Tuesday’s announcement of plans to groom young leaders in the opposition Forum for Democratic Change party is likely to inflame some in the establishment. But it should not because this is where the future lies.
The one cancer eating what remains of sensible political organisation in this country could politely be described as a depressing lack of ideological depth among the purported membership of various groups. All one seems to hear about is a lot of noisy sloganeering and self-interested manoeuvring. Many young Ugandans are consequently growing up with an insular view of national politics.
This is a malignance the ruling party has tried to reverse without much success. The NRM’s annual ritualistic political education lectures to its MPs at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi usually have pseudo-Marxist segments on ‘political re-orientation’. But from the shallowness some of its members bring to the key questions facing the nation, it is obvious that little sinks in.
In the post-colonial transition, Uganda’s political parties were largely defined by a clear ideological character based on commonly-held beliefs amongst members. These days, many political party members are blissfully unaware as to why they are associating beyond their personal affinity for a given leader.
Note, too, that in the past, some parties stood for social justice and human rights, others wanted a welfare state, while one or two espoused unregulated free market romanticism. Our forebears partly owe the inspiration behind the holding of those ideals to the atrocity that was colonialism. These were moral values upon which people chose to associate because they felt that through a particular organisation they could fight a given injustice.
Uganda needs to re-discover this ethos. Unless we do so, we’ll keep falling for anything, including most of the nonsense politicians feed the hapless rural masses on at election.
Political parties have an obligation to expand their message beyond the narrow confines of either plotting to maintain a grip on power, or the basic objective of how to assume office. In grooming young leaders, the FDC, and all political parties, should therefore develop and instill in their cadres the primary reason for their being. Ideological clarity will go a long way in helping shape how tomorrow’s leaders define the sort of nation Ugandans deserve.