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Political parties provide better alternative for regime change

By KALIIJA JAMES KATS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Whereas political parties in East Africa still face serious challenges, including ethnic divisions, weak institutions and repressive governments, they constitute the safest and most reliable vehicle to better governance.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: Kaliija James Kats is a Farmer and Member of Forum for Democratic Change.

Politics is a process of organizing how we live together in society. In democratic societies every citizen has a right to freely participate in the political process without any form of coercion, and this calls for credible institutions and organizations  to represent the will and interests of the citizens. Such institutions include Parliament, Political Parties and Civil Society organizations.  

However, the credibility of the institutions and organizations could be derived from the quality of membership, leadership, values, rules and ability by the leadership to adhere to the agreed rules and values, something that requires deep thought of all of us.

In this article I will concentrate more on the role of Political Parties which from the theoretical perspective include; offering a platform to influence politics and political decisions, engage citizens to act politically, create opportunity to recruit and train political leaders, offer alternative proposals to the electorate, to mention but a few.    In contrast, however, most political parties in Uganda and East Africa in general tend to concentrate on individuals and a limited scope of issues.

The 2003 East African Treaty, for example, provides for a people-centered, private sector-driven East African integration process based on four major pillars; Customs Union, Common market, Monetary Union and Political Federation as the ultimate goal. Where is the debate on this noble cause in our political parties and to what extent are political parties in the region networked?

As political parties what alternatives do we present to widen and deepen East African Community (EAC) integration? I am also wondering whether parties stuck in tribal/ethnic confusion would ever find space in the EAC processes. On December 10, 2012, I attended the first Secretary Generals Civil Society Organizations Forum in Dar-es salaam, only to be shocked by a lack of clear space for political parties’ consultation and engagement.

Though a few of us tried to make our voices heard, we somehow failed given that we were not representing political parties in the meeting and the general perception in the hall was that parties in the region are individual-based and many a time engage in petty issues, a thought I did not buy.

I therefore make an open plea to all registered and active political parties in East Africa to fast-track the formation of a regional platform to ease consultation. For instance, there are about 160 registered political parties in the EAC partner states; Kenya (52), Uganda (38) Burundi (36), Tanzania (20) and Rwanda (14). By imagination, if 30 most active political parties came together to advance regional issues, the EAC Secretariat would have no choice but to find space for political parties’ forum.

In democratic societies, political parties give citizens hope, which depends on what parties do while in Opposition, and whether they can always make a tremendous contribution in Opposition or in Government.

Although, parties continue to operate under repressive environments, perpetual alienation and co-optation of the elite caused by neo-patrimonial systems coupled by limited ideological clarity among some of their leaders, they provide better alternatives for constitutional and more democratic regime change. In Uganda, for example, most of the elite who have found their way into the comfort zones of Civil Service and Civil Society, it is high time they added their distinct skills and expertise towards building formidable political parties for a more progressive and democratic Uganda.

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0 #1 kaliija Kats 2013-09-18 17:20
Individual merit remain a big challenge to institutional development in East Africa.
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