POLITICIANS the world-over govern under an unwritten social contract with the people to deliver a set of services. This mandate is handed to them through elections. But often, there is no effective mechanism through which citizens are able to measure this
POLITICIANS the world-over govern under an unwritten social contract with the people to deliver a set of services. This mandate is handed to them through elections. But often, there is no effective mechanism through which citizens are able to measure this delivery, enabling politicians to get away with non-delivery.
In order to enhance good governance for human security and political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated economic integration, the New Partnership for Africaâ€™s Development (NEPAD) adopted the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
The mechanism, arguably the most innovative aspect of NEPAD, can be used by the people as an instrument for this much needed assessment.
Besides being a voluntarily accepted instrument by member states for self-evaluation, it assesses governments within a framework of agreed values, codes and standards as contained in the declaration on democracy, political, economic and corporate governance.
The APRM process is rooted in the deepening of democratic practices and the rectification of deficiencies in governance and socio-economic development processes among African Union member states.
To quote from it: â€œThe lessons emerging from the APRM implementation process are enabling countries to benchmark good governance in Africa, with shared international norms and standards serving as the guiding framework. They are also enabling citizens to participate in the evaluation of how they are governed.
â€œCapacity in monitoring governance is being developed and partnerships being created, facilitating greater advocacy for the APRM and showcasing Africaâ€™s innovative thinking in governance.â€
The framework is aimed at encouraging and building transformational leadership through a self-assessment process, constructive peer dialogue and the sharing of information and common experiences in order to reinforce successful and exemplary practices among African countries.
Uganda and the APRM
Uganda is one of the pioneer countries that acceded to the APRM at its inception in 2003. While crediting Uganda for restoration of political stability, the fight against HIV/AIDS and basic economic recovery, the country review report of January 2009 cautions against complacency.
â€œOnce hailed as a compelling success story of Africa, it must be acknowledged that contemporary Uganda faces a number of challenges and runs the risk of not advancing rapidly. There are real political and structural risks that threaten to undermine this record,â€ the report says.
The irony with Ugandaâ€™s recovery, it notes, is that it is not based on any fundamental improvements in the basic structure of the economy. This means that since the colonial days, little has changed in the relative importance of the agricultural as opposed to the industrial sector.
As a result, despite its record performance, Uganda with a population of about 30 million, is still one of the worldâ€™s poorest countries. The majority of its population is engaged in subsistence agriculture and the informal sector. Reducing poverty still remains a major challenge.
â€œIt has also been shown that despite the apparent reduction in poverty, a significant proportion of Ugandans are still living in chronic poverty and, in many respects, poverty is deepening as inequality widens.â€
The report also catalogues the major strides the country has undertaken since the advent of the NRM Government.
â€œThere has been undeniable progress since the NRM came to power in January 1986 under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni. This regime change, which was hailed across the globe, has brought peace and security across most of Uganda except in some areas in the north, by reconstituting a failing and fragile state.
â€œIt rejuvenated an economy and safeguarded the true principles of human liberties by promoting press freedom and putting an end to the human rights abuses of earlier governments.â€
The single most significant event, the report adds, has been the peace dividend after 1986, economic liberalisation and macro-economic stability in the early 1990s and the significant decrease in foreign aid.
â€œIn order to build on these gains, Uganda needs to industrialise in order to transform itself into a prosperous middle-income economy by 2030. As it takes advantage of enlarged markets through regional integration, it is crucial that the country improves the economy and turns the private sector into an engine of growth.â€
The report also takes a swipe at what it calls â€œthe apparent militarisationâ€ of society and the recent mushrooming of districts which threatens to reverse the gains of decentralisation.
Ultimately, the report adds, the reform of the Ugandan state lies in the fully fledged democratisation of political society in which civil society and political parties must play the leading role. Uganda, it adds, is â€” and must be â€” greater than any single individual; as is the premise of modern statehood.
Having secured Uganda from the Amin and Obote strangleholds, the current leadership should be concerned about its own legacy, it adds. The challenge for Uganda now, it notes, is to deepen reforms already underway and prevent their reversal.
There is no doubt that, with determination, and political will, Uganda can leapfrog into the future as a prosperous middle-income country by 2030, it predicts.
Furthermore, Uganda must strive to sustain growth rates at levels that can lift most of its people out of poverty to rightfully lay claim to being the â€œPearl of Africaâ€.
The writer is a journalist
The review mechanism can be used to assess politicians