That was a good starting point for the demands of justice and I am afraid it is a still good starting point for the demands for dialogue and reconciliation between the government and opposition political parties today,
Since the lives of many denizens across Uganda have exactly those dire features, despite the substantial materials progress of others, inclined to the steady progress discourse.
Allow me to introduce an idea of a neutral forum or collaborative process in very broad sense. Its aim is to clarify how government and opposition political parties can proceed to addressing questions of dialogue and reconciliation rather than to offer solutions of questions about a perfect Uganda.
First, neutral forums can serve as the basis of practical conversations and must include ways of judging how to reduce differences and advance common interest, rather than aiming only at the characterization of a perfect society – an exercise that is such a dominant feature of many arguments for collaborative process.
The two exercises for identifying a Uganda that work for all, and for determining whether a particular social change would enhance dialogue, reconciliation and justice, do have motivational links but they are nevertheless analytically disjointed.
The later question, on which this discussion concentrates, is central to making decisions about institutions, behaviors and other determinants of collaborative processes; and how these decisions are derived cannot but be crucial to the concept of neutral forum that aims at guiding practical reasoning about what should be done.
Second, while many comparative questions of collaborative process can be successfully resolved – and agreed upon in reasoned arguments – there could well be comparison in which conflicting considerations are not fully resolved.
It’s worth noting that there can exist several distinct divergent conclusions. Reasonable conversations in competing directions can emanate from people with diverse experiences and parties, but they can also come from within groups or for that matter, even from an individual.
There is need for reasoned conversation, between government and opposition political parties in dealing with conflicting claims, rather than for what can be called ‘disengaged toleration’, with the comfort of such lazy resolution as; ‘you are right in FDC and I am right in NRM’. Reasoning and impartial scrutiny are essential.
Crucial as that scrutiny may be, institutions with a reputation for impartiality, objectivity, and credibility to create a neutral ‘space’ in which entities can gather participants to address issues is difficult to find.
Neither is it easy to locate an entity with the credibility to assure parties that a conversation process will operate in an unbiased space suitable for discussion and deliberation.
Such entities should lend integrity to a conversation process. Institutions such as universities can create an impartial forum for all the different parties and parties to come together to hold conversations on contentious issues.
By providing political parties with space, expertise and capacity to assess, plan, and conduct dialogue sessions. The neutral forum experts should know how to structure the processes for on -going conversations.
These institutions should ensure that the collaborative structures and processes developed and conducted under its guidance are carried out according to the principles and ethical codes.
The Elders Forum is among a handful of institutions that have managed to maintain a reputation of objectivity in the current polarized political climate in Uganda and many times its uniquely positioned to help leaders address today’s difficult issues.
Other bodies that could serve as potential neutral forums for the parties are regional bodies such as IGAD, AU and others. These regional bodies have skilled experts who can handle all phases of a collaborative conversation.
The skilled experts play an important role before, during and after a collaborative conversation. They will support activities undertaken before a collaborative process begin.
The tasks of an expert like Justice Ogoola could include but not limited to; conducting the assessment; designing and organizing the neutral forum conversation; creating the climate for conversations; gathering and preparing information; finding and consulting with experts; preparing parties to participate; planning how to engage the broader public; and managing the logistics and expectations of parties.
Once conversations have begun, experts can generally plan and run the meetings and help to manage the flow of information to parties. If parties decide to seek additional advice experts can organize and manage a fact-finding process.
After a neutral forum process concludes, experts may be needed to coordinate implementation, and keep it on track.
The government and opposition political parties may consider consulting and identifying a neutral entity to moderate dialogue and reconciliation between them.
In sum, relationship that is constructed by our immediate party and those parties, we may consider distant from us is something that has pervasive relevancy to the understanding of the need for dialogue, truth-telling and reconciliation in Uganda
Walter Ochanda, the author is an international development specialist.