Watching the proceedings of the budget conference for 2022/2023 held at Kololo independence grounds on September 9, I noticed the moderator, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, struggle with a common problem at such meetings; speakers who fail to fit their points within the given time! It’s hard to remember a function or meeting in Uganda where the moderator or MC didn’t have to plead with at least one member: “please try to summarise.”
If you have followed the proceedings of our parliamentary debates over time, you will recall countless examples of members who are given two minutes to present their points but decide to use the first one and a half minutes giving the ‘preamble’. As soon as they begin the first point, they’re switched off!.
One may ask, why is the problem of inefficient and ineffective communication among public figures ignored? Could it be that we don’t realise the damage caused when leaders fail to pass on their ideas and convictions to the public effectively?
Needless to say, effective communication is indispensable to success in leadership in all spheres of life. Politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, educators and activists of all kind use it to influence the thoughts and actions of others and produce the change that they seek.
Throughout history, great men and influencers have used the skill of effective public communication to sway public opinion and lead great movements in both negative and positive directions. The inspiration from the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, for example, led the American civil rights movement to eventual triumph.
Back home, the famous 1986 inauguration speech of President Yoweri Museveni, charismatic and revolutionary in tone, has always been a reference point in analysing Uganda’s recent political journey. Lines such as “No one should think that what is happening today is a mere change of guard; it is a fundamental change in the politics of our country” have formed the standard by which the NRM government has been assessed in these 35 years. When leaders communicate effectively, it helps us know who they are and what they stand for. Then we know what to expect from them.
In similar manner, public servants need some basic communication skills to be able to articulate public policy, explain government programmes and impart national values and objectives to the masses. This has to happen if we are to move together as a country in one direction. Certainly, the same applies to leaders in the private sector and civil society. For this reason, government ministries, departments and agencies need to develop programmes for continuous skilling of their top staff in effective public communication. This will also help save the dignity of this brand we call Uganda, for our leaders don’t just speak to a local audience but a global one.
Nathan Kaija, Pastor and social analyst