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Obama’s good governance lecture

By Akantorana Nobert Bwana

Minister Byandala’s arrest on corruption-related charges shows that government is `repenting’

On July 16, the government made an important step towards good governance. It passed a development policy that encourages participation and equity of citizens. In line with the country’s Vision 2040, the government announced that it had approved the National Community Development Policy, 2015. This is a comprehensive policy to encourage community participation in Uganda’s development process and requires community participation in decisions which reflect its broad interests. It also encourages ownership of development initiatives to ensure sustainable socio- economic transformation.

This policy shows government’s willingness to act in the overall interest of Ugandan’s regardless of their differences in opinion. In essence, this is what good governance is about and U.S. President, Barack Obama, made this point during his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia.

Obama said: “When all voices are being heard, when people know they are being included in the political process, that makes a country successful.”

Pro-people, good governance should be embraced, as it seeks efficiency in institutions and a predictable economic and political environment necessary for economic growth and effective functioning of public services.

It’s not by accident that all the presidential aspirants have placed good governance central stage in their manifestoes. Good governance is the process which dictates the respect of human rights and democracy in the making and implementation of decisions. It is characterised by rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, accountability, strategic vision, participation, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

Pro-people, good governance plays a vital role in the fight against corruption and enabling sustainable economic growth and development. In fighting corruption, good governance efforts rely on principles such as accountability, transparency, and participation.

No wonder, the former United Nations secretary general, Koffi Annan once said, “Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.”

Obama also clarified on democracy being commonly defined as a system of government in which principle positions of political power are filled through free, fair, and regular elections. According to Obama, this definition is not enough.

He told the African union that, “When journalists are put behind bars and activists threatened, then, you have a democracy in name but not in substance.” Africa’s progress will depend on upholding the human rights of all people, Obama said.

The implementation of human rights depends on appropriate legal framework, political and administrative processes which respond to the needs of the people. The foundation upon which these institutions interact with each other is called democracy. Therefore, democratic governance incorporates democratic processes, institutions and a concern for enabling political and civil rights freedoms as human rights. Good governance, however, is what protects human rights in a sustainable manner.

Governance, according to the United Nations Development Programme, encompasses the state, private sector and civil society. All these three are vital for human development. The state is responsible for creating a stable, political and legal environment to enable sustained development. On the other hand, civil society institutions act as a means of facilitating political and social interactions. They also mobilise groups to participate in economic, social and political activities.

Although democracy gives the people an opportunity to peacefully and regularly change inefficient or corrupt governments, it does not guarantee economic growth and development.

On the contrary, some authoritarian governments with reduced political space, limited press freedom and limited civil rights participation have continued to show impressive economic growth and development.

A report by the US state department pinned Rwanda on restrictions of media freedom, irregularities in electoral processes, limited civil society and opposition participation. In spite of these freedom limitations, Rwanda continues to exhibit economic growth and development. Real GDP growth rate increased from 4.7% in 2013 to 7.0 % in 2014. Rwanda’s maternal- mortality ratio also decreased by 77% in between 2000 and 2013.

This trend appears to undermine the relevance of democratic governance towards economic growth and development. It should go without saying that if human rights violations by authoritarian governments remain unchecked, economic performance, stability and foreign direct investments are eventually affected.

Civil society groups, which also provide controls against corruption by government officials, also regress over time.

On this point, President Obama emphasised the importance of the fight against corruption saying that; corruption is not only a barrier to investors but also the solution to unlocking Africa’s economic potential. He said fulfilling anti-corruption pledges requires visible procedures.

It is, therefore, heartening that in the same week that Obama spoke, former works Minister Abraham Byandala was arraigned before the Anti-corruption Court in Kampala and remanded to Luzira Prison over corruption-related charges. He became the first serving minister to be charged and jailed over corruption.  Such actions by the government promote the practice of good governance principals by all players.


Akantorana Nobert Bwana is a voter from Rukiga, Kabale


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