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The Right Honourable Kirunda Kivejinja, 3rd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Internal Affairs, has launched a handbook entitled “Political Pluralism, Democratic Participation and Representation at Local Government Level in Uganda”. During a solemn function at Imperiale Royal Hotel, Kampala, he commended the handbook for being timely, useful and highly relevant for the development of democracy in Uganda. The publishing of the handbook is part of a project targeting civil society, the media and local councillors which is implemented by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and its partner Uganda Media Development Fund (UMDF) with funding from the European Union.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Yusuf Kiranda, Programme Officer of KAS Uganda and Project Manager, briefed the invited guests who represented civil society and the media, as well as government and political parties about the background of the publication.
Together with its local partner UMDF, KAS is implementing a programme to strengthen civil society, media and local councils in the promotion of political pluralism, democratic participation and representation at local government level.
Mr. Kiranda expressed his gratitude to the European Commission and its Delegation to Uganda for the financial support through which the partners are enabled to implement such an extensive programme. He emphasised that the launch of the handbook is just one step in this programme, which will be followed by other components, in particular a series of training workshops for the mentioned target groups and an intensive scientific assessment of the state of democracy and pluralism in seven districts of Uganda.
Content of the Handbook
Prof. Elijah Mushemeza, who had taken the lead in compiling the handbook, took the participants through the main content of the book, which is explaining the basic concepts of democracy, pluralism and representation, but also presents the specific context at local government level in Uganda. It furthermore provides the reader with concrete ideas and practical approaches to strengthen democratic participation and representation at local level. According to Prof. Mushemeza, the book will not only be of good help for the target groups but also be a proper reference for scholars and other institutions of higher learning. By this it would help strengthening efforts “to make civic education a reality” and to go beyond the still prevailing approach of what Mushemeza criticised as “pure voter education”.
Support from the European Union
Representing the European Commision, Ms. Sayson Rosette Meya, Programme Officer at the Delegation of the European Commission to Uganda commended KAS for this milestone achieved. She read out a statement from the Head of Delegation who also noted that this book will be a reference not just for Uganda but also worldwide. In her words, Rosette commended the pace at which KAS is implementing this project. She also underlined the usefulness of the book not only for the target groups but for all Ugandans: “This is not just a handbook of KAS, it is everybody’s handbook!”
The target groups were represented by Ms. Regina Bafaki, Executive Director of Action for Development (ACFODE) who applauded KAS for this handbook.
In her remarks, Regina described the book and the project as central to the partnerships that exist between KAS and its partner-organisations. She noted that working together, especially on key projects like this one, where everyone’s input is valuable, would help CSOs understand better their role in democratic participation especially with regard to the multiparty dispensation.
Among other notable participants was the Chairman of Electoral Commission, Eng. Baddru Kiggundu, who in his words commended the handbook as well the EU and KAS for this initiative. He called upon Ugandans to respect each ones views and emphasised that Uganda is still moving on the “long road to democracy” and has not yet fully arrived, that is why there is the need of continued efforts to strengthen democracy and pluralism at all levels. Among other guests present were also honourable Members of the Uganda Parliament including the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, and representatives of the different political parties. A special word of appreciation came from Ms. Rose Gamwera, Deputy Secretary General of the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA), who stated that the handbook will be very helpful also for ULGA’s efforts in capacity building on the local level, especially since such useful training material had not been available for them up to now.
Handbook launched by the Minister
The handbook was finally launched by the Chief Guest, Right Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja, 3rd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Internal Affairs. In his speech he emphasised the long cooperation with KAS and the positive experiences made with the German organisation. Concerning the content of the handbook, he stated that the findings presented in the book are general consensus: “We all know what is correct. The problem is that we are failing to implement it!”
He called upon all CSOs to reach out to their targeted groups rather than working from Kampala without knowing what happens on the ground. According to him, KAS has been a good example.
The chief guest challenged KAS and the EU to organise another function where more time would be given for participants to discuss the findings in the handbook and also share some ideas on how best this knowledge can be furthered.
On a lighter note, the chief guest handed a copy of the handbook to each participant, a gesture that was welcomed by all.
The launching event left organisers as well as participants highly satisfied with what had been presented and raised confidence in joint efforts to improve the state of democracy and pluralism in the country, particularly on the local level. A milestone achieved for the project and an important step forward on the long road to democratic pluralism.
KAS and UMDF are grateful to the European Commission for making this handbook launch and the whole project possible.