Multi-party is a fundamental principle of democracy for you can’t have democracy if you don’t have a pluralist expression. Therefore no person of sound mind would question change to a multi-party setting because of not going through a referendum. Secondly, it is common knowledge that the courts of law pronounced in their judgment that the Movement Government had long violated the Broad based ness principle which is the epitome of the Movement System, hence, it is mere waste of hard earned national resources to spend Shs 22 billion on the referendum on Political Systems later this year.
The wise and positive way to go is simple. Endorse the court decision that the broad based ness is long dead and, it is true for Todate the Executive is staffed by 100% of the Movements’ own, in reality is partisan! The referendum on Political Systems is yet another way to squander resources that would otherwise be put to among other things:
1. Enhancing Irrigation of crops for the rural agriculturalists given the unreliable rainfall regimes.
2. Putting up a very modern Information and Communication Technology facility for training purposes of our manpower so that this manpower is able to design computer programs that can be exported competitively on the world market as well as provide highly skilled manpower in the ICT field which on great demand worldwide.
3. Can boost the salaries of Government employees who on average are a yawning lot.
4. Could be used in the promotion of Uganda as a tourist destination and also improve the facilities for the tourists locally.
5. Can be used in the promotion of Agro-based industrialization the way forward to boosting our export earnings.
6. Could be used to subsidize costs of tertiary education that are out of reach for many and at the same time could provide resources for a post secondary Educational Loan Scheme.
7. More than ½ the people dying today die prematurely due to inability to afford medical services and good nutrition. Shs. 22 billion can greatly boost the medical services in the country.
8. The Shs. 22 billion can have some impact on poverty if there are micro-loans of say Shs. 100,000/- (one hundred thousand). 220,000 people can stand to benefit when they get funding for small undertakings a positive step in the poverty reduction.
It will be most unfortunate if government insists on the referendum on political systems. However, this will be done after completely ignoring political dialogue an essential tool of democracy. What is going on makes some of us to believe that when power is seized by the barrel of the gun, the parties involved have abandoned the field of democracy altogether and this is what seems to be sustained on in the Uganda setting. What makes the situation more worrying is the trend of the Executive to be practicing what is better interpreted as corruption through paying MPs what they are not officially entitled to with the first fruits, to-date being the endorsement of Open Voting. It is unfortunate that power is corrupting the NRM more day by day.
Respect for the opinions of others is a measure of a “society’s democratic maturity”, for freedom of the word is inseparable from freedom for individuals. Whenever those in power believe they need to defend themselves against change and criticism, the persecution of men (and women) of letters is always a central component of oppression. Frequently, however, those who feel threatened by free speech prefer to take direct action. Because their power is built on injustice and despotism, they persecute not only the words themselves, but also the bearers of the words!
In a message smuggled out of prison, the Nigerian writer, “The late Ken Saro-Wiwa” used the following words while in captivity:
“The men who order and supervise this shameful game, this insidious farce, are afraid of the free word. They fear the power of ideas, the power of the pen, the demands for social justice and human rights.”
If the purpose of Uganda Government is to improve the quality of life for the people by contributing to sustainable development and reducing poverty and suffering then the proposed referendum on political system is on the contrary.
Uganda Government should avoid tendencies towards an anti-culture of democracy, which is exhibited in a totalitarian political system where those in power have complete control and do not allow people to freely oppose them (and even when people’s views are aired out, the tendency just to ignore such opinions) hence encouraging a culture of passivity and apathy. Hence seeking to mold an obedient and docile citizenry, hence inculcating an attitude of passive acceptance.
What the Movement has to sell to the Uganda electorate is that social economic and political pluralism is one of the pillars of democracy hence does not call for a referendum.
Given the state of affairs in Uganda today, I see the proposed referendum on political system as some form of corruption. Various authorities have written about corruption, I quote:
According to President Festus Mogae of Botswana, “Corruption exacerbates poverty in that it effectively transfers real resources from official state coffers to the few rich and powerful. Corruption distorts factor prices, in that those who benefit from corruption are rewarded for little or no work done and the cost of projects turns out higher than it would be. It likewise distorts economic decision making, sometimes giving priority to development projects that may have little or no national benefit.”
“While corruption’s scope is worldwide, it is especially destructive in developing countries with their delicate economic situations. It has critically bobbled and skewed Africa development”
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Mr. Richard Hollaway, a Senior Analyst of PACT- Zambia a non-governmental organization, says that in the various African countries where he has worked, economic liberalization and privatization have widened the gap between the rich and the poor, because those with power have used it to corruptly to enrich themselves. ‘I think corruption is the flip side of privatization”, said Hollaway.
‘Democratic governments must play a role in evolving the social norms that militate against a perverted, anti—social individualism’
Thabo Mbeki – President of South Africa.
Written at the time when the Referendum was being planned in Uganda