By Peter Nyanzi
Ruling party should not have waited for Speakers’ reminder that the country has moved on from the ‘Movement’ era
The incessant sharp elbowing between the Legislature and the Executive has been a subject of news and political commentary for the better part of the past 12 months. Various battles have been fought between the two arms of the State over the oil bribery scandal, the Nebanda death fiasco, the ‘rebel’ MPs debacle, and the current POM Bill disaster, to mention but a few.
With the current standoff between the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, it does not seem to be getting any smoother. The war, it appears, might go on for a bit longer.
The rift hit rock bottom recently when Kadaga made a statement in Parliament in which she told off Mbabazi over his alleged accusations of bias in her handling of issues in the House. A “dismayed” Kadaga described the accusations as “sad.”
“Leaders in this country should acknowledge that we consciously took a decision to go multiparty and when I took this office I made a promise that I am a Speaker for everyone,” she said.
For those who have been following the goings on in the 8th and 9th Parliaments (under the Multiparty era), it is easy to see that Kadaga had a strong point. From the time the country adopted a multiparty political system in 2006 after about 20 years of Movement/single party politics, NRM, the ruling party, has tended to be overly apprehensive about other political parties.
The NRM’s behavior could be likened to a senior bachelor who eventually married but continues living as if he were still a bachelor. Seven whole years later, NRM is still failing or appears to be unwilling to make the necessary adjustment to the ‘new life.’ It still resents the input of other ‘members of the family’ in the decision-making process and thus prefers to make unilateral decisions about everything.
Like they used to do over the previous two decades, NRM top guns still think that the opposition is a negative entity and anyone – including the Speaker of Parliament – who appears to be sympathetic to the opposition’s cause is the State’s enemy Number 1.
Obviously, NRM has to be reminded that the country has moved on from the ‘Movement’ era and it must make the necessary adjustments to the new dispensation. It has to abandon some of the ‘bachelorhood’ habits and adopt the new culture of living amicably with others whose personality, background and interests could be very different from its own.
Like everyone who has been married for some time will tell you, the trick for a happy home – and a happy future together – is accepting to subjugate your personal interests to another and to work together despite your respective differences to achieve a common goal.
Whether it likes or not, NRM and its leadership must accept to take this path for the sake of national stability and the public good. NRM top guns must accept the fact that their numerical strength notwithstanding, they will not always have their way as was the case during the ‘bachelor days’ of the Movement era.
While the desire to maintain the status quo of the 1990s – when President Museveni under his ‘Movement’ system could do almost anything at will – is understandable, the ‘Multiparty’ dispensation – which they willingly accepted to go into because of its benefits – is now upon us.
Instead of being paranoid and resenting members of the opposition together with those who sympathise with their cause, it is high time the NRM appreciated the benefits to be reaped from this multiparty dispensation. I will highlight only a few here.
First, it presents more options for the people to exercise their power to choose who can best represent their interests. For example, it is possible (and okay too) that the interests of a constituency might not be in line with those of the NRM as a party.
The voters have a right to choose someone who will ably represent their interests. Secondly, there is a greater diversity of political and social perspectives on the table, which means that the people have a bigger pool of ideas to choose from when it comes to choosing which policies are deemed to be in favour of the public good.
Crucially, this also means that more citizens enjoy political inclusion, which means a large proportion of the population is able to get more actively involved in the political process that determines how their country is governed.
Thirdly, at the Legislative level, the more parties are represented in Parliament the better as more ideas can be aired on the floor, which ideally makes the decision-making process more refined, more aggregated and more inclusive. This is absolutely important because it makes the decisions easier to enforce as it legitimises them as well as the decision-making process.
Also, it means that the ruling party becomes more accountable to the people as its ability to abuse its power simply by doing whatever they want so as to achieve their own agendas or interests is significantly curtailed.
Ideally, the intercourse between alternative views and those of the ruling party helps to ensure that power is more evenly shared and not abused or misused by those in power. Indeed, if given a chance, the multi-party system should create a natural system of ‘checks and balances,’ which helps to check the emergence of dictatorial tendencies.
Lastly, the multiparty system is beneficial in that it helps to groom and nurture future leaders by widening the leadership base. Because every party has to build structures right from the grassroots to the national level, a large number of people get an opportunity to take up leadership positions from which they gain the skills that enable them to become useful citizens at both national and international levels.
Against that backdrop, it is easy to see that it would be in the national and public interest to support the nurturing of the multiparty system we adopted seven years ago. Parliament, the Judiciary and civil society organisations do need public support to make the Executive understand that it must make the necessary adjustments so as to adapt to the new political dispensation.
Though she is being misunderstood – and understandably so, I think that is what Speaker Kadaga is attempting to do. It won’t be easy, like a woman who has been living a single life for a long time having to adapt to the ‘marriage’ lifestyle. Given the nature of our leaders, our society and our political history, it won’t be easy for the NRM too. But multi-partism deserves to be given our best shot because as it is, we are now at a point of no return.
The author is a journalist.