Reading or watching Ugandan news over the last few months would give the impression that elections are around the corner yet according to the Electoral Commission calendar, elections are scheduled for January 2021- a whole 20 months away! Yet, the political temperatures are increasing by the day, raising concern in some sections of the public about what this means for the long-term interests of social stability.
Equally interesting, is that during the same period, Uganda is witnessing unprecedented attempts at dialogue between political parties and within the larger Ugandan society in what is clearly a very welcome gesture by all that are involved in this process. The political dialogue track is spearheaded by the InterParty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), a voluntary association of political parties represented in Parliament.
The first IPOD Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the presidents and secretaries general of its member political parties in February 2010. The citizens’ dialogue track is being championed by the Elders Forum, a group of senior eminent Ugandan citizens and the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), a platform that brings together all religious leaders in the country. These two dialogue tracks all contribute to the framework of the national dialogue process, which was wholly endorsed by the Government of Uganda on the December 18, 2018.
The secretariat of the IPOD is hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), an international NGO that promotes interparty dialogue processes and political party organisational support. NIMD works in over 25 countries around the world, and IPOD has made very positive strides in the last 12 months. At the core of the operations of the IPOD, is the Council of Secretaries General, which is constituted by four delegates per member political party led by their respective secretaries general and mandated to generate business for and make recommendations to the IPOD Summit of Leaders, the top most organ of Ipod, that is composed of the presidents of the member political parties.
In November 2018, the IPOD Council of Secretaries General, in a retreat that attracted the participation of the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, agreed to a four item agenda of engagement for the period leading to the 2021 general election: Strengthening political parties and the multiparty system generally, improving public order management, proposing electoral reforms and increasing the effective participation of youth and women in politics constituted the proposed agenda of the IPOD Council of Secretaries General, which was later adopted by its highest organ, the IPOD Summit of Leaders at its inaugural meeting in December 2018.
Over the last six months, the IPOD Council of Secretaries General has worked around the clock to arrive at a consensus on a number of sticky issues that affect the political climate in Uganda. Notable among these is the controversial Public Order Management Act 2013, a law that many argue, has been misconstrued, misinterpreted and often misapplied by the law enforcement agencies to the prejudice of mainly Opposition political parties.
Under the chairmanship of the prime minister, very elaborate and candid discussions have been held with the participation at the highest levels of all key actors in the politics of Uganda, culminating into a set of draft regulations jointly developed by the members of IPOD to streamline the interpretation and application of this law.
It is expected that these POMA draft regulations will be among the raft of proposals that the IPOD Council of Secretaries General will be presenting to the IPOD Summit of Leaders scheduled to take place on May 20 at the Protea Hotel in Entebbe, for their important buy in before they can work with their respective political parties to translate these resolutions into appropriate policies and laws as the case may be.
It is evident that the dialogue processes currently underway are a watershed moment in the politics of our country. It is an opportunity to shape the Uganda we all want for us and posterity. We therefore, have a duty to support these dialogue processes, it’s the least we can all do for this beautiful place we all call home, Uganda!
Mr Rusa is the Country Representative, Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), and the Executive Secretary – Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD)