Call for affirmative, not raw power politics

The fanfare and the excitement of nominations of flag bearers of various political parties for the 2016 elections have come and gone.

And now that the country is in the throes of formal campaigning, it is apparent that most of the presidential candidates have succumbed to the medievalist approach to national issues that has characterised politics in the past several decades in Uganda.

The medievalist approach to politics is manifested in two broad ways. It is first, manifested in the manner candidates have personalised politics.

And second, it is evidence in the way they are making promises to doll out all kinds of “gifts” to various constituencies, as if the resources of country are their private property rather than owned by the people collectively.

If the country is to move forward affirmatively with modern technique, we must banish the medievalist approach to politics by curing political elites of this pathology and by getting rid of the crude and slapdash fear, which has now reached morbid degree.

The way forward requires that political elites should recognise that what people deserve is not paternalist treatment, but proper respect for their rights as citizens and dignity as human beings.

In other words, they must adopt a human rights and inclusive approach to politics, which does not depend on the political mood of the moment but is guided by ethical principles and values.

What does a human rights and inclusive approach to politics consist of in the context of Uganda today? It consists of five fundamental and overarching elements.

The first is to afford all Ugandans equality of treatment under the rule of law, irrespective of how, where and when they were born.

This would require political elites to commit themselves to eradicate the current apartheid-like social engineering where rights and privileges are accorded and enjoyed on the basis of belonging to particular favoured ethnic groups and conversely, rights and privileges are denied to people by simply belonging to particular disfavoured ethic groups.

The second is to fashion institutional mechanisms for democratic accountability based on the principle of check and balances on power. This would require both structural and functional decentralisation or devolution of power.

In the political parlance of Uganda, it necessarily means federalism.

The third is to renounce and banish the culture of violence and militarism that has been responsible for blighting the lives of so many Ugandans and Africans. The self-evident truth is that violence only begets violence and bloodshed, which should not be made virtue of.

The fourth is that political elites must demonstrate practical and moral solidarity to all Ugandans whatever their station in life. As such, they must heed the moral and religious precept that we are all created in the image of God and therefore all deserving of being treated as God’s precious creation.

And fifth, political elites must listen, see and feel the suffering and aspirations of the great majority of people who are the backbone of the country.

Most importantly, they must take into account the experiences of people in fashioning strategies and policies that would empower individuals and groups to engage meaningfully in affairs that affect their lives.

As the political season of electioneering gains momentum, it is not unreasonable to demand that the country’s political elites should endeavour not to be undone by the fetish of power politics and the shallowness of moral grounding.

As such, beyond the issue of free and fair elections, if the great majority of people, leave alone the country, are to feel an affirmative sense of belonging as citizens, however, it will not be sufficient for political elites to show guile in cloak-and-dagger manoeuvrings.

Political elites must demonstrate that besides courage, they possess humility, which counsels them to recognise that the struggle to redeem Uganda is not about them individually, but it is about the great majority of Ugandans who continue to wallow in poverty and despair, with joyous stoicism.

In the final analysis, political elites must realise that the country is big enough for all Ugandans and that in order to inspire hope rather than fear in the future, the medievalist approach to politics must be discarded in favour of an affirmative approach to politics based on ethical principles and values of human rights and inclusivity.

Failure to adopt an ecumenical approach to politics would mean that the choice for the population in the 2016 elections might turn out to be more or less like as a choice between hyenas and wolves draped in different attires made of medievalist fabrics.

And in the battles between political hyenas and wolves, the media have become a site of struggle and subject to the rules of survival in the jungle, including intimidation and brute force.

To give our children and the country a future to be proud of, political elites must embrace affirmative politics based on inclusive and human rights approach. This requires that both the Opposition and the regime should demonstrate in both their rhetoric and practice that all Ugandans have basic human rights and are entitled to equal treatment under the rule of law, though not simply the rule by law.

The writer is UNESCO chair in Human Rights, USA

SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR

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