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Uganda should learn from Kenya’s elections

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st December 2002 03:00 AM

The man who has the biggest part to play in the 2006 political miracle of smooth transition is Museveni. The outcome of the presidential elections in Kenya is interesting but not surprising.

The man who has the biggest part to play in the 2006 political miracle of smooth transition is Museveni. The outcome of the presidential elections in Kenya is interesting but not surprising.

By Asuman Bisiika

The outcome of the presidential elections in Kenya is interesting but not surprising. The prophesy that the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) would be defeated at presidential and parliamentary levels has come to pass.

The National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), a coalition of about 13 opposition political parties, handed the hitherto all-pervading KANU a resounding defeat in what has been referred to as a historic election.

The euphoria of electoral victory engulfing Kenya is justified. And yet we cannot say the electoral process in Kenya did not entirely surprise us. Sceptics expected violence on a large scale, but it was not to be. They expected rigging by KANU, it was not to be. And lastly, we expected President Moi to refuse to hand over power to the opposition, but in the end, he even seemed to be in a hurry to hand over before the year ended.

However, the fact that Kenyans successfully did it through the ballot box is actually a challenge to the political elite in Uganda to shape up. In 2006, Ugandans will go for presidential and parliamentary elections in which long-serving President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will not be a candidate; much like the December 27 Kenyan polls in which President Daniel arap Moi was constitutionally barred from offering his candidature.

But can the Kenyan electoral scenario play out in the 2006 Presidential Elections in Uganda? Well, there seems to be a long way to go to reach where the Kenyans have reached. many Ugandans are not confident that a smooth transition of power can take place in Uganda. This concern can be justified –– what with the existence of wars and continued talk of more wars to come. But I think the biggest problem to the smooth transition of power in Uganda is the mood and psyche of the typical Ugandan politician.

First of all, your typical Ugandan politician is only versed in rhetoric oratory. The opposition can only manage to oppose the ideas of the government without even presenting ideas and principles on which they would lead the country if they are given the opportunity.

On the other hand, the ruling elite seems to have failed to appreciate the fact that the justification for the existence of the political opposition is not limited to legalities, but also lies in the democratic and moral principle of respect for and appreciation of minority views (in order to avoid a majoriterian stampede).

The ruling elite behaves with a very high degree of complacence that borders on arrogance and in complete disregard to minority views.

The above scenario has bred the impression that one would have to be a military man or woman (or have the support of the military) to be seen as a serious contender for the national leadership of the country.

This national political psyche has led the population to lose interest in the traditional means of attaining political office ––– the representation of the wishes and aspirations of the masses.

This has glorified the politico-military machoism as the best (and sometimes the only) criterion for any one to aspire for national leadership.

The challenge the Kenyans have set for Uganda is not only to the opposition, but also to the government.

The situation in Kenya had reached a stage where change was necessary. The KANU government under the leadership of President Daniel Toroititch arap Moi was no longer responsive to the legitimate wishes, demands and aspirations of the Kenyan people, so much that the defeat of KANU at the December 27 polls was expected as a matter of course.

But can the Ugandan political elite learn anything from the Kenyan scenario? Government officials say that the Movement government is still responsive to the needs and wishes of the population. Although the opposition would differ with this, arguing that it has failed to present alternative programmes to guide the country.

In fact, the first comprehensive national programme to come from any opposition to Museveni’s Movement government was Dr. Col. Kizza Besigye’s manifesto during the 2001 Presidential Elections.

Whereas the Kenyan opposition had consolidated its confidence against a perennially blundering government, the Ugandan opposition would face an uphill task to juxtapose themselves against Museveni.

But now that Museveni is not eligible to stand for President in 2006, he will be facing the challenge of making his choice for the top job.

His choice ought to be some one whose popularity will cut across the ethnic and religious political landscape.

The opposition faces the challenge of finding a leader with experience and the stature to command national respect and hope. Such an opposition leader will need to have a comprehensive programme that would guide the country.

In the 2006 presidential elections, focus might not be on what the Movement government has achieved, but the ability to create and (in some other areas to consolidate) institutions and structures of political and economic governance.

But all said and done, the man who has the biggest part to play in the 2006 political miracle of smooth transition of power is Museveni.

President Museveni would need to appreciate the fact that although KANU has been defeated, President Moi is actually the “Man of the Hour”. Whereas some people are still asking themselves how and why Moi let it all slip from his grip, the old man seems to have looked beyond the encumbrances of national leadership and aimed at something higher and bigger than the national politics of Kenya.

This is the stature that goes with being addressed as elder and regional statesman. Moi, self-acclaimed professor of Kenyan politics, has personally come out as the victorious protagonist in the Kenyan story.

Perhaps the most important lesson from the Kenyan election story is that it takes the government to control electoral malpractice like violence, rigging and unfair competition. It is not very impossible that a Ugandan president can hand over power to an opposition leader.

But there has to be confidence building in the body politic of the Ugandan leadership. People should stop looking at political leadership as a matter of life and death.

Uganda should learn from Kenya’s elections

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