Leadership challenge: Art of fighting fellow leaders

Joan Alobo Acom

What you need to know:

  • Firstly, ideological disorientation needs to be challenged with robust leadership development programmes

In the last 40 years, no Ugandan has emerged to surpass Mr Museveni’s vision and diagnosis of Uganda’s problems. His hypothesis of “ideological disorientation” discussed in many fora, including the UN General Assembly in September 2016, and in the same year during the 25th Summit of African Peer Review Forum in Durban; presents an apt synthesis of the country’s chief hindrance to self-determination and social transformation. However, this sort of diagnosis has always been part of sheer rhetoric from Yoweri and is seldom matched with reflective decision-making.

If any Ugandan wishes to fully understand their President’s notion of ideological disorientation, one simply needs to study and follow political leaders from Busoga and Teso sub-regions. It is in these two areas that politicians seem so disoriented and bereft of ideology that it is common to hear combative assertions such as, “So, you are fighting me or us”, “we shall fight them” and “Let’s find ways of fighting him or her”.

The art of fighting fellow elected leaders refers to deliberately undermining other elected leaders through malicious propaganda and blackmail both in disjointed actions and utterances before the electorate and in other offices. This belligerent lingo of fighting fellow elected leaders, in my view, is motivated by the scarcity mentality and the need to be closer to the higher political echelons for leftovers.

These rivalries for supremacy in the Teso region did not start during or after the recent by-elections in Soroti and Serere. From 1987 to early 2000s, the personal vendetta between Col. William Omaria and the late Ateker Ejalu (two men who even served together in Obote’s government), planted a seed of discord.  The Teso leaders’ endless rivalries and constant bickering only seem to highlight what Mr. Museveni refers to as ideological bankruptcy. Consequently, all the intelligent people of Teso, are left to enjoy the public fights of high-ranking individuals with multiple personality disorders, instead of a minefield of the contestation of ideas and their merits on socio-economic transformation.

Suffice to say, Busoga has also seen a fair share of this leadership challenge as Jacob Seaman figuratively captures in his missive on the Daily Monitor of December 27, 2022, “Ms Kadaga and Minister Lumumba were turning Busoga into a train with engines at both the tail and the head, and pulling away in opposite directions.” 

The most recent example being the protracted fight that Ms Ruth Nankabirwa put against Ms Rebecca Kadaga’s candidacy for Speakership of the Parliament of Uganda. Most of these fights are simply ridiculous given that the NRM government continues to boost women emancipation as its visible achievement.
Yet, all the puffed up women do is to use their positions for destroying each other, rather than fighting for their fellow oppressed women at the grassroots.
While leaders in the two aforementioned regions are busy fighting one another, leaders from other regions enjoy the unity of purpose. 

Leaders in Acholi Sub-region, especially, seem to have developed mechanisms of putting aside individual differences in order to jointly fight poverty, backwardness, poor service delivery and corruption. Interestingly, these are the issues that the voters expect their leaders to fight against, not for supremacy.
Imagine the fight against maternal health that all the women representing all the districts in the Teso and Busoga sub-regions, for example, could wage in a period of five years if they pooled their resources to that end. 
No wonder Teso remains classified as the second poorest sub-region while Busoga is also synonymous with jiggers and abject poverty.

So, what needs to be done in the two sub-regions to help the political leaders shed off the scarcity mindset and promote collaboration?  Firstly, ideological disorientation needs to be challenged with robust leadership development programmes. 
The National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi needs urgent transformation into a centre for all leaders, not a venue for brainwashing the NRM leaders.  Luckily, the FDC party recently unveiled our own leadership academy that aims at fostering the development of leadership density through mentoring, coaching and purposeful modeling of leadership for the disempowered Ugandans. 
Secondly, all political parties must find ways of identifying and dealing with polarizing demagogues within their party ranks. 

Civic education also needs to be done across the country. 
Lastly, examples of selfless and transformational leaders such as the late Cuthbert Obwangor and Bishop Ilukor from the Teso region need to be celebrated and their life histories taught to all Teso leaders.
[email protected]