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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
No-party politics: the answer for Africa?

Uganda's much awaited referendum on President Museveni's "movement" system of government takes place this week. Museveni argues that party politics has failed Uganda and has exacerbated tribal and religious divisions.

He claims that a "no party" " movement" system would heal old wounds and bring everyone into the decision making process. Uganda's party political leaders say he is wrong and have called for a boycott. They say it's a fundamental human right to form political associations.

Does Museveni have the answer to Africa's problems? Or is he trying to entrench his pre-eminent position in Uganda? Tell us what you think.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction



The idea of president for life is so imbedded amongst them that the only way they leave office is through the barrel of the gun

J. Patrick Flomo, Columbus, Ohio, USA
The result of the Uganda "no-party" referendum victory is a sad day for Africa. Once again, black Africa has shown that we are incapable of democratic rule. After fourteen years in office, the fact that Museveni has failed to develop a multi-party system validates the fact that African leaders do not believe in term limit. The idea of president for life is so imbedded amongst them that the only way they leave office is through the barrel of the gun.
J. Patrick Flomo, Columbus, Ohio, USA

As a Ugandan whose whole future was ruined and family killed as a result, I strongly oppose multi-party politics in Uganda for at least for another 10-15 years.
Kabego, England



It will take time for African political parties to build coalitions beyond the interests of one region or one ethnic group

Gregory Simpkins, USA
I have worked with political party representatives, non-governmental organisation activists, scholars, journalists and government officials throughout Africa for more than two decades. It is clear to me and to many others with whom I have worked that multi-party politics is the only way to true representative democracy in Africa or anywhere else in the world. The only caveat is that it will take time for African political parties to build coalitions beyond the interests of one region or one ethnic group and to build a party platform beyond the ambitions of a single leader. This took time in the West, but it happened. It will happen in Africa too, in time. Meanwhile, we must not succumb to the notion that Africans are less deserving of their freedom to express their political views than any other people on Earth.
Gregory Simpkins, USA



Museveni beats them all - economics, system of governance or even just charisma

Joseph Serwadda, Uganda
I was born in Uganda over 40 years ago and have lived long enough to know the regimes of Obote 1, Amin, Muwanga, Obote 2, Okello Lutwa and Museveni. Museveni beats them all - economics, system of governance or even just charisma. Want to compare notes?
Joseph Serwadda, Uganda

Museveni's one party system cannot offer any solutions to Africa's problems. This is because monolithic political systems were defeated by the end of the Cold War. It is an amorphous thing created to perpetuate Museveni and his cronies in power.
Tamale Buzindadde, Uganda

The quality of life of inhabitants in each country depends on its economic development. The multi-party system is a precondition for it. Some development may be possible without parties but at what price?
Mr Ivo Bezecný, Czech Republic

Let other African countries who are having problems with the multi-party system study the outcome of Moseveni's non-party system and sincerely evaluate it for the possibility of trying it out.
Alexie Njoku, USA

Some commentators object to multi-party democracy saying that it did not work in some other countries in Africa. But aren't there more examples of no-party systems that didn't work and aren't working than there are examples of genuine multi-party systems that didn't work?
Abdissa, Ethiopia/ USA



Those insisting that Western democratic government is a must at this time, should be careful in wanting that

SK, UK
I suspect, from reading some of the comments that many people know little of the history of Uganda or have visited the country recently. Having had the chance to talk extensively to people in Uganda, one thing is clear. They do not want to end up back in the bad old days of tribal divisions and bloodshed. In the current climate, too many of the old politicians of the past are still on the scene. Those insisting that Western democratic government is a must at this time, should be careful in wanting that. At this time it could turn one of Africa's few limited success stories back into a war-zone. There is much to be done and not everything is rosy, but given where Uganda has been in the past, it is a minor miracle to see where it is today.
SK, UK

Jowery Museveni is not even accepted by the majority of Ugandans. He became president of that country by using force, taking advantage of former dictators. Like most African countries, his people have been threatened by systematic oppression and torture. He is not working for the people of Uganda just like other African presidents don't work for their countries.
Maffuta Haidy, Norway

I do believe Museveni is right when he says that party politics has indeed caused a lot of problems in Uganda. Until Ugandans are mature enough to tolerate each other then we shall have to consider an alternative system of government. For now, the movement is the only form of government that has united all Ugandans, which is a far cry from all previous governments that ruled on tribal lines.
Andrew Kanyike, UK

