Monday June 2 2014

The 2016 election campaigns should be based on real issues

By Crispy Kaheru

Something spectacular is lingering in the air and this is in respect to the 2016 elections. The opinion polls, the political analyses, the media debates and dialogues are all part of the effort to figure out how the 2016 poll is likely to play out.
Campaign platforms are supposed to originate from real issues that affect people. In many countries, however, we have seen political figures sometimes artificially constructing the issues so that they can have seemingly ‘credible’ platforms on which to premise their campaigns.

I am talking about the irony of creating a problem so that you can provide the solution! That is exactly what is gaining currency in many parts of the world today. Forget about the clean ancient Greek elections where those aspiring to stand for political office would spend time understanding people’s real issues. Today, even credible scientific research into society problems is dismissed by those very persons intending to take leadership positions.

I, for instance, know of a headmaster who is strongly opposed to the conduct and dissemination of scientific research that speaks to his school’s real problems. For him, this research doesn’t make much sense – it undermines rather than strengthen his popularity position amongst his students simply because it brings to the fore real issues or problems that he does not address.

On the other hand, he keeps his popularity amongst his students through an easier way; he creates a problem that he ‘alone’ can address. And because he finds unsuspecting students, he is seen as the only man who can deal with it. On many occasions, he has gotten away with his ‘wit’. Those who can’t see that he is the only one fit to solve the problem are normally labelled ‘sinners’.

Recently, one young ‘democracy’ with a population of 90 million people and more than 70 political parties went to the polls. Prior to the elections, the country’s astronomical figures translated into just two presidential candidates – one of which was an ‘independent’ candidate (an army general) while the other was a civilian from a relatively small party (some argue he contested on the general’s orders to legitimise the election). Once the presidential election was called, the country was gripped with a wave of unexplained disappearances, robberies, thefts, murders, etc.

In the wake of all these, one candidate came out with a resolution to wipe out such gruesome occurrences. It was perfect coincidence; this candidate was a former commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, he was a serving Defence Minister before opting to run for office and he is the man who ran the county’s security and intelligence strategy for a couple of decades.

Yes, he was the best candidate to fix all those perceivably authentic ‘insecurities’. The question that remained was whether the pre-election insecurities were actually genuine or just choreographed to influence the people’s vote!

For Uganda, 2016 is being approached with a lot of tact, thought and anxiety. One issue that has been amplified as a critical campaign platform in Uganda in previous elections has been the promise to guarantee security.

This has been the red-thread in many previous presidential candidates’ manifestos since 1996. In the absence of a security threat on which to build the credibility of that campaign platform, could some people be right to think that the risks of artificially creating insecurity may be high?

This time round, could it be phantom dissident groups popping up in different corners of the country? Or will it be spectre frights in urban centres? Could it be the conflict in South Sudan cascading to the boarders of Uganda? Or will it be contrived break-ins and thefts sweeping through the country?

Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).