“Letter to presidential candidates,” Daily Monitor, 8 November 2010
By Lino Owor Ogora
The time has come when the country is caught up in the election frenzy; when election campaign convoys paint the streets in all the colours of the rainbow depending on what party one belongs to; when accusations are traded left and right and all candidates believe they are the best for the job; when candidates make all sorts of promises.
Most candidates are promising the usual things that appeal to the ears of the common man: economic revitalisation and an end to poverty; modernisation of agriculture and loans to the rural poor; infrastructure development and good roads; support to the health sector; free education for all and creation of jobs for the youth. The humour in all these election promises is that most of them are hardly kept and are forgotten the moment the election passes. Even political parties that will lose the elections will focus more on demonising the incumbent regime than in pressurising it to implement its election manifesto.
The sad fact with most of the election manifestos that have been unveiled thus far is that they offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution for all regions in Uganda regardless of the current context on the ground.
Northern Uganda for example is just emerging from conflict after over 22 years of civil war, which has had disastrous impacts upon the population. Between 28,000 and 38,000 children are believed to have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to serve as child soldiers, sex slaves and porters; it is estimated that over 1.8 million people were displaced and forced to live in squalid conditions of the IDP camps.
I am yet to see a manifesto that seeks to holistically deal with the problems of northern Uganda. In the wake of conflicts, there is always an overwhelming need to pursue a wide variety of post-conflict mechanisms aimed ushering in lasting peace, stability and reconciliation. Perpetrators of war crimes and human rights violations need to be brought to book. There is need for acknowledgement and apology to victims, including a guarantee of non-occurrence. There is need for individual and collective reparations to victims, including compensation for property. There is need for reconciliation. We need proper memorials and monuments constructed in areas where massacres occurred to honour memories of people who lost their lives.
In addition, national development programmes need to be specific in addressing regional imbalances created as a result of the conflict. If we are talking about economic revitalisation and poverty eradication for example, would we address it in northern Uganda the same way we would address it in central Uganda? Would we pursue implementation of education programmes in Karamoja in the same way we would do it in Kampala? Would we make equal budgetary allocations for all regions?
We need to be mindful that after several decades of conflict and instability, the different regions are at different levels of development and therefore require different remedies using different strategies. What do the different political parties intend to do in this regard if elected?
Lino Owor Ogora,