The opposition party leaders and the government this week interfaced in Mukono to discuss the proposed electoral reforms ahead of the 2016 general elections. The discussions held under the auspices of the Inter-party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), featured top political leaders who included Prime minister and NRM secretary-general Amama Mbabazi, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Wafula Oguttu, UPC president Olara Otunnu, Uganda Federal Alliance president Beti Kamya, and Conservative Party (CP) president Ken Lukyamuzi, among others.
For many Ugandans who have become accustomed to the violent pulling and pushing by the two sides of the political spectrum, the importance of the Mukono meet was not so much in what it would achieve or fail to achieve, it was in the fact that the two sides were talking and not yelling at and insulting each other.
What Ugandans will be hoping for is that after a less than satisfactory political experiment of the last many years with elections that have often left a stale taste, both sides have picked some lessons and will have the humility to apply them so that going forward into 2016.
The greatest responsibility for the success of the next phase of our democratic journey, however, lies on the government and Ugandans will be expecting some dramatic actions from the leaders in power today if they are to restore faith in the journey.
Prime Minister Mbabazi assured opposition leaders that the government was committed to making electoral reforms even though he warned that the country must separate the ideal from the reality.
While we all appreciate that, the country must not settle for anything less than a fundamental reform of the electoral commission especially in as far as its composition, appointment, supervision and independence is concerned.
This is because all the country’s problems in many ways have stemmed from a disputed or bungled election. We cannot simply continue walking the same path because in our mind, we think the ideal and the reality are too distant from each other without genuinely doing all in our power to bridge the gap.