Fifty one years of self-governance, Uganda is now confronted by the eminent reality of an impending political transition. How this transition process is managed will significantly have a bearing on whether Uganda leaps forward or digresses into political turmoil just like is the case in Egypt today. Because the political transition in Egypt paid as much attention to the person of Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak as little as it did to the broader political configuration, the result definitely had to be nothing less than a 'still birth' transition. Uganda right now stands at a very awkward moment when most of its regional neighbours have set the tone for political transition through making constitutional and electoral changes.
Kenya just completed its political transition process in August, 2010 with the adoption of their new constitution which has, for many been seen as the game changer in Kenya's politics. Apart from dealing with the issue of equality and inclusive citizenship, it reformed its electoral system, instituted mechanisms for judicial and land reforms and attempted to review the security sector of Kenya. Besides the structural constitutional changes, Kenya today celebrates the peaceful March 2013 general election held under the auspices of the new herald constitution and electoral law. Critical about this post constitutional review election is the fact that it led to a peaceful transfer of power from President Mwai Kibaki to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
With barely two years to the 2016 general elections campaign, it is worrying that there doesn't seem to be convincing evidence that political parties are up to the challenge of being custodians of future policy options. There is less if not none of discussion on policy positions by the different political parties. The only evidence of serious hype around policy issue-discussion is limited to those areas that are holding by-elections. Other than those, the rest seems to be the usual 'politricking' on radio stations. Even when the talk show moderators try to squeeze policy substance from our dear political party guests, the efforts of the moderators' normally remain in vain.
It is at such time that parties must begin to clearly articulate their positions in light of the next general elections. Timely articulation of political party campaign platforms would not only stimulate a deeper sense of civic consciousness but would also provoke distinct policy alternatives by the different competing political parties. The reason why political parties in Uganda have in the past two general elections (2006 and 2011) offered more or less similar policy alternatives is because they invest too little in the process of developing campaign platforms; they invest too little time in internally articulating their own policy proposals; and they only send out a whiff of their policy positions barely three months to an election (as has been the practice in the past). Secondly and sadly, some parties seem to view policy alternatives in light of generating 'obligatory campaign narratives' that carry little meaning beyond an Election Day.
By now each party must be seen to be speaking to the alternatives it holds as a way of pre-empting policy discussions to consolidate its manifesto for 2016 and beyond. This is actually the time at which parties should be engaging one another in substantive policy debates.
Citizens would like potential leaders and/or institutions that consistently remind them that their dreams of a decent society are not just reasonable but attainable. They want to hear their potential leaders speaking about possibilities and championing practical solutions to their problems. Citizens want leaders who will constantly show them the 'way' to live their aspirations.
The pre-election environment in Zimbabwe was described by many as a 'confusingly calm' one. Back in 2008, six months prior to Zimbabwe elections then, all streets and villages were abuzz with campaign slogans, songs, rallies, political meetings and candidates' posters. Of course six months before an election, campaigns had not yet been officially sanctioned – but they were happening. Come 2013, it was very different – very quiet, a handful of campaign rallies, low enthusiasm and it could pass as a somber environment – even a week to the polls.
A recent conversation with a leader from one of Zimbabwe's major political parties revealed that this time round, 'they' had chosen to do it differently but strategically; 'feed the cow at home and only bring it out for sell on the market day'. Now, what does this mean? Probably it provided the clearest answer to why the pre-election environment was too calm. He explained: "you don't show everyone that you are 'feeding the cow'; you only bring it out on the market day when it's going to be sold off. Well, this is more confusing. So, how do you feed the cow?
Once Africa's sung hub of intellectualism and professionalism, Zimbabwe is now nothing less than an orbituary of a departed academic sector, a dying corporate segment and a country feared and haunted by its very own 'professionals'. Now, when you scratch beyond the surface, you get to interesting findings; this predicament has little to do with the economics of Zimbabwe but it has everything to do with the politics of the country.
On this one sunny Monday afternoon, am having lunch with a professor at one of Zimbabwe's top University. Our lunch graduates into a tête-à-tête on a range of issues affecting 'Uncle Bob's' republic.
In a chronological manner, this middle aged professor outlines how education in Zimbabwe has lost as much value as the economy itself. She later narrates how the government has in recent years resettled most of her colleagues to South Africa and Botswana. Not just resettling them but helping to process their work permit applications as well as obtaining employment for them. It is not because their services are not required in Zimbabwe; It is not because the government can't employ these people locally; it is not because the government wants to increase its Gross National Income (GNI) from their remittances and neither is it because it cares so much for its 'professionals'.
Landlord is a freedom fighter,
Fighting against my freedom,
He frees me of everything,
Yawa Landlord yawa...
Landlord is a nationalist,
A nationalist means a national appetite;
He eats anything,
Yawa Landlord yawa...
Landlord is a liberator,
And strives to relieve me,
Of all things I own,
Yawa Landlord yawa...
Landlord tethers me,
With economic chains,
To a cell called home,
Yawa Landlord yawa...