Political leaders should be sensitive to the cultural ethos

Samuel Baligidde

What you need to know:

  • Traditions. Identity-based networks, such as the cultural and traditional institutions, do not prevent modernisation and urbanisation but enhance it through mobilising their members against erosion of core local traditions.

Political leaders, especially our honourable representatives, should not just speak for us, but to us and if they want ‘another rap’ in the musical accompaniment sense of the yester-years, ought to be sensitive to cultural ethos if not as part of observance of courtesy, etiquette and correct form, then at least for the following reasons, which some of them have arrogantly chosen to perforate, as lawyers might say, at their own [political] peril.

Incidentally, a large number of former opposition politicians too, who allowed themselves to be persuaded that working with the ruling party was much more agreeable than challenging it, could face the same fate when they get to their inevitable political sell-by dates.

Sticking to only what they ideologically know and not bothering to check up on the grounds of such knowledge with specific reference to its limits as well as the validity of what they claim they don’t know might switch their political careers into self-destructive mode. There are many approaches to explaining this. The Uganda National Commission for Unesco, which in familiar revolutionary speak every ‘sharp cadre’ or in ordinary man’s language national politician and leader worth the description should of necessity acquaint themselves with, published the education for sustainable implementation strategy containing a situational analysis and rationale for ESD in Uganda in 2010.

Among the others highlighted in bold print are the “socio-economic domain, political and environment context, globalisation, economic impact, governance and human rights, which lists a litany of shortfalls as freedom of expression, privatisation schemes, election malpractices and violence, corruption, negative cultural practices against women, unsustainable development programmes, non-commitment to set policies, human rights abuse and internal conflicts; traditional value systems, cultural diversity and utilisation of tribal structures”, underscoring their crucial value in the implementation of the much-hyped millennium development goals.

It is also emphatically stated therein that Uganda’s traditional socio-economic and political systems play key roles in ensuring social cohesion; instilling correct values, cultures and social norms that promote sustainable propagation of sustainable development in our society. It is clearly stated that cultural leaders are effective in mobilising the people in community work (bulungibwansi), the construction of public infrastructure, good practices of hygiene, immunisation (which the cultural leaders in this and other countries have actively promoted in collaboration with central governments with resounding success and universal education, among others.

That, the systems for enforcing African values and norms which have been pitifully eroded by western education and by the adoption of decadent western lifestyles are with the collaboration and support of national governments being revamped by the very cultural and traditional institutions that some politicians including ministers and MPs seem to be disdainful of, is epistemologically instructive.

It is discomforting to note that besides correct judgement, good traditions and norms such as farming methods that in the past prevented soil erosion in central and western Uganda; ways of ensuring food security in the north, West Nile and eastern Uganda, the traditional health eating habits characterised by menus that featured vegetables with nutritional and medicinal benefits, are regrettably disappearing with globalisation.

Identity-based networks, such as the cultural and traditional institutions, do not prevent modernisation and urbanisation but enhance it through mobilising their members against erosion of core local traditions, values and norms, language, discipline, respect for people and their property.

As philosopher Edmund Burke observed four centuries ago, “old institutions, like old men, deserve respect”. Without taking his live-wire lecture out of context, in contemporary times, what he said is still valid, isn’t it?

Mr Baligidde is a lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University – Nkozi.


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