Sticking to the domain of democratic governance and leaving the economic arguments to the economists, since independence, Uganda’s governance architecture has been punctuated by the regime overthrows, dictatorial regimes, one party and autocratic state, and strong man leadership. The desired democratic governance still remains a work in progress and a wish list our forefathers envisioned 58 years back.
To date, it is difficult to celebrate independence in its absolute terms. ACFIM has just published a report titled ‘commercialized politics and captivity of state institutions’. The report analyses how state institutions have been made devoid of their constitutional and administrative power to act independently, and efficiently serve the interests of citizens. The report argues that powerful individuals who are close to political power have captured state institutions for private and selfish gain rendering them ineffective. In other words, and in context Uganda is back to the pre-independence era, colonized and ruled this time not by the British, but by fellow Ugandans. How absurd!
This small group has captured all state institutions subverting them from serving public good to servicing private interests. The mammon called money has seared the value system, influenced decisions, informed motivations and priorities. Politics which is the theater of governance has become so commercialized and individualistic. Politics is a job, and a means to amass illicit wealth- Talk about Political corruption!
Parliament of Uganda today is a club of business interests and a property of a few powerful individuals who decide it’s direction. The ACFIM report on captivity of state institutions interrogates with examples how the decisions made by different Parliaments were influenced by an ‘invisible’ yet ‘visible hand’. The most recent scar being the controversial Article 102(b) that removed the Presidential age limit. The invasion of this Parliament at the height of the Presidential age limit debate was a stern reminder of who was in charge.
Judiciary which for long had enjoyed some level of independence was equally brutally reminded who was in charge on two occasions in 2005 and 2007 when security forces invaded the High Court. Court decisions on critical governance issues like election petitions have tested the independence of the judiciary and often provided subtle reminders to Ugandans that the two arms of government are in-dependent.
As we celebrate Independence Day, let us re-examine whether we were liberated in absolute terms. Critical questions must be asked and the upcoming 2021 elections presents an opportunity to ask those questions. The ballot is our marker to questions affirmatively asked. One question we pose to Ugandans as they head to the polls –Are you independent or in-dependent?
Enjoy the celebrations!