Monday, 12 January 2015

We should discuss institutions not individuals


Sejusa’s return and the NRM delegates’ conference capped the politically tense 2014.  Shortly after, as many Ugandans took a shot at writing their 2015 resolutions came the political twists and turns that involved again the decorated war general Sejusa meeting his earlier on perceived military and political nemesis under vague circumstances at the state house. 

As many Ugandans were trying to figure out the ‘who is fooling who’ of the Sejusa – Museveni isometrics, fell the judicial hammer when court dismissed an application prompted by NRM’s former Secretary General, Amama Mbabazi seeking to block the swearing in of the new appointed NRM executive members. As if that was just not enough, NRM’s National Executive Committee rejected Amama’s nomination to the party’s top organ, the Central Executive Committee – nothing less than double jeopardy for Amama, just in the first week of 2015.

Something that strikes me in all this is the emphasis that many seem to be placing on individuals – men and women; and how we are allowing these individuals to set the agenda for our country. 

After Sejusa’s return, the media was awash with ‘analysis’ around his dealings.  Right before that, Amama was the man in the headlines – he probably still is.  The political jostling within, and by NRM are all being discussed within the exclusive context of a man called Museveni.  There’s always little reference to, “the NRM’s works, but rather Museveni’s works; there’s little allusion to the opposition’s strategy but rather the schemes of the individuals therein.

For me, all these are copycat reflections of nation that has slowly but surely lost the meaning of institutions in favour of the snare of untenable operations galvanized around individual men and women.

As you will note, political discourse in Uganda is pivoted along the lines of individual figures – not systems, not institutions.  Just like I labour to demystify when I comment on electoral reforms in Uganda, reforms within the Electoral Commission for example should not be reduced to a discussion just around the person of Eng. Badru Kiggundu but rather the broader structural and technical issues.

Likewise, the governance issues of Uganda should not be merely narrowed down to the actions or inactions of a handful of figures – no matter how much power they wield. Discussions around their actions or inactions need to be examined within the framework of institutions in which they serve or operate.

Arguments that Uganda is still experiencing the inevitable hangover effects of the individual merit system that was operated under the aegis of the outmoded movement system seem to be mere political innuendos calculatively aimed at undermining the growth of institutions while sustaining a campaign that makes individuals larger and bigger than the institutions within which they operate.  


Like I have observed in my previous writings, to walk towards strong and functional institutions means that we have to consistently breed a culture in which institutions take precedence over individuals and individuals’ interests.

The interests of institutions should always be completely above any individual's or even all the individuals together who run these institutions – and this, does not seem to be happening especially on Uganda’s governance/political stage.

An important point to take home is: individuals come and go, but institutions remain.  Therefore, our ultimate focus should be to build strong and accountable institutions.  As President Obama rightly observed a few years ago, we must place emphasis on establishing strong institutions rather than strongmen. 

You and I must take charge in reversing the narrative that entrenches individuals.  You and I must play a proactive role in building the strong institutions that we aspire to have. 

The media has to be a strong ally in this campaign.

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