In order for peace and democracy to exist in Africa, African leaders should depend on their own people rather than Western influence.
Yosef Kahsay, USA

There is nothing like no-party politics. Museveni is only disguising his one party system by which he intends to rule the country for an indefinite time. We, the true multipartyists, are boycotting this "political circus" in the name of a referendum.
Ssaalongo Kaggwa, Uganda



The problem, as with other African countries, is that there is no method of replacement

Ben Conrad, UK
It seems to me, as someone who has spent some time in Uganda, and I am going back in two weeks, that Museveni and the "Movement" has done a lot to help Uganda develop. The problem, as with other African countries, is that there is no method of replacement. Museveni cannot last forever, and he should not try to. In Uganda, because of the lack of an organised opposition, there is no one placed to replace him, or any means to allow this. The same is true to some degree with Daniel Arap Moi, in Kenya.
Ben Conrad, UK

I am a Ugandan who has lived there since I was born in 1968. I had never witnessed the degree of cohesion that has characterised Uganda since Museveni brought in his "No Party" political system in 1986. Though still a young boy, not yet of voting age, I was beaten for wearing a green shirt by UPC functionaries. Green was associated with DP and it was not uncommon for people to be killed because they belonged to the party. Catholics were always harassed because the DP president was a Catholic. Africans, already divided on tribal grounds, will be better off if they avoid parties that are so divisive.
Okot Joseph, Uganda

Museveni has a point. I live in Uganda and find it wonderful that people of different political views participate in the day-to-day governance of their country for better development. Parties all over Africa have been a disaster. Zimbabwe is a very good example. Opposition in that country has not stopped mad Mugabe from killing innocent white farmers, whom he accuses of being on the side of the opposition. In a "no party" system like in Uganda, it is people's ideas which matter, not their political parties or colour.
Paul Mwijuka, Uganda



Museveni has no answers to Africa's problems. He is just manipulating his dictatorial rule over the people of Uganda

Matovu Henry, Ugandan in USA
Museveni has no answers to Africa's problems. He is just manipulating his dictatorial rule over the people of Uganda. He is creating more problems for Africa and the world in general.
Matovu Henry, Ugandan in USA

Party politics are important in determining true democracy. However, each country must take into account its own unique and specific issues in evaluating how political parties operate in the development of the nation. Mr Museveni has implemented a unique system for Uganda. So far it has worked and should be considered a blueprint for other nations to follow.
Mwoth, US/ Kenyan

No one who has watched Uganda develop in the years since Amin and Obote can genuinely say that Museveni is wrong. Many in these letters have continued to advocate the multiparty system of democracy but Africa is littered with examples of where this approach has failed. Almost inevitably such parties evolve either on tribal or religious grounds or even if they don't, they pretty soon end up that way.
Dick Shepherd, UK

Museveni is no different from the other despots in Africa. The freedom of association is a sacred fundamental right. What Africa needs today is a democratic environment where different organised groups compete in the market for political leadership. Equally important the principles of political renewal should be cultivated through term limits on African Presidents. For anytime that leaders overstay such as Mugabe and Museveni, they begin to explore ways of hanging onto power through different guises.
Zano Mataruka, Zimbabwe



Having lived in the USA for sometime and having seen how democracy is practised here, I am inclined towards a multi-party system in my country Uganda

Kasirye Ssalongo, USA
I am a Ugandan who thinks that the movement should be more democratic and Museveni should be less sectarian. The movement is controlled by his tribe who hold most of the big positions in government. It is not as inclusive as he would like us to believe. Having lived in the USA for sometime and having seen how democracy is practised here, I am inclined towards a multi-party system in my country Uganda. However, the reality is that most of those who are clamouring for pluralism are yesterday's despots and dictators.

