Event Reports

Trends, Challenges and Prospects of Deepening Democracy at the Local Level

Mbale District Local Governance Actors Discuss Trends and Challenges to Democratisation

Civil society, political party activists and local government leaders in Mbale district emphasised the need to continue a dialogue on issues of democracy and development. This consensus was reached during dialogue at Masaba Hilltop hotel facilitated by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, July 21, 2011.

The one day dialogue had the participation over 70 governance actors in the district. They included members of the district council, representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) and religious institutions as well as leaders of major political parties. The Uganda police force was equally represented.

In a kick-off presentation Prof. Olum from Makerere University addressed the issue of democracy promotion by focussing on the general elections of 2011. While he complimented the 2011 polls as having been generally better than previous elections, he at the same time pointed significant deficiencies that made the elections fall short of free and fair standards. Such deficiencies according to Prof. Olum include incidents of violence that occurred on the election day, a political playing field which was not level and the excessive use of money including state resources in the campaigns. Analysing how the different actors performed their roles during the elections, Prof. Olum particulary emphasised the issue of the electoral commission the body responsible for the elections but which did not win the confidence of all stakeholders. These issues, he observed, need to addressed if democracy is to be consolidated in Uganda.

Mr. Waswa Masokoyi, the Mbale district chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, highlighted the importance of the ensuring that a separation of powers between the different organs of government exists. Addressing democracy in Mbale specifically Mr. Masokoyi asserted deficiencies with regard to tolerance and respect of different opinions among the people, the insufficient participation in decision-making processes of CSOs, which do not represent the people adequately. In order to ensure free and fair elections progress has to be made in the areas of respect of human rights, transparency and accountability.

Mr. Abbas Wetaka, the chairman of the Uganda people’s congress (UPC) represented the opposition political parties in the panel. He agreed that there were shortcomings in the society, which could be addressed with civic education programmes.

The dialogue was followed by a training workshop for civil society actors on the second day. The training focussed on current trends in democracy promotion where by improving competitiveness and efficiency of CSO actors was agreed upon to be vital for a positive development. Participants emphasised the need for transparency and team work within CSOs.