The birth in Uganda of retrogressive electoral reforms that stifle individual active citizenship by Ugandans may have been unknowingly supported by the people of the Netherlands, who enjoy a functioning parliamentary democracy through which they have the freedom to choose who represents them in their parliament.
Uganda’s Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), after all, is an activity or project, if you will, of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) – it is funded and administrated by NIMD. IPOD is an exclusive club for only registered political parties that have members of parliament.
Currently the members of IPOD are: the ruling National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO) which has the giant share of 68.6 percent of MPs in the 10th parliament; followed by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with an 8.4 percent share; then the Democratic Party (DP) with a 3.5 percent share; then the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) with a 1.4 percent share; and the Justice Forum (JEEMA) with a 0.2 percent share.
On her Face Book page “Madam Teacher’s Class” Hon. Betty Namboze wrote:
The bills tabled by the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, capture what was proposed by my DP Acting Secretary General Mr. Siranda, during the IPOD meetings on independents and more…. I don’t know whether Owek. Siranda knew the consequences of his presentation. Most probably he was driven with need to control DP members but ended up equipping Dictator Museveni with a killer idea.
The mission of DP, as it is published on its Face Book page, is to “overhaul the current method of thinking, for God and my stomach.” Perhaps, it is consistent with its mission for DP to contribute to stifling of individualism, in order to promote group thinking and action. In which logic, some of the proposed reforms that reportedly originated from IPOD could be justified to make sense – such as:
The barring of independent presidential candidates from forming alliances with any registered political party.
Party members wanting to stand as independents must have ceased being a member of a political party for at least one year.
Political parties must consent to their respective members leaving their respective parties
Those who contest in party primaries and lose should not be allowed to participate as independents.
IPOD’s fear of independents is not unfounded. The block of independent MPs commands a 15.5 percent share of MPs in the 10th parliament. There is, moreover, every indication that in the next general election and under the current laws the share of independents is likely to increase.
In the 10th parliament, independents are de facto the largest block of opposition MPs – more than blocks of MPs of each opposition party; and of the political parties combined.
According to the law, the opposition political party with the highest number of MPs – currently FDC forms the shadow government and occupies the position of “Leader of the Opposition”. In reality, however, it is the independents’ block that has and willed the real opposition power in the 10th parliament.
Many of the current independent MPs are those who contested in their party primaries, lost, presented themselves as independents and won; beating the official party candidates whom they beat them during primaries.
In order to legislatively curtail the power of independents, it would appear that rather than acting in the interest of the nation, DP and its fellow IPOD members, are in fact acting in the manner characteristic of “for God and my stomach,” some are saying.
From a rights perspective and in accord with Uganda’s Constitution, many find it hypocritical, indeed, for IPOD to be party to legislation that stifles individual citizen activism; which legislation invalidates the agitation by opposition political parties and by individual politicians for their constitutional rights of freedom of association to be upheld – particularly so, the opposition politicians’ arguments against the content and the application of the Public Order Management Act 2013.
By Norah Owaraga is a social entrepreneur