2016, a difficult policy choice for voters


Besigye and Mbabazi at Namugongo shrine today

In his book, ‘Leviathan’, Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, observes that civil society should be viewed as having been made by a contract between people dissatisfied with the state of primitive anarchy in which they lived and gave up their natural liberty to sovereign to act as their political representative.

The political representative had the right to enact any law and had the duty to maintain peace for the people. Regardless of whether you voted for or against him/her, all citizens had to follow and observe the law for the following reasons.

For the maintenance of peace and order ensured personal security to all citizens, so that it was in the citizens own right to obey. Additionally, the sovereign was the representative of the people formed at the time of the original contract.

He defined the representative as an agent who has the right to commit his/her principle to whatever policies he/she believes important.

“Everyone shall authorize all the actions and judgments of that man or assembly of men in the same manner as if they were his own to the end to lie peacefully among themselves and be protected against other men”.

Are electorate’s dissatisfied with the state of primitive government policies derailing fundamental change? History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave, but then, once in a lifetime. The longed – for tidal wave of impartiality can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.

Hugely, engaging as this longing for hope and history to rhyme together. At the heart of Uganda’s 2016 presidential election is the possibility of competing policy choices.

Let me try to illustrate the problem with an example in which electorates have to decide which of the three potential candidates – Amama, Besigye and Museveni – should be elected about which they are vying.

Amama claims the presidency on the ground that he is the only one of the three whose manifesto demonstrates how to craft laws, policy frameworks and build transcendental institutions (the others do not deny this), and that it would be quite unreasonable to deny the presidency to the only one who can actually produce comprehensive outcomes in lives of the citizens. If that is all electorates’ knew, the case of electing the Amama would be strong.

In an alternative scenario, it is Besigye who speaks up, and defends his case for having the presidency by pointing out that he is the only one among the three who has been confronting injustice.

The presidency would give him an opportunity to bring in a balance of justice (the other two concede that they have engaged mainly with the middle class). If electorates had heard only Besigye and none of the others, the case for voting him would be strong.

In another alternative scenario, it is Museveni who speaks up and points out that he has been working diligently for over 25 years to build Uganda with his own effort (the others confirm this), and just when he has discovered oil, just then, he complains, ‘these expropriators come along to try to grab the presidency away from him. If Museveni’s statement is all electorates’ had heard, they might be inclined to vote him in recognition of his understandable claim to something he has worked for.

Having heard all three and their different lines of reasoning, there is a difficult decision that electorates have to make.

Besigye would tend to get fairly straightforward support from economic egalitarian electorates, if he is committed to reducing gaps in the economic means of a great many local people.

On the other hand, Museveni would receive immediate sympathy from Libertarian electorates. Hard work must be rewarded.

The utilitarian electorates, would certainly tend to give weight, more than Libertarian or the economic egalitarian, to the fact that Amama’s craftsmanship and a ‘Uganda that works for all’ manifesto is likely to be stronger because he is the only one who can craft a good social contract and satisfy the general dictum of ‘waste not, want not’.

Electorates can consider scrutinizing each candidate’s manifesto very seriously, if they are to determine which policy options will effect fundamental change in their lives.

Walter Ochanda, the author, is an International Development Specialist


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