Good democracy key in solving problems

Mr Crispin Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.

What you need to know:

  • In brief, democracy should be based on people’s needs and priorities – whether social, economic or political. 

The effectiveness of any ‘democracy’ should be tested and perfected by solving the practical problems of the vast majority of people. 

If people’s problems relate to goods and services, then democracy should be weighed in terms of how effectively factors of production such as land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship are combined and harnessed to meet society’s expectations.

 If the people’s problem is insecurity, then democracy should be weighed in terms of how peace is built and sustained. If the problem is illiteracy or ignorance, then democracy should be weighed in terms of how well education is extended to people to create an informed society. 

Where communities are battling healthcare issues, then the unit of measure of real democracy should be access to health care. Likewise, in societies where there are deficits in the rule of law, democracy should be calculated in terms of how adequately policies, plans, processes, and practices are supportive of equality of citizens before the law. In brief, democracy should be based on people’s needs and priorities – whether social, economic or political. 

Secondly, the path of democracy must be chosen based on society conditions, culture, context and time. To promote democracy, safeguard freedom and protect human rights, a country must proceed in a gradual and orderly fashion in tandem with its social, economic and political development trajectory. 

Society does not need to be leap-frogged to democracy. It must be a natural and organic process. 

To achieve democracy in a particular community, the people there should be able to make decisions and take responsibility for their decisions. In other words, citizens should be the masters of their own destiny. 

Democracy starts by letting people clearly articulate their grievances and preferences and then coming to a consensus with those entrusted to govern. 

If the principles of democracy are not reflective of the society’s reality, then we will have neglected the people’s contribution to their own ways of living. 

Back in the day, typical African leaders were more focused on result-oriented principles for the good of the people as opposed to just politicking. 

Leaders knew what was good for their people, partly because they maintained a certain essential chord with them – arising out of a shared system of beliefs and ethos. 

Today, it looks rather different; there is an evident tension between traditional values such as: morality, honesty, empathy, self-reliance, responsibility, transparency, integrity, civility, humility, cleanliness, selflessness etc. and some modern libertarian ideals.

In a society such as Uganda, characterised by a diversity of cultures and traditions; how about letting people brainstorm and agree on a system that accommodates and reflects the shared beliefs and values of the majority? How about giving society a chance to organically dialogue about alternative ways of dealing with contentious complex situations?

Societies including Uganda, should take time to define and develop its own ‘people-centred democracy’.  Democracy evolves and so, societies should be allowed to succeed or even fail; and learn from their realisations as well as failures. It is only then that societies will be able to rethink different approaches to match their challenges. 

It would be insincere to argue that there is a democracy or democratic model that has been fully perfected. If societies keep copying and pasting, when shall they ever know their abilities to birth their own democracy?

 It is about time we realise that due to our different histories and cultural backgrounds, there is a need to craft democracy approaches that resonate with our past, present and the future we want.  

Only then, will people fully feel and realise what democracy means in their day-to-day lives.

Mr Crispin Kaheru, Commissioner, Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)