When will Uganda’s op­po­si­tion re­alise ipods are ob­so­lete?

The East African - - OPINION -

It's a mat­ter of days be­fore 2018 ends and 2019 be­gins. This is the time when those who make New Year res­o­lu­tions are fig­ur­ing out what it is they want to fo­cus on next year. It is also a good time to re­flect on the year's defin­ing oc­cur­rences, those that im­pact or are bound to im­pact the lives of in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­eties.

I spend much time watch­ing, tak­ing note of, and re­flect­ing on go­ings-on in the po­lit­i­cal arena. As a re­sult, I be­lieve that, in any one coun­try, there is noth­ing more im­por­tant than pol­i­tics. Few will agree with this. It is not un­usual to hear peo­ple say that the world would be bet­ter off, or that their own lives would be bet­ter, if there were no pol­i­tics and no politi­cians.

The fact of the mat­ter, how­ever, is that pol­i­tics ei­ther drives or sti­fles ev­ery­thing that mat­ters in life. How pol­i­tics is or­gan­ised and prac­tised in any coun­try, how it shapes its re­la­tions with other coun­tries and how so­ci­ety re­lates to its politi­cians, de­ter­mines above all else, how its mem­bers see and feel about them­selves and the world around them.

Where politi­cians and the gov­ern­ments over which they pre­side are seen as work­ing for the com­mon good, peo­ple tend to feel pos­i­tive. Where there is a gen­eral feel­ing that politi­cians are in it for them­selves and that the gov­ern­ments they run serve nar­row in­ter­ests, there is usu­ally doom and gloom in the air.

As 2018 gal­lops to­wards its de­noue­ment, I have found my­self re­flect­ing on two po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses in the two coun­tries I call home, Rwanda and Uganda. Both tell us a great deal about the im­por­tance of pol­i­tics in shap­ing the gen­eral mood and out­look.

In Uganda, for a while now, we have been go­ing through the mo­tions of or­gan­is­ing a na­tional di­a­logue, a process seen by many as pos­sess­ing the po­ten­tial to heal wounds and cre­ate a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance of what needs to hap­pen to en­hance na­tional unity and co­he­sion.

To­day, a size­able num­ber of Ugan­dans feel that ten­sions cre­ated by dis­agree­ments about how the coun­try should be gov­erned, or the qual­ity of gov­er­nance im­proved, and the gov­ern­ment made to work for ev­ery­body, have se­verely un­der­mined unity and co­he­sion. Thus, the de­sire for di­a­logue.

There was a time when op­po­si­tion par­ties brought to­gether with the rul­ing party un­der the aus­pices of the In­ter-party Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Di­a­logue (IPOD) were con­stantly push­ing for di­a­logue, while the Na­tional Re­sis­tance Move­ment was do­ing all the foot-drag­ging.

Oc­ca­sion­ally Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni would sug­gest meet­ings, at venues of his choice, such as State House. The op­po­si­tion par­ties would re­ject his over­tures, claim­ing he couldn't pos­si­bly be trusted, and that all he wanted were photo op­por­tu­ni­ties he could use to ar­gue that he and his op­po­nents were talk­ing.

Re­cently, af­ter years of sta­sis, Mu­sev­eni even­tu­ally agreed to meet his op­po­nents on neu­tral ground, and not as pres­i­dent, but as a party leader en­gag­ing fel­low party lead­ers of “equal sta­tus,” as op­po­si­tion par­ties al­ways wanted.

But just as it be­gan to look like a golden op­por­tu­nity for politi­cians to scale down their mu­tual an­tag­o­nisms and brighten up the pre-xmas at­mos­phere, some op­po­si­tion par­ties jumped ship, cit­ing many rea­sons, some of them clearly spu­ri­ous.

While there may be grounds for sus­pect­ing Mu­sev­eni's mo­tives, in­clud­ing that he seeks to use IPOD to un­der­mine ac­tors who are push­ing for a much broader di­a­logue in­volv­ing not only politi­cians, but wider so­ci­ety, what the dis­sent­ing par­ties have achieved is to per­pet­u­ate ten­sions that serve only to main­tain a mood of un­cer­tainty and de­spon­dency among or­di­nary Ugan­dans.

Mean­while, across Uganda's south­west­ern bor­der, many Rwan­dans are look­ing for­ward to next week with a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion as they pre­pare for the 16th edi­tion of the An­nual Na­tional Di­a­logue. On De­cem­ber 13 and 14, the Kigali Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and a few other venues around Kigali City and up­coun­try, all con­nected via video link thanks to Rwanda's re­mark­able ad­vances in in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy, will be buzzing with Rwan­dans from dif­fer­ent walks of life, gath­ered to look back at the year gone by and mea­sure how far they have come in terms of the col­lec­tive am­bi­tions they set out to achieve, and those they as­pire to pur­sue in 2019.

In at­ten­dance will be na­tional and lo­cal politi­cians rep­re­sent­ing each of the coun­try's 11 po­lit­i­cal par­ties and lowly and high-level civil ser­vants and other pub­lic of­fi­cials. There will also be or­di­nary folk, young and old, some lis­ten­ing on ra­dio or watch­ing on TV, all look­ing to con­trib­ute to the dis­cus­sions or lis­ten to their com­pa­tri­ots who are tasked with var­i­ous re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, ac­count­ing for what they have or haven't done, and what they in­tend to do next year.

Dozens of di­as­pora Rwan­dans will fly or drive in to catch up with the lat­est de­vel­op­ments. The diplo­matic com­mu­nity and friends of Rwanda from across the globe will also be present, lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively. It is dif­fi­cult to sum up ev­ery­thing that hap­pens dur­ing the two-day event.

One thing, though, is clear: By the time the del­e­gates dis­perse, they are in no doubt as to where their lead­ers seek to take the coun­try and the con­tri­bu­tion of Rwanda's non-ad­ver­sar­ial pol­i­tics.

What the dis­sent­ing par­ties have achieved is to per­pet­u­ate ten­sions that serve only to main­tain a mood of un­cer­tainty and de­spon­dency among or­di­nary Ugan­dans

Ugan­dan singer-turned-politi­cian Robert Kyag­u­lanyi, bet­ter known as Bobi Wine.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.