President Museveni’s missive on the outcome of the Kyadondo East by-election was quite fascinating for the issues it raised around inclusiveness.
Besides chastising the youth for lack of ideology, the president only focused on the NRM party, its leaders, their achievements and failures, and where they should change.
This party sectarianism divides rather than unites. A leader should see the country beyond one party. Politics of “us” verses “them” are not healthy for sustainable national building. The country belongs to all citizens with diverse ideas.
The president leads everyone, and not just those who belong to a particular political party or hold particular views.
A leader’s actions and rhetoric should embody this inclusive vision. A government that advances the view of the majority (its supporters) alone instead turns into a tyranny. True democratic governments should also consider the minority view (mindful that the majority may not always be right).
True democracy accommodates diverse viewpoints and makes decisions in the best interest of all on the basis of what is reasonable, logical and practical.
In a democracy, majority alone is not the basis for decision-making but bipartisan consensus is also pursued for a win-win outcome. In a true democracy, opposition members are not ‘detractors’ or ‘obstructionists’, but participants in nation building, holding different viewpoints on the policy path to be followed.
In a democracy, politics is a battle of ideas competing for recognition and seeking approval by the populace through means such as free and fair elections.
The ultimate end of any political party or movement should be service to citizens in the best possible way, and not service to the party or particular individuals.
The measure of progress in such a government is not abstract numbers such as GDP figures (because these can be high when all the wealth is in the hands of a few), but the quality of citizens’ lives.
The biggest question for our leaders is: “How are your people doing?”
The citizens can evaluate this from leaders’ decisions. When leaders award themselves excessive and unmerited benefits at the expense of poor citizens, then we know that that’s not in the citizens’ interest; when leaders make decisions on the basis of special interest or because of bribes or when leaders fail to resist wrong actions, then we know that a leader is self-serving.
Countries that have embraced an inclusive, people-centered approach in public policy have prospered and have built peaceful and stable societies. The principle of inclusion can be observed in every facet of their societies and its fruits are visible.
The Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland), Switzerland and Canada are examples. In the World Happiness Index annual reports, these countries have always been on top.
Some countries such as Norway have the lowest crime rates in the world. Canada and most Nordic countries have the best state-sponsored education and healthcare systems.
This is only possible when leaders and citizens appreciate the social contract idea that the power of government exists to serve citizens, and not those in power.
Countries that have deviated or neglected the path of inclusion, despite their military and economic might, are disintegrating into polarization, social disintegration and misery.
Donald Trump’s United States of America, Turkey, China, Russian and most African countries have either never embraced or have deviated from this core principle of civilization.
While Canada is a safe country, its immediate neighbor, the United States, the richest country on earth, has a very high crime rate; suicide rates are high; education and healthcare are very expensive and unaffordable to many; racism brings about social stigma; citizens stay in a state of insecurity because of gun violence, etc.
In such communities, neither the citizens nor the leaders are happy. The leaders, too, live in a state of insecurity because of disgruntled masses.
The recent firing at congressmen in the US testifies to this. In Uganda, excessive and unnecessary security detail on the leaders is a sign of paranoia that comes with politics of sectarianism.
A truly democratic government works for all. It advances the collective aspirations of all with disregard to their political or tribal affiliation. It implements policies that work for all.
It puts in place safety nets for the holistic wellbeing of all. It is, both in word and deed, a government of a national character.
The writer is a lawyer and a fellow at the African Policy Centre, Uganda Christian University.