The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) this week issued a damning report on the state of our multi-party system. The report stated that a decade since the end of the so-called Movement system, Uganda is yet to have a vibrant and fully functioning opposition.
FHRI laid much of the responsibility at the doorstep of the government which it accused, and rightly so, of frustrating political party activities through intimidation and harassment of opposition members by state organs which has had a chilling effect on free political expression.
But that is only half the story. The other factors that have combined to stifle multi-party democracy as was envisaged in the Constitution include the lack of clear ideological anchors and direction in parties, and the breakdown of social, political and even economic morals in the country.
As a result many politicians see political parties simply as vehicles they can climb and disembark with the sole aim of getting elected. This means that in many cases, there is no ideological coherence and shared vision among party leaders beyond attaining power for personal aggrandisement.
The ordinary voters have noticed this and to play the politicians’ game, they too hold membership cards of more than one party as well as t-shirts which they trade to the politicians at election time for a few coins. This explains the usual parade in the villages of people handing over party cards and wearing yellow, blue, red or green t-shirts crossing from one party to another.
Of course, not all political leaders are ideologically and morally deficient; many have dedicated themselves to causes that are just and noble and for which they are prepared to pay the ultimate price. Unfortunately, these are very few.
So until political parties get a critical mass of leaders and society cures its moral deficiency, the multiparty system as envisaged in the Constitution will still elude us and the ruling party will continue getting away by dangling carrots and sticks at the opposition.