How democracy can transform economies

Three key note speakers gathered at Hotel Triangle Kampala to discuss how democracy can transform economies. The speakers included renowned professor Augustus Nuwabaga, lawyer Mercy Kainobwisho and youth leader Ibrahim Kitaata. These are their submissions;

Professor Augutstus Nuwagaba

Democracy is an aspect many countries aspire to, and it has variants worldwide e.g. the Westminster and American types, which are highly representative, strong on constitutionalism, but altogether not necessarily perfect.

Even then, it is difficult to achieve democracy when a country has high levels of poverty, for the democracy has no socioeconomic base to sit on.

Countries like South Korea (under General Park), Indonesia (under Suharto) and Singapore (under Lee Kuan Yew) made tremendous progress, and in a short time, under what can be termed as a ‘positive/benevolent’ dictatorship. There was no Western-style democracy.

General Park, for example, changed his people’s mindset on two principles: love your country and work hard.

Lee Kuan Yew was so strong on dealing with corruption that one of his ministers supposedly committed suicide due to the rumour that he was believed to have taken a bribe.

Our version of democracy has to be one that can nurture development, and not have people with ‘private’ thinking manning public services because, in the end, countries like South Korea and Singapore, and now the likes of Rwanda and Kenya, are practicing the kind of ‘democracy’ Uganda needs for now, which is the delivery of services.

Libya is a sad example of what happens when an African country is forced to ‘copy & paste’ the western style of democracy.

Blaming colonialism and its effects is a wastage of time. What we have to do is work with the former colonial powers and stop stealing/mismanaging what they give us. The likes of South Korea also used to receive aid.

Much as patriotism is necessary, it cannot be forced onto the citizenry. The government shall only gain the citizens’ trust if the former eradicates corruption and provides services. That way, for example, issues like the proposed land law reform would happen without hindrance. Right now, unfortunately, the people do not trust their (corrupt) government.

It should also be noted that we do get the leaders we deserve.

Brain drain is another myth. We need to accept that in a globalised economy the principle has to be ‘equal pay for work of equal value’.

There is a ‘shadow’ price to pay in relation to human rights i.e. some difficulties do occur when you prioritise development first, so that you can have democracy later.

Buy Uganda-Build Uganda can only work if we put systems in place to benefit from it. General Park, for example, insisted on indigenous industry. For example, it is a shame that Ugandans are not amongst the major beneficiaries/contractors as Karuma and other dams are being built.

Other countries in the region are implementing solid policies. The likes of Rwanda might soon give us aid.

Mercy Kainobwisho

Every society must have order and respect for human dignity. Such a situation cannot exist without the rule of law.

She believes our laws are indigenous enough to provide local solutions. Many have been formed and tweaked with our cultural and societal aspirations in mind. We also have a number of regulatory and implementation bodies.

We have a comprehensive law making process in place, including a Regulatory Impact Assessment for each law before it is introduced.

Although our laws exist under principles of sovereignty and territoriality, it must be taken into account that they do not exist in isolation. We are part of the international community and are signatories to a number of conventions and ordinances. So a balance has to be made.

Many of Uganda’s, and Africa’s, problems stem from issues like lack of inclusiveness, lack of coordination, the failure to appreciate the resources we have, leadership issues etc. Such issues are beyond the law.

Many citizens either do not respect the laws, or are ignorant of them. But this is no excuse.

We thus need to skill the people. They shall then be able to accept and use systems.

In line with the above, we would then be able to put in place laws and practices that would enable us to be the beneficiaries of our natural resources.

So we need to stop blaming the law, but instead view issues in a positive and transformative way in order to make them better.

This entails, amongst other things, accessing existing information readily.

After unfavourable judgments, one should not say the law is bad/unfair. Every side uses the law to suit their own needs. It thus becomes an issue of morality, not the law itself.

We need to stop politicizing laws. The proposed amendments to the land law, for example, are to foster government’s development plans.

In relation to the above, it could actually be argued that Uganda has too much freedom, freedom that has occasionally affected issues like development.

As a civil servant, her attitude is such that ‘everyone is her boss’.

Ibrahim Kitaata

Part of leadership is learning to sacrifice.

Various national and regional statutes and provisions, including the National Youth Act, help in defining who the youth are and how they should be engaged.

The existing youth leadership structures in Uganda include:

The National Youth Council, which has representatives from parish to national level.

UMSA, which is recognized by two Parliamentary statutes.

Legislative and representative bodies, including Parliament (Youth MPs), district and local councils.

Political party youth structures.

Representation in regional and international bodies (e.g. EAC, AU and UN).

In religious bodies.

In institutional bodies e.g. banks etc.

Through constitutionally mandated bodies e.g. the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Their relevance/roles, and the overall responsibility of the youth:

Such bodies, especially the youth councils, should have people with the desire to represent and serve, and not just be salaried employees.

They have a role to play in policy formulation, an issue on which the President recently indirectly blamed them for failing at.

The youth have a duty to learn, to build a bank of knowledge integral to conscientious change. If someone seeks to lead they need to first better themselves. This includes learning to debate.

Leaders have to strategically place themselves.

The youth have to be a buffer against negative ideology and poor governance. They have to be at the forefront of ensuring the right leaders are kept in power, and the wrong ones are rejected.

The youth have to practice safe sex and not drink too much alcohol. Once they add readiness, capacity and information they shall lead this country.

On the issue of commercialization of elections, he is of the view that there are already laws in place to combat blatant bribery. But it cannot be ignored that campaigning does need finance, and this should not be misinterpreted as commercialization. And that’s why it is also good to vote in someone that has resources.

He supports the scrapping of the age limit, and mostly in relation to the lower age limit. He is thus a member of KALOC- Keep the Age Limit Out of the Constitution. Scrapping of this limit shall increase young people’s participation in national issues.

In relation to the above, leadership should be about mindset, and not have anything to do with age. Indeed, the only measurement for a leader should be in terms of service delivery.

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