Thursday January 23 2014

Has the Opposition been good enough?

An exercise which should further institutionalise processes in the country’s largest opposition party got underway this week. Depending on how they go about that business, the Forum for Democratic Change will either enhance or hurt its credentials as a serious government-in-waiting.

In the end, it is possible we could have a new Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Opposition chief whip and fresh chairs of four vital oversight committees in Parliament replacing the crop of 2011.

Any changes, however, must be informed by the wider national interest. Choices should ideally be inspired by a desire to improve the Ugandan condition. The party president also has to resist the temptation to abuse his generous mandate in appointing individuals to these positions for settling scores or doling out patronage.

Inside two-and-a-half years, the oversight committees have had varying degrees of success (or underwhelming performance). Whispers of impropriety have been heard in the corridors of Parliament. But no one has come forward with proof that committee chairs allowed themselves to be ‘persuaded’ into sweeping dirty reports under the carpet. Of course, the absence of proof is no guarantee of cleanliness.

A party in the Opposition is supposed to take the duty of offering policy alternatives to the sitting government’s positions seriously. The extent of its seriousness will be seen in its deeds and choices.

And that is why what is happening at FDC’s Najjanankumbi head office should not be just another ritual.
In that spirit, the statement of intent implied in FDC leader, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu’s position on the ongoing proceedings is one to which he should be held to account in the future. Yes, as he said, this is going to be a defining year for Uganda’s politics. And true, MPs play a key role in how political organisations relate with the people.

We are at the mid-term point of the present government cycle which is a good time to take stock of things. This means an assessment of performance. Luckily for the FDC they are dealing with a situation where their opponents in government are trapped in a crisis of insitutionalised graft and abuse of power. Therefore, the question the Najjanankumbi meetings should answer is: have we had the desired level of leadership in Parliament?