The acrimonious relationships among leaders of Uganda’s political parties – intra and inter – has reinforced my view of the fallacy in the idea that there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ democratic system for the whole world. The so-called multiparty ‘democratic’ elections system now practised in Uganda is based on a mistaken ideological belief in the superiority of that system in ensuring participatory governance. In reality, among the worst injustices on Ugandans are the billions of shillings that we spend on holding elections – some of which is borrowed money. We spend money on elections knowing full well that if the election results do not turn out the way ‘the world’ expected them to turn out there will be mayhem. In preparation for the next election due in 2016, it seems the mayhem has already begun.
Those who lose elections do not normally concede defeat. And they reject the election results with support from ‘the world’ and in blatant disregard of Ugandan laws. We must be the country with the highest number of post-election battles – legal and otherwise. Leaders in all parties rarely voluntarily accept to step aside so that more able leaders within their respective parties emerge and take leadership. Individual opposition leaders compete amongst themselves on who can best disrupt the running of the state, get prominent media coverage and create the illusion that they are the ‘big man’. The conduct of all our political leaders is of the ‘big man’ as opposed to that of a party representative or people’s representative. The views expressed by our political leaders are their own views and sometimes are the views of ‘the world’. They are certainly not the views and the will of the people of Uganda they proclaim to represent.
So, for example, when the media and ‘the world’ equated the so-called ‘walk-to-work’ camping of our opposition leaders with the freedom movements in Egypt and in South Africa, I listened in disbelief. If one considers that ‘walk-to-work’ had allegedly been sparked off by raising fuel prices which in turn sparked off high food prices, who was the oppressor in this case? Who is in charge of determining fuel prices? What are the reasons that the fuel prices went up? Realistically, what can the Uganda government do about the prices? Even if the Government of Uganda had the will to do something about fuel prices, it does not really have the geopolitical and economic clout to do so.
Were the leaders of ‘walk-to-work’ among the oppressed as was the case with Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela (black South African fighting against the oppression of blacks by the whites), Ghandi (Indian fighting against oppression of Indians by the British), Martin Luther King (Black American fighting against oppression of blacks by whites)? I think not. The activities of walk-to-walk, particularly those that were staged to specifically disrupt work, were intended to provoke a certain kind of ‘photogenic’ aggression from the state, so that the ‘walk-to-work’ leaders would look like the good ‘big-man’. Unlike Ghandi, Biko, Mandela, the personal wealth of those who championed ‘walk-to-work’ is obscene – they are the oil barons of Uganda who own fuelling stations, they own prime properties of land and commercial buildings – such as hotels and office blocks and they drive very powerful vehicles.
‘Walk-to-work’ is an example of the saddening extent of Uganda’s elite-mass gap. It was both immoral and an insult to the majority of Ugandans whose way of life is walking to work – over 80 percent of Ugandans live in rural areas and get their earnings from farming. Instead of establishing policies that enhance our lives, our political leaders on both sides waste resources (time, energy, equipment and money) on the shenanigans of a few egoistical, selfish and deluded ‘big men’.
Might it be better for us to emulate the governance system of Switzerland and to adapt a multi-party federal parliamentary democratic republic system? A system that incorporates a council of elders that ensures that power is not vested in one individual, and that provides for rotational leadership. I dare say that the Swiss system is much more compatible with traditional African systems, such as the one of my kin. Within Teso culture, authority is vested within a council of elders within each clan.