Every candidate has mastered one thing; the understanding that the main way to succeeding in elections is to make fantastic promises. And indeed, on the campaign trail, candidates are busy making all sorts of promises – to heal the sick and raise the dead; to build bridges even where there are no rivers! Little wonder someone once said, the routine political promise is like a piece of Mary Poppins pastry: easily made, easily broken!
To date, streams of broken political promises have continued to upset significant portions of the electorate not only in Uganda but everywhere around the globe. The electorate’s distress can only be seen through the apathetic reaction to political processes – the declining number of people queuing up at polling stations is one of those indicators.
While past performance is not always a certain indicator of future performance, a previous, solid track record of delivering on promises made during campaigns should not be taken lightly by the electorate. Those candidates who have honoured their campaign pledges in the past elections could be better positioned to fulfill their manifesto promises than those who have not.
With the current paradigm of political accountability inevitably sweeping across many communities, it is highly anticipated that those seeking elective offices will make more reasonable promises to the electorate, but most importantly explain how they will deliver on them (the promises).
The citizens must also be more confident in pointing at the critical issues that they would want their prospective leaders to address. Previous civil-political engagements have been misled by the fallacious concept of the leaders defining the citizens’ priorities. This time round, citizen engagement interventions have been strategically positioned to help citizens to define their priority issues that political leaders should commit to addressing in the forthcoming election. A classic example of such initiatives is the Citizens’ Manifesto project and the Topowa, Honour Your Vote voter mobilisation campaign. These on-going initiatives are premised on the critical objective of empowering the Ugandan electorate to identify their priority issues. Whereas it might be a job opportunity for a fresh graduate, it could be appropriate agricultural technology for that rural woman who needs to reduce her workload and increase her productivity. For that civil servant who is about to retire, the priority issue might be the guarantee to obtain their pension and/or gratuity in time. For the businesswoman downtown Kiyembe, it could be the need for lower taxes to enable her import more volumes of goods to grow her business. So, different people have different priorities; this is also true about different geographical areas. While a region like Karamoja might identify food security as its top issue, for Buganda it could be an issue of obtaining federal system governance; in Bunyoro it could be the guarantee that the oil resource will benefit the natives. This clearly shows you how diversely we define our priorities depending on demographics such as gender, age, profession, level of education, income, location among other parameters.
It therefore goes without saying that the time is now for Ugandans to feel confident about naming their priorities and tasking those leaders who do not meet their needs. Politicians too need to understand that once elected, they have a contract with the people based on what they articulate in their manifestos and what the citizens expect of them.
It is because of false promises that we have previously witnessed people’s withdrawal from participating in electoral processes in the belief that their votes don’t count. As we approach the election date, you need to remember that your vote can help eliminate the unworthy and improve the quality of your new representatives.
Be sure not to vote for dumb promises shaken out in the excitement of the eleventh hour of campaigning!