UGANDA: ELDERS FORUM WANTS NATIONAL DIALOGUE TO BRING CHANGE IN UGANDA’S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

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Participants in Gulu, discussing issues for national dialogue

“The Members of Parliament are very greedy, shellfish and they do not take interests and issues of voters to the house. They do not deliberate on what we, the voters, want but would only deliberate on what they want for shellfish reasons. Each time I vote, I imagine it would bring change, but I have not seen any change. This is frustrating”

“We have so many citizens who are just criticizing and lamenting without doing anything to address it. When we ushered in multiparty politics we didn’t know how to go about it. To many it is a clique because they look at other parties as enemies. Can we have peaceful election results so that after the results are released, nobody should petition court?”  

GULU-UGANDA: Seventy-two year old Nyeko-Okello a frustrated man; not because he is physical disabled (he moves about on a wheelchair), but by the leaders he has been voting to represent him in parliament.

Nyeko says voters elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent them and their interests in the house but when they reach there, they do not deliberate on issues from the community for selfish reasons.

“The Members of Parliament are very greedy, shellfish and they do not take interests and issues of voters to the house. They do not deliberate on what we, the voters, want but would only deliberate on what they want for shellfish reasons. Each time I vote, I imagine it would bring change, but I have not seen any change. This is frustrating”, he tells me in an exclusive interview on Thursday, August 15, 2019.

He was among the over three hundred people invited by the Uganda National Dialogue secretariat for a pilot project to kick start the process of national dialogue to be held under the theme: “The Uganda We Want”.

The vision of the Uganda National Dialogue is ‘a just and morally upright society founded on socio-economic justice, shared prosperity, popular governance and respect for the rule of law’. The goal is ‘to agree on a new national consensus to consolidate peace, democracy and inclusive development to achieve equal opportunity for all’.

Mr. Nyeko-Okello is particularly bitter on two issues. The first is that the Electoral College for electing members of parliament representing people with disability is not transparent and is always manipulated by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.  He is also bitter by the fact that government security officials always harass members of the opposition yet opposition is there to check excesses of government and offer alternative policies.

A senior cadre in the office of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr. Wokorach Simon Peter complains that there are so many Ugandans out there who just criticize government without offering alternatives to address the problem.

“We have so many citizens out there who are just criticizing and lamenting without doing anything to address it. When we ushered in multiparty politics we didn’t know how to go about it. To many it is a clique because they look at other parties as enemies. Can we have peaceful election results so that after the results are released, nobody should petition court?”   Mr. Wokorach told the gathering while opening the one day consultation meeting.

The head of delegation, retired Principal Judge, Justice James Ogola, observed a minute’s silence to remember the thousands of Ugandans who lost their lives in the struggle for peace.

He says he and a group of elders came together in 2016 and wondered aloud as to why Ugandans are not living in peace despite the fact that we got our independence from the British without bloodshed in 1962. He also noted that all past efforts to have a national dialogue has failed and the country has been changing leaders through bloodshed.

“We therefore said, can we come to a round table one day, bringing all our concerns to the national table to resolve them without intimidation? We can then talk from morning until we get a consensus. We have so many issues like politics, economy, natural wealth and values that we should put on the table-national dialogue”, asserts Justice Ogola.

He observes that the people of Acholi need national dialogue more than other regions because they had been at the epicenter of the bloody Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebellion. He says if Uganda was compared to a human body, then the people of Acholi would be the head of that body because of the wounds of war.

“Instead of fighting it out, let us talk it out until we get peace. It is through talking that truths are revealed and trauma will disappear. In this way we should be healing the wounds of war. We want to hear from you about these issues. How do we fix what went wrong and make them right?” He says.

According to another elder, Professor Maggie Kigozi, they moved throughout Uganda in 2016 to gather people’s idea to be put on a table for national dialogue. She outlined the key items being; politics, constitutionalism and rule of law, values, cultural diversity, land and natural resources, economy, social services delivery and implementation.

The people who gathered at the Gulu consultation prioritized land and natural resources, constitutionalism and rule of law, social service delivery and politics as being most pertinent to them.

It is still too early to tell if this initiative of the elders will make the likes of Nyeko-Okello participate in voting, not just as routine but to bring about the much sought after-change and peaceful transfer of power from one generation to another.

 

 

 

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