For whom should you vote this week?

Last week I attended a workshop, The Dialogue for the Future, organised by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) on the elections.

I was captivated by the session on ‘movers and shakers’ on the workshop’s second day. A simple tool using quadrants was employed to guide participants in assessing the characteristics of a ‘mover’ or ‘shaker’ today in terms of advocating change.

It involved plotting quadrants within two axes: the vertical axis representing Ugandans who may have influence and or power and the horizontal axis representative of those that have interest in change. The top end of both axes reflects the highest points and the lowest point is where the axes meet, of course again.

While this exercise engaged us into gauging how high-profile individuals, communities or businesses have used their influence for change, I would like to employ the same tool to critically look at candidates vying for electoral positions this week.

However, it is useful to share some findings here beforehand. Fortunately, after our brainstorm, there were not many in the worst quadrant; the box representing people with low influence coupled with low interest for change.

On the other hand, not many qualified for what was regarded as the best quadrant; those with high influence or power who also have high interest for change. The few included the Catholic Church and some traditional kingdoms because both regularly engage in activities that promote change.

Sadly, the quadrant representing people or organisations with power but having no interest in change was filled to the brim! Workshop participants believed that Uganda is full of individuals and organisations that have both influence and power but no interest in change. Sadder still, the final quadrant of people with a high interest but having no power was equally full.

Now as February 18 approaches, it seems that Kizza Besigye’s popularity has soared! Thousands follow him in the cities and more flock to his rallies throughout the country including places in which he was not popular previously. What has he done different? The post-elections analyses will surely tell.

Many in the opposition camps argue that President Museveni is addressing bought crowds but you cannot escape the fact that he too is commanding large numbers. It seems that it is Amama Mbabazi who is waning and that in all fairness, he is no longer a contender.

Despite last weekend’s second and final presidential debate, there is no new content emerging on the campaign trail. The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) released its January (media monitoring) Report in which concern was raised about coverage of the elections that is particularly worse on radio.

Whilst there is an improvement in quality overall since September, radio is lagging behind even in quantity yet most Ugandans rely on this media for news. So, we should be worried about the poor elections reporting.

Most news stories are single-sourced and there is minimal interrogation of claims and promises made by presidential candidates.

The ACME findings show a ‘sharp decline in provision of background and context’, which is reflected in all media. Further, reporting on parliamentary elections is also very minimal.

Consequently, it might be very difficult for an everyday voter to find relevant leadership information about candidates standing in various positions at each constituency. And this is where the ‘Influence/Power Vs Interest’ tool comes in.

First thing every voter should do after listing all candidates available for one’s vote is to gauge each one’s influence or power. Of course this is subjective!

At the workshop, we defined power or influence as one whose actions or voice would be recognised by President Museveni. Now this measure cannot be applied at the local politics level; so, each voter must determine his or hers.

For me, I will consider anyone who is known to have said something about how soon Kigo road will be tarmacked or one who is known for advocating the closure of some of the numerous Pentecostalchurches and nightclubs that are a nuisance in the night in our village.

We should also promote those without power but have demonstrated high interest in change or concern for community. For example, there is a chap in Lweza, on the outskirts of our village, greater Kigo, called Habib Sembatya, a lone ranger who has been battling with Uganda Clays for many years on matters of governance.

He has never won in court but soldiers on! He has also not offered himself for political office. Unfortunately for me, all the local heroes in my village, those who have employed their influence to promote the good, like Sembatya, are not standing for any office! The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

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