A lot of promises are being made by different political aspirants in next year’s general election. Some of these promises are feasible while others are empty and can’t be achieved. But an important question is whether these promises meet the needs and demands of the electorate who are meant to be the beneficiaries.
While it may not be possible to tell the actual needs of the people because they differ, depending on who you talk to, groups like the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform have come up with a document dubbed the ‘Citizen Manifesto’ that summarises what the authors believe are the aspirations of ordinary citizens.
The document also contains what its architects define as the concerns of the ordinary people, the kind of Uganda they desire, key national values, interests and demands in the economy, society, politics and policy.
In it, Ugandans have proposed eight national values upon which governance and development should be based: Reverence for God, equity, tolerance, constitutionalism, hard work, moral uprightness, national solidarity and discipline.
Arthur Larok, the focal person for Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, who initiated the manifesto, says the different manifestos on show during this electoral season have significant convergence with the citizen’s manifesto. He personally puts the convergence at 70%.
“We all live in the same country and face the same problems,” he explains. He cites proposals to institute a truth and reconciliation commission, a constitutional review on major issues and guaranteeing federalism, which he says are in line with the views in the citizen manifesto.
Larok, however, adds that some parties make glossy promises without serious commitment or track record on delivery. He, for instance, says NRM’s promise of fighting corruption can no longer be believed. Larok also points out that most manifestos lack detail on how their promises will be implemented. He cites transformation of agriculture, a promise made by all political parties but with no details on how they plan to deliver on it.
According to Larok, NRM’s NAADS programme “is not a strategy for agricultural transformation.”
The electoral promises of presidential candidates on managing the economy, Larok says, are also wanting.
He says most political parties focus on private sector-led growth and economy, yet the citizens want a balance between private and state ownership. Citing agriculture, roads, railway, education, health and security, Larok argues that certain sectors can’t be left to the private sector.
He says the country is facing disparities in the quality of services offered in the private and government institutions because the state has abandoned some sectors to the private sector.
Larok notes that now there are excellent health and education facilities in private schools and hospitals, but very deplorable services in public institutions.
Citizen manifestoAccording to the citizen manifesto, Ugandans want a review of the country’s economic model to restore state ownership and shepherd critical areas that drive the economy.
Other demands include subsidising critical agro-based industries and where necessary protecting them from harmful external competition; investment in agriculture and revival of cooperatives; massive investments in economic infrastructure, like energy, roads, rail and water transport; reduction in the costs of production and making the Ugandan economy more competitive, plus ending corruption.
The citizen manifesto lists ten concerns that citizens want addressed: fighting corruption and poverty, investing in agriculture, stemming population growth, improving the transport system, health services, education system and intensifying civic consciousness and environmental degradation.
The document also lists key demands that people want addressed in politics, society and economy.
In politics, it says people want strengthening of state institutions, a review and amendment of the constitution to take care of unresolved historical questions and an end to the creation of districts, the establishment of an inclusive government and a truth and reconciliation commission.
The citizens also want a fully fledged ministry of people and culture to help Ugandans appreciate their history, culture and identity, reclaim and conserve positive cultural resources for development.
Others are implementation of Kiswahili as the second official language to forge unity ahead of the EAC full integration and strengthening of the Equal Opportunities Commission to end development imbalances.
The document says the citizens want 15% of the national budget to go into the agriculture sector. They also want cooperatives revived.
While most parties promise to revive cooperatives, PDP’s Dr Abed Bwanika’s manifesto promises to invest 15% in agriculture. The FDC/IPC manifesto promises a 12% increase.
Bwanika’s manifesto also promises to revolutionalise the agriculture sector to turn Uganda into a food basket and raise productivity through improved farming practices and better access to markets.
In a bid to shift from subsistence to commercial farming and raise household incomes to a minimum Shs 20 million per household annually, NRM also promises to increase investments in agriculture in the next five years.
The party, however, does not specify the exact amount but says NRM will do this by increasing investments in several areas. It cites investing in NAADS, commercialization of agricultural, agriculture research, value addition and post-harvest management, pest and disease control.
Bidandi Ssali’s manifesto promises to review the operations of programmes such as NAADS, Prosperity for All and the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture. It promises to ease the process of accessing credit. The party doesn’t talk of increasing funding to agriculture. It instead talks of targeting small-scale farmers to boost their productivity.
However, Bidandi Ssali urges voters not to vote for candidates basing on their promises because some of them have a history of not delivering on them. Larok agrees with him on this and advises voters to consider the track record of both individuals and the parties they represent.
“It is not all about the promises but delivering also,” he says, though stressing that promises are a good starting point.
The citizen manifesto arose from findings contained in a 104-page document titled, “Our idea of a peaceful and prosperous Uganda with happy people, a National Citizen’s Manifesto Synthesis report.”
According to that report, the process of developing the citizen manifesto was very consultative. Information was collected from at least three districts from each of the 13 sub-regions. The sub-regions are Ankole, Acholi, Buganda, Bunyoro, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Bukedi. Others are Busoga, West Nile, Sebei, Teso and Toro.
Women, teachers, farmers, youth and cultural organizations were among those consulted. The methods of data collection included citizen dialogues, radio talk shows and interviews with key informants such as spiritual, political and opinion leaders.
Others were desk reviews and analysis of governance issues from different government and non-governmental reports, the media and inter-agency processes, as well as the national youth essay competition which attracted 200 entries.
Two hundred citizen consultative meetings and dialogues were held across the country. The citizen manifesto is an initiative of the Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, a civil society governance and monitoring group comprising 17 Ugandan and five Dutch NGOs.
Over 90% of its budget was funded by the Democracy Monitoring Programme. The participating NGOs included Anti- Corruption Coalition of Uganda, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda Debt Network, Uganda Joint Christian Council, Uganda Women’s Network, Uganda National NGO Forum and Caritas Uganda.