Synergy: The Missing Link in Uganda’s Political Parties

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Following the July 28th 2005 referendum which effectively restored the multiparty system of governance in Uganda, there was a rush to register political parties, especially in the run up to the first multi-party general election in over two decades due the following year.

Consequently, several political were registered with the country’s electoral body. As I write this post, there are twenty nine registered political parties in Uganda,

However, it has not been smooth sailing for these political parties. Acrimony, mistrust, intrigue, accusations and counter-accusations has characterized the modus operandi of these vehicles of political power transfer in the country.

free elections

Leaders of the different opposition political parties hold hands in show of solidarity in their campaign for free and fair elections in Uganda. The author believes that parties must internally unite their different talents if they are to make progress in causing change in the country.

Inside the opposition political parties, one of the sticky issues has been the approach to use to cause change in the country. Two groups have since emerged; the radicals and the moderates.

The radicals are those perceived to be combative, violent, hardliners and a very uncompromising lot who believe in the use of ANY means for dislodging the incumbent. They are always engaged in costly and blody street battles with the Police and the army. They are all over the media talking tough against the ruling party. Notable figures perceived to be in this category include; FDC founding President, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Budadiri East legislator Nandala Mafabi, Ingrid Turinawe, Youth Wingers Moses Byamugisha, Francis Mwijukye and Sam Mugumya. Others include embattled Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago, MP Betty Nambooze, MP Muwanga Kivumbi, CP President Asuman Basalirwa, MP Odonga Otto, NRM’s Ofwono Opondo, et al.

Conversely, there is the moderate lot–the group that believes in dialogue, institutionalized interventions and methodical approach to issues. These are the corporate-like types and they include; FDC President Gen. Mugisha Muntu, LoP Wafula Oguttu, UPC President Ambassador Olara Otunnu, Prof Joseph Bbosa, Amanya Mushega, Prof Ogenga Latigo, MP Alice Alaso, DP supremo Dr. Kawanga Ssemogerere, DP President Nobert Mao, MP Mathia Nsubuga, NRM’s Ruhakana Rugunda et al.

Because the first category easily appeals to the emotions and psyche of many people, their approach has always been applauded because it keeps the parties “alive” while the second category is always classifies as “government spies” sent to “kill” the parties.

This explains partly why, for example in the FDC, the Party President Gen. Muntu has not been embraced by sections of the party who acuse him of being “weak”. Even when he launched the party’s policy platform dubbed: “Uganda’s Leap Forward”, very few, if any “radical” members of the party have used their grassroots networks to popularize it. Instead, they focus on undermining Muntu’s leadership.

Similar incidents can be seen in the oldest parties UPC and DP.

So what should be done?

This brings me to the gist of this post:

A political party by definition is an Organization that typically seeks to attain and maintain political power within government, usually by participating in elections and grass root mobilization or protest actions. They espouse a common ideology with one goal. So basically, it’s a convergence of divergent people with a common interest.

From this definition, two words catch my attention; divergent and common interest.

Divergent connotes a tendency to of being different. In other words, people from various backgrounds—professional, upbringing, cultures, experience etc.       Common interest on the other hand means that there is that mutual or shared (not SAME) idea that rallies the different people together.

A winning team is made up of people who share a passion for a common, collective goal. They appreciate the reality that achieving that goal demands a high level of interdependency. They complement each other and when teams are working well, they create synergy.

Synergy is the force created by the working together of different parts or processes. It is the benefit derived from combining two or more talents so that the performance of that “cocktail” is higher than that of the sum of the individual talents.

The concept of Synergy is therefore that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. People with different personalities, academic backgrounds and approach to issues will bring perspectives to a problem and can spark exciting and dynamic solutions.

A political party needs full-time thinkers, people who are generally acceptable across the political divide; those that appeal to one’s opponents as well. A party needs people who can generate game-changing ideas that motivate everyone to embrace it.

At the same time, political parties also need the barefoot activists; those who act fearless and are ready to spend nights in filthy detention facilities. It needs those people who can demystify”boardroom-generated” ideas to my 88-year old grandmother in Kanyumu, Kumi District. These are the crowd pullers with a cultic following. They have their magic of working crowds, especially low class who out-number the elites when it comes to voting.

Can political parties think of creating an atmosphere where the “corporates” can be allowed to brainstorm on party platforms while the “militants” deliver that message to the masses?

Can parties to create an environment that accommodates all talents within them so that we are able to tap from the diverse and rich abilities that all of members can offer to the institution?

My humble view is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the moderates and radicals, the poor and rich, the literate and illiterate, the urban and rural folk plus all other classifications of members in a political party. The harsh reality is that all these classes of people exist in our society and constitute the membership of the various parties. All their votes count!

The task is making efforts towards appreciating and harnessing this diversity. The mentality of overrating one category over the others must be discouraged. It does only serves to weaken the parties.

To me, any political party planning to grow and make a meaningful contribution to the democratization of this country should be alert to these multiplicities and establish measures to that effect.

I rest my case!

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