Event Reports

KAS Scholars in Uganda reflect on the meaning of democracy and how to make it work

On 18th of May, 2018, scholars and the alumni members of our Scholarship program atUganda Martyrs University gathered in Kampala to reflect on the fundamentals of democraticgovernance and how to make it work for all.

The meeting, which is part of an annual alumni and scholars gathering that, promotes discussions and conversations aimed at promoting constructive thoughts and reflections about the future of democracy and its relevance in

Uganda’s development discourse. This year’s annual gathering posits a key question on why

most African countries refer to themselves as democratic yet in real practice; they do not extol

the virtues and values of democratic governance.

KAS Uganda and South Sudan collaborates with Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) to offer

scholarships for distance learning degrees in the fields of Democracy and development

Studies, and Local Governance and Human Rights for over a decade now and most recently

Research and Public Policy. The aim of the programme is to enable future leaders to attain

higher qualifications in the areas of governance, human rights, and democracy promotion to

become drivers for positive change in their communities and their country. During the course

of the programme, students benefit from the support given by KAS and subsequently become

part of its alumni network. The KAS scholarship program is aimed at equipping scholars with

the requisite qualifications and exposure to as much knowledge and practices as possible.

The Event kicked off with welcome remarks by Mathias Kamp, Country Director of KAS,

who encouraged the audience to further engage in networking and thus create a platform for

intellectual curiosity and exchange.

Robert Kirunda, Lecturer at Makarere University then continued with a keynote input on

“undemocratic democracy?” by questioning role and definition of democracy. He pointed out

the unclear nexus between democracy and strong-male rule and further differentiated between

a working and a functioning democracy. He stated that the problem that many African

countries are facing, is that in order to have a functioning democracy a strong and open press

is required. Democracy in Africa has come a long way with different countries having their

own struggles in building democratic institutions and forming governance structures that are

robust and stand the test of time and individuals. Some countries have made significant strides

towards embracing democracy and working towards its growth and making it work for its

people. Robert Kirunda made it clear that the ways of promoting democracy need to be

adapted to new technologies and changing ways of communication.

His outline was followed by the introduction of the penal discussion on “Making Meaning of

Democracy, Authoritarianism and Hybrid Regimes in Africa” by Mathias Kamp. Participants

were Dr. Suzie Muwanga, a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University, Kwezi Tabaro, Associate

Director of the KAS partner Léo Africa Institute and Mathias Kamp himself. Kwezi Tabaro

explained, that for a good democracy, people need to ask more questions and demand more

answers instead of only criticizing the democratic rule. Mathias Kamp agreed on that by

stating that the “Governance should be responsive to the needs of the people”. Kwezi Tabaro

followed up by stating: “Democracy is now beginning to take a hold, but Uganda’s biggest

problem is a lack of democracy”. But in order the follow up on the ideal of democracy, the

country needs the economic possibilities to do so. Uganda is often referred to as a democracy,

however many will question the definition of democracy if the parameters used to define what

democracy should be are examined in Uganda. African Countries ride on the illusion that they

are democracies, apply some few principles of democracy and perhaps leave some of the key

ingredients unattended. As a result, many would be democracies have become victims of

undemocratic rule separated by a thin a line.

As accountability appears to most citizens only to be theoretical, the open plenary discussion

brought up the question what ordinary citizens could do in order to support democracy in

Uganda. They expressed their anger about the fact that also in a democracy personal

preference of those in power are being pushed forward. Democracy should be built on a

constitution and follow the democratic law. Plenary discussion participants ask what would be

the role of civic action and how they could provide and impact on democracy building.

The event was wrapped up by a Discussion on the Scholarship Network, with Insights for

leveraging the KAS-UMU Alumni Network, moderated by Dr. Denis Musinguzi, coordinator

of the KAS-UMU Partnership. The Event helped enhancing their professional development

by giving them the opportunity to share interesting professional opportunities. The KAS-

UMU Scholarship community will play a significant role in building strong horizontal and

vertical networks between and among KAS, scholars and the alumni.