It is a pity we don’t have many women stepping up to compete for the top job. After all, who wouldn’t like to see our version of Angela Merkel or Jacinda Arden – globally acclaimed heads of state whose countries have thrived and continue to thrive under their considerably competent leadership. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see many women competing for the presidency in this country. To make matters worse, those that do tend to be weak candidates that hardly capture the imagination and inspire the masses. Obviously, there are all sorts of gender-specific constraints that impede women’s progress in politics especially in this country (and on the continent in general) and those must be acknowledged and steps taken to dismantle them. Still, I long for the day we see a viable female candidate that goes head-to-head with the strongest male contenders. People usually talk about how women make up the bigger proportion of the population and how a woman would easily win if she managed to drum up their support as a block vote. Obviously, as Hilary Clinton proved when many women chose a serial philanderer over her, this is easier theorised than done. Though to be fair, being a man in the past 5 Ugandan presidential contests hasn’t seemed to help much either if your name wasn’t Yoweri.
Kalembe Nancy is the latest in the line of a handful of Ugandan female Presidential contenders. I only got to know about her when she announced her candidature and I suppose it was the same for many of the people that will be casting their votes next week. Similar to Joseph Kabuleta, she didn’t really make any public preparations for her run and neither does she appear to have any form of serious campaign team. But unlike JK, she didn’t have any serious name recognition or fame prior to her candidature. Or notoriety for that matter. Reviewing the manifesto of a politician or party you know nothing about isn’t really ideal – at least for me – because such reviews really don’t work well in a vacuum. Nevertheless, I did comb through it in a bid to try and understand what her candidature is all about.
The copy of the manifesto I got was meant to be printed as a booklet and so the initial impression while navigating it’s pages is just frustration. The booklet layout means continuously moving left/right in addition to up/down which isn’t ideal. I have decried the lack of medium-appropriate manifesto formats from all the camps and this one takes the biscuit. Maybe there is a differently formatted one out there – I was unable to locate any on her campaign’s website (https://www.nancykalembe.com).
Looking beyond the print layout, it is heartening that at least some effort was put into making the document pleasing to the eye. This was one of my major gripes with the NUP and JK manifestos. Granted, not everyone will be happy with the black/grayscale theme but further along the document, there are decent graphics and the typography is also good.
How about the content though? Unfortunately, it isn’t great given the office she is competing for. In my review of the NUP manifesto, I mentioned a tweep who had described it as a high school essay but I thought that was a little unfair. NUP’s manifesto has a lot of points but it lacks the kind of refinement that would weave them together to form a compelling narrative. On the other hand, while reading Nancy’s manifesto, I got the distinct sense that it wasn’t very different from what you’d get if you asked a bunch of average O-Level students to write short essays with a campaign slant on the following topics: Leadership, Arts & Sports, Faith, Media, Family, Economy and Education. Such essays would, no doubt, contain some reasonable sophisticated statements and sound arguments but viewed as a whole, each would probably be instantly recognizable as the work of a young student (in both tone and vocabulary as well as overall sophistication). Of course, I don’t mean to denigrate the talented students at that level who would produce masterpieces comparable to the best speech writers out there (such geniuses do exist!). As you may have deduced, the topics above represent the key areas presented in the document. Here below are screenshots of three of them: Arts & Sports, Faith and Family. Read and judge them for yourself:
It is a rather brave person who talks of “rethinking the girl-child obsession and cliches because every society needs strong men too” in a country where the girl-child continues to face the kind of massive hurdles that boys can never understand even if they share a roof. This particular statement actually reminded me of the tone-deaf “All Lives Matter” response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
As a result, there is not much to talk about this manifesto. Continuing would result in me describing it in a lot more uncharitable terms and that isn’t something I want to do. You may check it out yourself – it weighs in at 28 pages of which only 10 are reading content. The rest are either blanks or full page graphics (mostly pictures).
I approached this manifesto with great expectations and it was a letdown for me. On the other hand, this was definitely much better than candidates like the rest of the field whose manifestos are non-existent. I continue to long for the day where presidential contests will be a battle of ideas and manifestos will matter a lot more than they do now.