“NO BOURGEOISIE, NO DEMOCRACY”:In the early 2000s, Kenya depended on donor aid only to the tune of 5%, Tanzania, 33% while Uganda did so to the tune of 53%

In my layman’s view, laws are qualitative expressions of the concrete realities that dictate their formulation. When you transpose Kenyan legislation onto Uganda, all you will be doing is to dress up a porcupine in a Kanzu. You are better off crafting a special attire that is tailored to the spikes of the porcupine. Those spikes simply will shred the Kanzu.

I am reminded here of the political transitions in all three East African countries in the first decade of the 2000s. Even a cursory glance at those transitions will tell you a huge story of what is possible in terms of democracy in Uganda, and how the question of economics comes into play….you know the old addage that “Politics is concentrated economics”…that is, politics are the qualitative expression, or the distillate of socioeconomic realities. You can distil War Gin (Waragi) from Foot and Mouth Drink (Banana Beer) but not from milk.

In the early 2000s, Kenya depended on donor aid only to the tune of 5%, Tanzania, 33% while Uganda did so to the tune of 53%. Those figures are a reflection of the robustness of the “fiscal contract” in the three countries…just forget about Thomas Hobbes’ nebulous and intellectually indolent “social contract” which pseudoliberals love to bandy about. The nuts and bolts of the contract between political elites and their constituents is the fiscal imperative: tax, the subscription fee for membership to civil society.

Now, back to Uganda and her sisters, and the robustness of the fiscal contract. What we saw happening in Kenya in 2002 was a long-reigning President attempting to have the constitution – the supreme law – amended so as to secure for himself another term in office. That failed miserably. What followed then in Kenya was the incumbent president was never brought back to office, but neither was the ruling party. Kenya: President loses out, his party loses out, fiscal bond: 95%.

In Tanzania you have the highly institutionalised CCM, Mr Mkapa served his two terms from 1995, you could not even hear of a dreamer’s hint of a third term. He stood down, eventually relinquishing the leadership of the CCM to his successor. But even then, the party was returned in power. Tanzania: President stands down, party remains in power, fiscal bond: 67%

In Uganda, the constitution was ammended to allow the incumbent to stand for a third term, he remained the head of the ruling party, and he remained in power. Uganda: Constitution is amended, president stays put, party is returned in power, fiscal bond: 47%.

Here is my hypothesis: The level of democratic responsiveness of a political elite of any one country is inversely proportional to the extent of aid dependency of the country in question. Put differently, The level of democratic responsiveness of a political elite of any one country is directly proportional to the extent to which the country in question relies on locally-generated revenue. The point here is, democracy is not just good manners. Let me define it as “Democracy is the tight corner in which revenue-thirsty political elites find themselves when they are forced to rely on their own populations to function”. Forget about the hot air of si jui, rule of the people for the people blah, blah….By the way, on ammending constitutions to get third terms, recall that General Obasanjo had to even fly to Kampala to consult on how he could force through his 3rd term. That consultation did not help: his people vetoed him. Nigeria depends on aid only to the tune of 0.01%

Worse still, Uganda is even lacking in the level of democratic pressure that it can bring to bear on the political elite. As you know, Uganda has the lowest median age in the world: 14.9 years. We have the youngest population in the world, likewise, we have the least number of voters. According to democratic theory, electoral politics only begins to make sense when 75% of the population can cast their vote. That 75% tells also another story: when those many people can vote, it means also you have more adults, you have more potential tax payers/workers and you can therefore have a strong fiscal bond between the elite and the population.

In Uganda, only 40% of the population are of voting age, you have no quorum: bottomline, electoral politics in Uganda is a mockery; it is a slap in the face of liberal democracy and every time Uganda holds any form of election, that reality is always there for all to see. There is no social basis for liberal democracy in Uganda. That 40% also means you have less employable people, and less tax payers. As you know, Uganda also has the highest dependency ratio in the world:- 100:111. Since you even have the lowest number of people above the age of 65% in the world, it means that all your dependants are babies, nappy wearers.

Kenya is urbanised to the tune of 26%, Uganda: 12%. Kenya’s median age is 18.6%…many more workers, many more tax payers, many more bargainers for political concessions. Recall what it took to quell mass demonstrations recently: armed polic in combat, with live ammunition. In Uganda: Kiboko squad…just whip them off the streets like the rowdy toddlers that they are.

So, three things for you to consider before you orthopaedically impose Kenyan law on Uganda. One, context; secondly, context and third but not least and always easy to forget, context.

What I believe is, that laws are moulded by the politico-economic realities that inform their formulation. It may not be prudent to hope that, a law propounded in Kenya can be workable here in Uganda. I am I wrong to hold that view?

Lance Corporal (Rtd) Otto Patrick


3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Ggomba,

    Please visit http://www.voiceofugandaradio.com it is a very interesting radio regarding democracy in Uganda. Check out their programs.

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