6 Days To Go: Manifesto Review – Intro

Note: This is the second in a short countdown-to-the-election series of posts. You may read the first one here: But why?

This was originally intended to be a single post reviewing each of the manifestos I had managed to go through. However, after drafting reviews of the NRM, FDC and NUP manifestos, the post was rapidly approaching the size of a small novel. I have therefore decided to split them into a mini-series over two days with 3 reviews (separate posts) each day in the order that I read them – NRM, FDC and NUP today and then ANT, Joseph Kabuleta and Nancy Kalembe tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a copy of the DP’s manifesto. If you have a copy, please do let me know and share a link in the comments or via Twitter.

Reading the manifestos

Reading Ugandan political party manifestos is always usually a rather disheartening affair for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, going through them usually confirms one thing – there isn’t really any major ideological difference between the party platforms and so, by and large, the manifestos tend to be pretty similar. Whereas more advanced democracies have clearly defined ideologies based on a “liberal-to-conservative” spectrum (thus the usage of terms like left, centrist, right, far-right etc), it is very difficult to differentiate between our parties the same way. The reason this hurts me (and it should hurt you the reader too) is because it is firm proof that we are still rather immature in terms of socio-political development. That is how you end up with every single manifesto promising to fight corruption, develop tourism, build roads and hospitals and invest in agriculture. The basics and nothing more, no sophistication whatsoever. If we were to draw parallels with Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, we would be near the bottom. To me, this lack of sophistication means it is not possible to draw up and execute long term plans because the focus is on the here and now. It also means that our so-called multi-party elections are not really about parties and issues but about individuals, a barely disguised individual merit system. I will write about this in detail another time.

The second thing that hurts about these manifestos is because they remind me how inexplicably lousy our political environment is. See – the manifestos contain a lot of interesting pledges and positions on various important issuess. Under normal circumstances, political parties would be preaching these issues every single day and we, the citizens, would be debating them and making choices based on thoroughly analysing them. As it is, the opposition parties rarely disseminate this information outside peak political season. The biggest reason for this is of course the direct and indirect suppression they suffer at the hands of the State and its conjoined twin, the ruling party. But they too take some of the blame given that they rarely use the opportunities and channels that they do have access to for this. As an example, practically none of them has presented their manifesto in web or mobile friendly formats on their various digital properties. As for the ruling party, longevity in power and their grip on all the levers of state power means they neither feel the need to sell their ideology, positions and policies or even to evolve it. As a result, citizens feel compelled to make their choice based on things like “who can control the army” – a very pitiful state of affairs indeed.

Lastly, while reading them, there’s always that uncomfortable knowledge that I’m one of very few Ugandans that bother to do so. Many people have commented on, lamented and joked about our poor reading culture. I know for sure that not many people will have read even their own party’s manifesto by this time. This is linked to the two issues already mentioned but it is also a big problem on its own. Maybe, that is why the parties don’t bother preaching their platform message in and out of season – they understand their target market well. Whatever the case, it is immensely frustrating to me that even the so-called elites simply don’t read. Some may argue that manifestos are simply hot air and not worth their time. But the problem is many of those that argue thus hardly read anything else (apart from social media posts and the like). It cannot be that all the available body of written work is hot air, can it?

Anyway, despite these frustrations, I still went through this season’s crop of manifestos and here are my thoughts on each. As mentioned earlier, I switched to doing each review as an independent post and the links for those have already been published are below (unpublished reviews will be added to the list):

  1. NRM Manifesto Review:
  2. FDC Manifesto Review:
  3. NUP Manifesto Review:
  4. ANT Manifesto Review
  5. Joseph Kabuleta Manifesto Review
  6. Kalembe Nancy Linda Manifesto Review

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