Even though ideology appears to be on the decline, the manifestos and constitutions of most political parties in Uganda are embedded in certain ideological frameworks. Several factors however explain why political parties in Uganda have been unable to live by their ideological expectations. Political parties in Uganda recruit people from different social backgrounds and ideological outlook, a factor that undermines their ability to focus on one particular ideology that is acceptable to all its membership. Parties also lack organic linkage with the intellectuals and have failed to create an organizational linkage with social groups, whose views they claim to represent. The other pressing challenge to the ideological framework of most political parties in Uganda is the triumph of liberalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union which has made the socialist ideology less appealing. All political parties are struggling to fit in an ideological framework acceptable by the West. Because Uganda is dependent on foreign aid, political parties fear to lose assistance from development partners, should they get an opportunity of capturing State power. These were some of Dr S.K. Simba’s arguments in his paper titled; “Same Same but Different: Parties, Politics and Ideology in Uganda” that he presented at the first seminar organised by the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in liaison with Friedrich Ebert Stifftung. The Seminar was held in Board Room 2, Senate Building, Makerere University.
Some politicians and Political Science scholars who attended the seminar concurred with Dr Simba whereas others had divergent views as to why most parties have failed to live up to their ideological framework. Uganda Federal Alliance President, Hon. Betty Kamya, argued that most ideologies have failed because they are not “locally grown”. She said if an ideology is to be appealing, it should arise from the social needs or challenges of the community. She explained that most ideologies are opportunistic and meant to serve the interests of the leaders of the political parties. She urged the leadership of political parties to endeavour to sensitize communities about their ideologies.
JEMA representative blamed the failure on recruitment that is not based on conviction of ideology, whereas US-based Political Science Professor Joshua Rubongoya said Uganda lacks classical parties that can live up to their ideologies. He noted that most parties in Uganda act like social movements without any specific cause.
Prof. Sabiti Makara from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University argued that parties should not adopt ideologies from the West but rather develop their own. He said political parties need to have nationalism as part of their ideologies and that the latter should be contextualised in a historical perspective. He said most parties are attached to Western values that do not add up to the Ugandan systems.
Mr Aaron Mukwaya, also from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, concurred with Prof. Makara that ideology is a problem in Uganda because most of it is copied from the West and Africanised. He advised that if parties are to have strong ideologies, they should formulate their own based on the local needs.
Responding to Prof. Makara’s concern over ideologies imported from the West, Conservative Party President, also Rubaga South Member of Parliament, Hon. Ken Lukyamuzi, said parties are global in nature and can share ideologies. He said political parties have the ability to grow as long as a democratic system is maintained.
The seminar was coordinated by the Head, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Dr Suzie Nansozi Muwanga, and moderated by Independent Researcher and Political Analyst, Dr. John Kiyaga-Nsubuga.
It was attended by among others, the Executive Director of the Uganda NGO Forum, Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga, UPC National Chairman, Prof. Edward Kakonge, the Dean, School of Social Sciences, Assoc. Prof. Andrew Elias State, and academic staff from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
About the Politcal Science, FES seminar series
The Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University together with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) will hold a series of seven seminars that will culminate in a public capstone event in October 2015. Each seminar aims to bring together a group of approximately thirty people made up of policy makers, politicians, academics, independent researchers, and representatives of NGOs in an informal intellectual environment to discuss a range of issues that have a direct impact on Ugandans and national development. In addition to providing a setting for intellectual debate and the sharing of ideas with non-academic groups working in politics, the seminars will be an opportunity to broaden the understanding of 'real world' politics and to foster potential collaborations.
See below Dr Simba’s full presentation