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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.
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.
Gregory Simpkins, USA
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
In order for peace and democracy to exist in Africa, African leaders should depend on their own people rather than Western influence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
30 Jun 00 | Africa
First results favour no-party Ugandan politics
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