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OpEd

DAVID MAFABI: Opposition must wake up to save Uganda

Some of the opposition leaders in Uganda. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – In its 2017 index, Uganda was ranked 151st, slightly ahead of collapsed states and devastated economies such as Burundi and South Sudan. Among the most corrupt offices that Ugandans have highlighted are the police and courts of law.

Ugandans are now faced by the threat of economic collapse, court orders are disobeyed, yet the NRM administration continues to give the country’s progress a clean bill of health.

With only about two years to the general election and the main opposition parties in Parliament apparently unable to hold the government to account, the current trend is worrying.

Disturbing weakness

One of the most serious and disturbing weaknesses in our political process today is lack of an institutionalised and focused Opposition group that can take on the government over its excesses.

Although the Opposition parties have been vocal in criticising the government, they have done this in a sporadic and inconsistent manner that has not helped in changing the situation that is taking a downward spiraling movement.

The Opposition has not presented itself as a government in waiting by offering policy alternatives but has merely been criticizing the ruling government.

It is true that civil society organisations operating in Uganda are now the target of state inspired threats and intimidation.

Despite the NRM administration’s hostility to civil society like ActionAid, Great Lakes Initiative for Strategic Studies (GLISS) and other civic groups, they should be applauded for their attempts to make the government accountable.

The Opposition and civil society should work closely to transform this country into what we want it to be and history offers them vital lessons.

Political parties are good mobilisers and civil society can serve as non-partisan players and a legitimate voice of reason.

Constitutional institutions compromised?

The key institutions created by the Constitution to allow seamless governance are not working as they should.

Parliament’s oversight role has been compromised, as have the roles of the Executive and the Judiciary to the level that President Museveni stands out alone as a president, minister and other government technocrats. This should offer some reflection to politicians and citizens to open a national debate on how we intend to move forward.

It is clear that the country lacks strong charismatic leaders to chart this debate because the entire country has not been given a chance to determine their leaders to progressively bring Uganda to where it is supposed to be.

It will take great effort on the part of human rights defenders, governance organisations, and religious groups to force the NRM regime to finally embrace comprehensive constitutional reform and redirect the country on the journey to development.

Divisive politics

The politics that has evolved since NRM came to power has instead divided the country, denied Ugandans the opportunity to engage in constructive debate or even create room for the emergence of new players to guide the process.

Religious leaders are no longer seen as neutral players who work closely to rescue the country from collapse but are willing to work with government as long as they are given vehicles and money for their programmes.

The Opposition and civil society must change tack on how they engage the government because in the past about 10 years they have not given us desired results.

For the sake of this country Uganda, these players must reform themselves, put their house in order, and democratise, to allow new players with fresh ideas.

A strong Opposition can force the government to listen and think of the possibility that the 2021 elections might not be a sure win and this might allow issue-based politics to thrive in Uganda and prevent voter apathy.

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David Mafabi is a senior writer at PML Daily publishers

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