By Flavia Nassaka
Questions on whether manifestos mean anything to Ugandans rise as TDA launches plan
A Uganda that works for everyone’ is what Go-Forward Presidential candidate John Patrick Amama Mbabazi and his coalition The Democratic Alliance (TDA) promise Ugandans. After several postponements, the ex-prime minister finally launched his manifesto on Nov. 22 in a colorful event held at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Inside the conference hall were pull up banners of not just portraits of the candidate but also artistic impressions of how the Uganda under Mbabazi’s leadership will look like.
“This manifesto proposes change that is both meaningful and measurable. It’s more than a public announcement of ideas or ideology. It’s a manual upon which we intend to perform a radical reorganisation of Ugandan society,” said Amama while acknowledging a team of 13 TDA members that he worked with to come up with a document.
Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao was the chairman of the team – TDA Uganda Go- forward manifesto committee. Political party representatives that contributed include Uganda People’s Congress Olara Otunnu, Justice Forum (JEEMA)’s Asuman Basalirwa, People’s Progressive Party’s Dick Odur, Uganda Federal Alliance’s Beti Kamya and Social Development Party’s Michael Mabikke.Mao told The Independent that their aim is to create a participatory government where the public is actively involved in the affairs of the country. He said when drafting the manifesto, they looked at the problems of the country and it’s on those that they based on to come up with solutions. “It’s a cross pollination of ideas and it reflects the things we feel most strongly about,” he said.
When explaining how they intend to implement their plan of transforming the economy, Mbabazi unveiled the model of how a sub-county will look like when he becomes president. It’s called an Advanced Sub-county Model (ASM) and he illustrates how it will look like. He says every sub county will have a community bank, police post, a well-equipped health insurance facility, a registration office for births, deaths and marriage, a community center with at least ten computers and a reading area with free WIFI access, a sports facility, a creative club for musician and dancers, a stage for taxis and motorcycles, a computerised community information management system, a cooperative society, for farmers and teachers among others. He added that he would cut Value Added Tax from the current 18% to 16% in addition to reducing the number of ministers from about 80 currently to 21 ministers and 21 state ministers. The moment he becomes president, Mbabazi said the TDA government will within the first 100 days restore term limits for president, remove wastage in government expenditure by cutting the State House budget by over 60%, institute a commission to review salaries of public servants in addition to requiring those holding high offices to declare their sources of income not just their assets as has been among others.
Basing on this, Mao advised Ugandans to vote wisely.“When casting the vote, ask yourself what you are voting for. Whether its genuine change, change of status quo or remaining the way you have been.
But, do Ugandans take these promises seriously? Do they ever read the manifestos?
Godber Tumushabe, a policy analyst and the coordinator of TDA says Ugandans are not readers. But, candidates are presenting booklets as big as 300 pages for their information. While Mbabazi’s manifesto is 61 pages, incumbent president Museveni’s is 338 pages. Perhaps the most simplified is the Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Col. Dr Kizza Besigye’s `Uganda Leap Forward’. It presents nine fundamental issues that define what their plans for the country are.
Tumushabe says voters are average persons who don’t try to understand what the candidate is talking about and the implications. He divides the electorate into three – those that vote for the winning candidate, those for change, and those for maintaining the status quo. He says whatever a candidate says does not in any way affect their choices.
While manifestos are important in tracking whether leaders are delivering on their promises, Bob Kiija of the Uganda National NGO Forum, says manifestos are basis upon which voters make decisions in advanced democracies but in Uganda, decisions are based on handouts given or even promises which sometimes are ad hoc or even documented in Manifestos. “Many of these unfortunately have turned out to be lies,” he says. Kiija says the elite who tend to listen to the candidates’ policy positions usually never appear on voting day.He says, instead of focusing on manifestos, candidates need to localise the messages other than picking on big national issues.
Crispy Kaheru of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) says campaigning is a game of quick fix- quick gains mentality and candidates rarely invest time in articulating the critical policy issues that could be contained in their manifestos.
Kiija says though most of the promises on the campaign trail are doable, when leaders get into power, they tend to become comfortable and forget meeting their promises, a reason why the attrition rate in elective leadership is high. “For Parliament it is about 50% while when you go to the ruling NRM party it is even higher, about 70%. If leaders were true to themselves and voters, incumbents would not be investing immensely in electoral corruption. The reason they engage in such acts is because they realise that they no longer have the trust of the people owing to a myriad of unfulfilled promises”. “What needs to be done is to change the governance architecture so that leaders are accountable for their promises, actions, and inactions,” he says. Eight pillars of Mbabazi manifesto Reviving democracy and government institutions
Transforming the economy
Promoting equitable development where all communities and regions equally benefit from government decisions
Providing jobs fit for the 21st century
Providing good quality healthcare
Enhancing the quality of education while addressing the skills
Respecting the rule of law.