Obote, the former president banned all political parties but his own UPC. He is now calling for pluralism but has never told us why he banned other political parties and imprisoned their leaders before Amin overthrew him in 1971. Museveni's movement system has been more tolerant of the opposition and there is more freedom of the press than in the past. The problem with the movement now is Museveni who has overstayed. He should quit when his term expires.
Kasirye Ssalongo, USA

I think he is right. If we observe most African countries with multi political parties, we notice that capable leaders waste their time trying to form their own parties or fighting the ruling party. If all these efforts were spent towards national development we would be in a better position as Africans. Africa is still delicate and it needs a firm hand for its people to have a vision. This can only be achieved through "Firm Leadership" which some societies call "dictatorship" However, this does not encourage Dictators who have been in power to enhance their selfish motives.
Hankie, USA/Zambian



Museveni's no party politics is simply a means of perpetuating the so-called new breed of African leaders (dictator/war mongers) into powers. It was tried in Ghana and failed. It is also used in Rwanda, but it will never deliver

Tony Mutebi Nsubuga, Germany
Museveni's no party politics is simply a means of perpetuating the so-called new breed of African leaders (dictator / war mongers) into powers. It was tried in Ghana and failed. It is also used in Rwanda, but it will never deliver. It simply suffocates evolution of true democracy. Remember when Museveni was suspending parties he did not call for a referendum! The referendum bill was it self smuggled into the constitution without a quorum in parliament. In fact if it was not for the US & Britain who regard Museveni as a blue-eyed boy, he would not have survived this long. In my opinion the millions of dollar used in the exercise could have been injected into funding improvement of the infrastructure. Why should Uganda embrace a system that has failed elsewhere? It failed in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Tony Mutebi Nsubuga, Germany

Museveni may be right in some respects, taking into account the fact that in Ghana for instance, before democratisation in 1992 there was study economic growth. But the same cannot be said of the country today. This can be blamed partly on the expensive and divisive democratic process. The question is, haven't tyrants ignored the rule of law even in party politics? Nevertheless there should be no attempt to institute life long rulers in Africa because it has the tendency to produce despots who will not fear the power of the masses to remove them from office
Selasi Adjorlolo, Ghana

We Ugandans small and humble as we may be have a great responsibility to leave behind a legacy which future generations will be proud of and not feel betrayed by us. Ugandan politicians have often failed to note this seriously, and have therefore failed to move from mere politicians to great legendary statesmen. I do hope and pray that my countrymen and women will act with wisdom in this period at which Uganda is at crossroads.
Faisal Kirunda Nkutu, Ugandan in Canada

I agree in part with the incumbent president that no party is good for Africa. This will at least slow down the effect of division and partisan politics which has plagued Africa for decades now. It will also curb those who use this for their personal agenda and incite tribal politics. I would add that the problem of Africa is beyond this. The problem of Africa is personal greed.
Jakari, Ghana



Democracy is clearly the way forward in Africa but we have to be careful how we implement it

Jogoo Wa Kimakia, US/ Kenyan
I tend to agree with Museveni's point of view. Democracy is clearly the way forward in Africa but we have to be careful how we implement it. In Africa, we often lose sight of what is most important, namely our struggling and weak economies. I would not mind what kind of political system we employ provided there is the rule of law and economic opportunities for enterprising individuals.
Jogoo Wa Kimakia, US/ Kenyan

Museveni is wrong and for that matter he is not the only African leader who does not want to hand power to the people. Being a leader during the fighting does not entitle him to be a president for life. He may be a good fighter but he may not be a good governor. I personally think the problem Africa is facing at the moment is that of leaders who ask their friends-in-arms to vote for them to become president without the mandate from the very people they are suposed to lead.
Dr F.T. Selase, UK



It took the English centuries to establish democracy after they overthrew their colonial masters, the Romans

Garth, Zimbabwe
Museveni is right! It took the English centuries to establish democracy after they overthrew their colonial masters, the Romans. And even then, it took benevolent dictators (some Kings and Queens) to create the right conditions for democracy. The African colonisers came and taught African people that they were second class citizens and failed to teach them democracy. Then all of a sudden at independence, the ex-colonisers expect the Africans themselves to be perfect democrats. I believe that Africans like Museveni and more so Mugabe, are genuinely trying to lay a solid foundation for democracy. They are trying to do this in a few decades when in fact it took the European countries centuries to do the same.
Garth, Zimbabwe

I don't think that Museveni has the solution to Africa's problems. He is one of the African old dictatorships who wants to prolong his rule by diverting the attention of his people.
Mohamed Hassan, Somalia



Every day spent in any form of authoritarianism, is a day lost for Africa's development

