as each tries to outsmart the other using all tricks in the book.

In the ruling party, tremendous resources have been spent on mobilisation as the long-serving chairman seeks to consolidate his position in the face of a challenge from the estranged secretary general.

In the FDC, a group that lost elections has refused to accept the results despite claims to the contrary and is busy working to fail those who were elected.

While politicking is part and parcel of multiparty politics, when it’s unprincipled, dishonest and anti-democratic, as happenings in both parties indicate, it negates the whole essence of democracy.

Indeed, it is one thing to have political parties and periodic elections but quite another to have democracy. And there can’t be democracy without democrats.

What Uganda needs is not democratic posturing, but leadership. Good leadership. Clean leadership. Visionary leadership. Sadly, at the moment it is in short supply.

Source : The Observer

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