KAMPALA – Since the advent of civilization, three systems have been deployed to govern society. The first one was theocracy where ,man that was creeping out of the life of hunter and gather and beginning to live a settled life, trusted his authority to God, the gods and goddesses. Here, the priests, prophets, priestesses, seers and prophetesses called the short. As man got more sophisticated, aristocracy arose as a system of governance. The story of the Israelites petitioning Prophet Samuel to evoke their God to appoint for them a king is a well known story. The Kings, Queens and nobles lorded it over their peoples and this era saw the emergency of kingdoms, empires, chiefdoms etc. However, the largely dictatorial and autocrat rule of the aristocrats bred seeds of a revolution that marked the near end of aristocracy.
The revolution came to be known as democracy which many have defined as the rule of the majority, by the majority and for the majority. However, that is for the face value of democracy. Analysts have actually come to term democracy as a system that favours those with the money. Hence, it is commonly said that under theocracy, man was ruled by the world of deities/ gods and was ruled by the nobles under aristocracy but is currently ruled by money. In deed, all indicators are justifying the school of thought that has attached money to the system of democracy. Adam Smith’s Classic “The Wealth of Nations” is a good example of the intricate relationship between wealth and power. The central thesis of Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” is that our individual need to fulfill self-interest results in societal benefit, in what is known as his “invisible hand”. The “Invisible hand” will tend to wallow into the waters of politics in belief of getting security and position to further more their interests.
Away from political history and philosophy, the increasing cost of electoral politics in Uganda has always been cited as the reason many special interest groups such as women, youth and persons with disabilities find their space for political participation shrinking at alarming rates. A case in point is the fact that an intending contestant will need approximately UGX 500,000,000 or USD 149,000 to be able to successfully contest a seat in Parliament. Such socioeconomic equalities have a negative structural impact on the abilities of Uganda’s young men and women to effectively and actively engage in democratic governance activities like elections.
The high cost of electoral politics is limiting the ability of the young, women and other historically marginalized population groups to engage in political space. This has made such groups get content with contesting for the 5 youth MPs seats, 5 PWDs seats and the district woman MP seats where they cannot secure a majority to push through pro youth and pro women legislations. The aspect of a greying Parliament, greying cabinet, greying Central Executive Committees (CECs) of the various political parties as well as greying Local government councils is a worrying phenomenon as it is indicative of structural and systemic barriers to youth and female participation in governance and decision making.
It is suffice to note that democracy, defined as the rule of the majority, by the majority and for the majority, will remain a dream if the youth, women and People with Disabilities don’t actively participate and take a leading role in deciding how they want to be governed. Systemic barriers like the high nomination fees by the Uganda Electoral Commission, the high verification fees by the National Council for Higher Education among others should be abolished.
It is high time we appreciated that the high cost of politics is very detrimental to popular democracy and it is exacerbating the problem of cliques in the leadership of the country, facilitating elite corruption in order to sustain the political corporatocracy while relegating the future and majority of the population to the periphery. This does not augur well with the aspirations of the country as ensconced in Vision 2040 or the African Union Agenda 2063 which are founded on harnessing the potential of all mostly the youth and women. Efforts to mainstream the participation of all citizens in governance and decision are crucial if Uganda is to develop as a nation. Inclusive and participatory governance is a bedrock of development.
The author is a Youth Inclusion and Governance Consultant. He is a member of the Technical Working Groups of the Youth Coalition on Electoral Democracy (YCED) and the Platform for Youth in Politics (PYIP) that are drafting the National Youth Manifesto.