Individualism versus group-think and Uganda’s political parties

On her Face Book page “Madam Teacher’s Class” Hon. Betty Namboze wrote:

The bills tabled by the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, capture what was proposed by my DP Acting Secretary General Mr. Siranda, during the IPOD meetings on independents and more…. I don’t know whether Owek. Siranda knew the consequences of his presentation. Most probably he was driven with need to control DP members but ended up equipping Dictator Museveni with a killer idea.

Hon. Betty Nambooze

The mission of the Democratic Party (DP), as it is published on its Face Book page, is to “overhaul the current method of thinking, for God and my stomach.”

It is consistent with its mission for DP to contribute to stifling of individualism, in order to promote group thinking and action; actions such as supporting or sponsoring certain proposed reforms which reportedly originated from the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD).

Reforms such as:

  • Barring of independent presidential candidates from forming alliances with any registered political party.
  • Party members wanting to stand as independents must have ceased being a member of a political party for at least one year.
  • Political parties must consent to their respective members leaving their respective parties
  • Those who contest in party primaries and lose should not be allowed to participate as independents.

Left to right: DP Party President, Hon. Norbert Mao; JEEMA Party President Hon. Asuman Basalirwa; NRM Party President His Excellency President Yoweri Kagutta Museveni; and UPC Party President Hon. Jimmy Akena. Photo credit: NIMD

IPOD is an exclusive club for only registered political parties that have members of parliament and currently the members are:

  • National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM), which has the giant share of 68.6 percent of MPs in the 10th parliament;
  • Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with an 8.4 percent share;
  • Democratic Party (DP) with a 3.5 percent share;
  • Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) with a 1.4 percent share; and
  • Justice Forum (JEEMA) with a 0.2 percent share.

IPOD’s fear of independents is not unfounded. Independent MPs command a 15.5 percent share of MPs in the 10th parliament. Many of the independent MPs are those who contested in their party primaries, lost, presented themselves as independents and won; beating the official party candidates.

In the 10th parliament, independents are de facto the largest block of opposition MPs – more than MPs of each opposition party; and of the opposition political parties combined. There is, moreover, every indication that in the next general election and under the current laws the share of independents is likely to increase.

According to the law, the opposition political party with the highest number of MPs, currently FDC, forms the shadow government and occupies the position of “Leader of the Opposition”. In reality, however, it is the independents’ block that has and wilds opposition power in the 10th parliament.

In order to legislatively curtail the power of independents, it would appear that DP and its fellow IPOD members, are acting in the manner characteristic of “for God and my stomach.”

Be that as it may, from a rights perspective and in accord with Uganda’s Constitution, many find it hypocritical for IPOD to be party to legislation that stifles individual citizen activism; which legislation invalidates agitation by opposition political parties and by individual politicians for their constitutional rights of freedom of association to be upheld – particularly so, opposition politicians’ arguments against the content and the application of the Public Order Management Act 2013.

IPOD is an activity or project, if you will, of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) – it is funded and administrated by NIMD.

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