I. M. Hassen, Ethiopia/ Belgium
I think Museveni is disillusioned and short sighted. Every day spent in any form of authoritarianism, is a day lost for Africa's development. A day taken away from the time it will take us to build a political system where differences are constructively combined, and the majority have a say. Shying away from these challenges will not serve the future of Africa. It will leave us with the same system where the fate of millions of people is decided by a few individuals who manipulate a single party. This cannot solve Africa's overwhelming problems, even when that one party means well.
I. M. Hassen, Ethiopia/ Belgium

The multi-party system is the key for social development in Africa. Nevertheless, it needs great caution to implement it. Western style democracy is suicidal for African nations because of their social construction. I agree with Uganda's President, in principle, but I strongly believe that Africans need to find strategies to create their own democratic system that can fit with their socio-political situation.
Haile, Australia

The "movement" system of government is not only archaic but also retrogressive, as it offers no viable solution to any country's economic and/ or social problems. If anything, it exacerbates poverty and its twin effects of social dichotomy. Furthermore, both history and statistics the world over show that multi-partyism is the only progressive way forward and African leaders must accept this harsh reality least we subscribe to being sub-human. I believe President Museveni is advocating for a movement system to perpetuate his stay in power for self-aggrandisement and not for the national good.
O.B. Silla, Gambian in USA



I trust millions of Ugandans more than one Mr Museveni

Seyoum Berhe, Ethiopia
President Museveni is fundamentally wrong. A real democracy is not the problem of Africa, but one-man rule that strangles creative minds from voicing opinion and contributing to decision making on the future of their country. I trust millions of Ugandans more than one Mr Museveni.
Seyoum Berhe, Ethiopia

The no-party system has brought peace, stability and development to Uganda. What did parties do for the country? Nothing but corruption, tribalism, wars and dictatorship. If the pro-party movement think that Ugandans are on their side, why not take the debate to the people other than encouraging them not to vote? The very people who argue for parties are losers like Semogerere, a man who has never won an election. They are old people whose only interest is to move the country back to the twentieth century.
Steven Nsubuga, USA

Mr Museveni's decision for no-party politics for Africa is a return to tyranny. The single party system benefits the policymakers and harms those who cannot push their political agenda forward. Africa needs a two-party system so that the winner takes all the votes. The one-party system limits citizens' choice and is a violation of human rights. African states should not copy Uganda.
Dave Richardson, Sudan



Anytime a despot is asked to leave, he finds new ways to hang on

Kwasi Boateng, USA
This is not new to most Africans. Anytime a despot is asked to leave, he finds new ways to hang on. Ghana's Kutu Acheampong tried this in the 1970's. He called it UNIGOV, short for Union Government. He failed to implement it in Ghana and the Ugandan will fail too.
Kwasi Boateng, USA

No party movement can be a solution to African problems, particularly the problem of tribalism that has polarised many African countries like Kenya.
Josiah Obiero, Canada

The state controls the meagre economic resources of a Third World country. "No Party Movement" creates nomenclature or a new class. What multi-party governance does is basically distribute the opportunity and wealth of a country according to the terms of the party in power. Museveni's "No Party Movement" is an open field for human right abuses and economic exclusion.
Ibrahim Ahmed, USA



It is not the structure of party politics that will bring democracy to a poor African country but the vision that its leaders have

Eyob Tadesse, an Ethiopian living in USA
Party politics is not the only option for the democratisation process. It is not the structure of party politics that will bring democracy to a poor African country but the vision that its leaders have. President Musevini, keep up your job. It is a good start that others should follow.
Eyob Tadesse, an Ethiopian living in USA

Museveni's (NRM) has all the characteristics and attributes of a party itself. Not everyone subscribes to the ideas of NRM. I wish he would allow others the same freedom of political expression he has enjoyed for the last 15 years. His rhetoric makes sense only to the extent that Uganda has a history of political associations that deepened the wounds of tribalism. He has failed to offer an alternative system of government that is widely accepted for the power it gives the people, and after 15 years of rule, it's time he groomed someone else or allowed political competition.
Rita Wade, USA

The proposed "no party movement system" is just another of the many fatuous attempts by our so-called leaders to suggest that the untold suffering they have inflicted upon our helpless people has nothing to do with them, but with some political arrangement. How on earth can any system possibly provide water for our people, or prevent simple illnesses, while our so-called leaders are so preoccupied with senseless wars and/or kleptomania?
Ubong Effeh, UK/ Nigerian

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