In Summary
  • Fusion. What NRM’s ruling class have shamelessly championed and practised in Uganda, for three decades, is neither democracy nor politics. It is classic autocracy or tyranny blended with lootocracy.

On the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the day NRA seized power at gunpoint on January 25, 1986, after a bloody civil war, Sabalwanyi shocked Ugandans by alleging that under his iron fist rule Uganda is one of the most democratic countries in the world and that Uganda’s leaders do not need lectures on democracy.
According to a story published in Saturday Vision of January 27 titled, “Don’t lecture us on democracy – Museveni,” Sabalwanyi said at an NRM event held at Arua that: “I do not want lectures on democracy from anybody because nobody qualifies” except you know who!

“We fought for democracy and brought it back by building a democratic system,” said the big man who bragged that Uganda’s democratic system is reflected by regular, free and fair elections for local councils and Members of Parliament, but he forgot to mention that Uganda’s elections are routinely and systematically rigged in favour of NRM.
“The culture of democracy is so ingrained in our politics that others should be receiving lectures from us about it because we know more than they do,” he said.

What is democracy?
Sabalwanyi’s speech reminded me of a description of democracy coined by renowned British political scientist, Prof Bernard Crick, who argued that: “Democracy is perhaps the most promiscuous word in the world of public affairs. She is everybody’s mistress and yet somehow retains her magic even when a lover sees that her favours are being, in his light, illicitly shared by many another.”

Crick adds: “So while democracy has often been used to mean simply ‘majority rule’… perhaps its primary meaning to most people at the moment is no more than ‘all things bright and beautiful’ or some such rather general sentiment.” As my “learned friend,” Bak Orach Oywelowo (RIP) would quip: I rest my case!
The most widely quoted definition of democracy is the one credited to former US president Abraham Lincoln: “Government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

Democracy has a long history rooted in ancient Greece and the term has since ancient Greek times been used to mean a form of government in which the “demos” that is, the people rule and political power is held by the many rather than by one man or a few people. Democracy has been used to distinguish it from monarchy, aristocracy, autocracy, dictatorship, tyranny and such authoritarian forms of governance.
If democracy is the rule of the people, what constitutes “rule” and what constitutes “the people”? Are the people or wananchi a homogeneous group who speak with one voice, as ideologues of NRM would want to make us believe?

The above and related issues concerning democratic rule were addressed in the 19th Century by Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat, whose monumental work titled, Democracy in America, published in 1835, is still a classic Political Science text book recommended at great universities.
He argues that the democratic doctrine of the sovereignty of the people threatens an essential element, namely, that advanced societies are inherently pluralistic and diverse, not monolithic in nature and this is the seed and root of politics.

Alexis de Tocqueville warned in his book, Democracy in America, about what he called the “tyranny of the majority” which poses a serious danger to democracy and wananchi, but can be mitigated by a diversity of solid institutions in society and these can prevent what he called “democratic despotism” which resembles what prevails in many African countries, including Uganda.

What NRM’s ruling class have shamelessly championed and practised in Uganda, for three decades, is neither democracy nor politics. It is classic autocracy or tyranny blended with lootocracy. Only those who lack a functional conscience, humility and a sense of shame can claim that Uganda is a democratic country whose leaders do not need lectures on democracy.
I believe Uganda could do with some lessons in politics and democracy, two concepts which serious students of Political Science should be conversant with.