What Ugandan children are not buying from the 2016 manifestos

Like many other politically-aware Ugandans, I am now in possession of the plans of the three main contenders in the 2016 presidential race: Yoweri Museveni (NRM), Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC) and Mr Amama Mbabazi (Go Forward).

Apart from FDC’s ‘Leap Forward’ presented as a policy agenda, the other two are campaign manifestos. However, all are about expectations should their candidate take power next year.

All three documents are well presented and can be accessed online. However, they are large and you would need plenty of data credit to download all. I intend to study and refer to them throughout the campaign period, especially looking out to see if the candidates refer to their grand promises therein!

First, I persuaded a small group of young people to have a close look at all three – it was a big ‘ask’ indeed because reading large political documents is not the in-thing in Uganda at large, let alone among the youth!

Their task was to list all the things that appealed to them, those they disliked and any they may not have understood. The NRM manifesto has over 300 pages whilst Go Forward and FDC’s are about 60 pages each (but with more pictures). So, there was work to do for the youngsters.

Children are so clever these days; the group came up with just two lists after their analysis of the party promises: the ‘good’ and the ‘unrealistic’ things! They had initially listed NRM’s promise of latrines as a dislike but for some reason, this did not feature in their final lists.

Anyway, in their opinion, NRM came up with 73 good things, FDC 55 and Go Forward has 53. Perhaps this relates to the sizes of the documents. On the other hand, FDC has just five unrealistic things; Go Forward has nine and NRM 13. I will focus on the unrealistic promises in today’s column.

The kids do not believe NRM promises on the family, which are: the establishment of family inspection units to protect children from abuse, upright nurturing of society, elimination of substance abuse at household level and or empowerment of families to provide a balanced diet. They also disbelieve that government will provide free sanitary pads to school-going children.

Other notable disbeliefs include promises to increase teachers’ salaries, recruitment of health workers up to 100% of staffing by 2018, taking over the maintenance and repairing of boreholes, crash vocational programmes for over 50,000 unemployed graduates plus construction of an international airport in Kabale.

In the Go Forward manifesto, the children do not believe that cattle farmer cooperatives can be supported in many ways including the instalment of a computerised information management system to track movement of animals sold.

They also threw out promises to do with family including building 200,000 toilets, a grid solar system that can save on average Shs 960,000 per year and the introduction of a home ownership scheme.

They also do not believe that 444,160 new jobs will be created throughout the country, which would almost double the current size of the civil service, or that there will be a university and vocational institute in each sub-region.

Family issues are also disputed in the FDC agenda which promises health insurance and affordable urban housing. In addition, FDC promises equitable national development, zero tolerance to corruption and the elimination of discrimination, but the children do not believe this can be achieved.

So, there you are, Ugandan children are bright and discerning; they are able to see through political promises critically!

I intend to survey and present in a future column what these children would like to see in a political manifesto. Personally, I would like all the political parties to express some thought on the ugly social monster, tribalism.

Tribalism seems like the large elephant in the political arena of middle-class Uganda. There is antipathy or even outright tribal hostility. This is sometimes evident on social media or in discussions on kingdoms including Buganda’s stance on federalism.

MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda regularly asserts that the NRM government is partial towards Ugandans from the west. When challenged, he is always quick to point out that people from the west take a lion’s share or have the most influential positions in government and the forces.

However, we are aware that geographical concerns are considered in the appointment of cabinet positions. Political parties must address the question of tribalism.


The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.


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