Tuesday, November 18, 2008


African leaders must learn to accept defeat
There is a raging debate about how Africa and Uganda in particular will benefit from a new US administration headed by not only the first African-American but also a man with roots in the East African region, President-elect Barack Oboma.

This perspective is particularly important now, given the fact that the record low ratings of out- going US President George Bush, is a clear manifestation that unilateralism can’t work in the 21st Century. Rather, it’s the combined effort of the world community through globalisation that will bring peace and prosperity to the human race.

That’s why the antidote to this new reality is not about militarism and financial handouts in terms of aid from the generally democratic developed world to the largely undemocratic and less developed countries, but the attainment of good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights. Uganda can only partner with the new US government if we can guarantee good governance.

Already, President-elect Obama, has been quoted as saying that the problems facing Africa are more about leadership than financial.

It’s more about the willingness of African leaders respecting the opinions and decisions of the people they lead. Ultimately, this means that leaders, especially in Africa, have no option but to test their abilities to lead by holding regular, and free and fair elections and allowing voters their civil liberty and other constitutional freedoms like the right to associate and express their political ideas without fear of being haunted by the state.

This again requires that political campaigns and elections should be free of violence, especially the kind that is state-inspired and designed to intimidate voters. And once the people make their decisions using the ballot, their votes should count and not be stolen by the incumbents, who are not in the habit of giving up power peacefully .

The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy. Irrespective of all the bruising he suffered at the hands of a gifted orator Barack Obama, President Bush has promised to ensure that the transition to a new administration is smooth.

Never mind that Mr Obama spent all that time deriding Bush for “failed policies,” or mocking him for hiding in an “undisclosed location” because he was too unpopular to show up with his party’s own candidate Mr John McCain. African leaders must also learn to be gracious when beaten at the polls.

Obama’s opponent Mr McCain is one good example. He was the first to send out a congratulatory message and even told his supporters that whatever the politicians differences, they should put their country first and rally behind their new president- elect.

Last week, Mr Bush and his wife had the courtesy to invite the incoming chief executive Obama and his wife Ms Michelle Obama for pep talk at the seat of power, the White House. Mind you, these are politicians of two different brands from two different political parties.

Unfortunately for Uganda, it’s 46 years of independence and the country is still counting to a day when we shall witness a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another. But this is not to say that we can’t do it. The framers of our Constitution provided for the blue print for a legal and peaceful presidential transfer of power.

The question then is; do we have the courage as citizens to respect and uphold the provisions of our constitution that calls for democratic elections? Can we stand firm and say bye to election fraud? Do we have the ability to mobilise, vote and ensure that it counts? Yes. We Can.

Mr Sserwanga is a journalist and advocate

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