ANALYSIS: Among a long list of promises made on air while for a weekly political talk show, one of the candidates vying for the seat of district chairman promised to establish a fully-fledged radio station so that the electorate in the district can be sensitized.
When probed further on the source of funding for such a multi-million project in a small district with meagre local revenues, emotions quickly overtook him and the rest of the debate degenerated into none issues. He accused the host of interfering with ‘his allocated time’.
From promising roads, bridges, schools, health centres etc., every candidate is promising ‘big’ changes once elected into the office; Most if not everyone is promising unity in their electoral areas.
Those that have been lucky enough to get the nod during past elections are attributing all the development projects in their electoral areas to themselves.
From my experience on the radio as a talk show host, it’s clear that many candidates are indeed promising heaven in their electoral areas.
However, I am among a long list of concerns perturbed by the standard of debate exhibited by some of the candidates because apart from the endless promises without clear source of funds, the quality of debate is so worrying.
Can you imagine a candidate calling his host naïve? Thinking he has immunity from arrest and prosecution if he dared say anything offensive in a radio station? What about calling immunity as impunity? How is a host supposed to moderate a show when panellists are this uninformed?
Well, I must quickly perhaps point out that my biggest worry is not the mess and ignorance candidates display on air because the radio people can always sort it out unless the hosts are equally uninformed. But my point is, if the candidates can go to a radio and make unsubstantiated promises and want to get away with it, what about the door to door campaigns? What are they saying in our homes?
Can they be held accountable after a period of time if the promises are not fulfilled? Are these promises within the mandates of the positions these candidates are vying for?
Rise of divisive politics
One of the dangers of the scientific campaigns is the possible rise of campaigns based on sectarian grounds of tribe, religion, etc.
In a recent press conference of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Arua city officials led by Hajj Hakim Moli, strong accusations were levelled against some individuals including mayoral candidate Mr Sam Wadri Nyakua and Arua city woman MP candidate Maureen Osoru among others.
The FDC officials accused the named politicians hailing mainly from Ayivu of playing politics of tribalism instead of ideas.
During the National Resistance Movement (NRM) primaries, such talk of tribalism was equally rife, Hajj Issa Kato, the Arua city interim mayor and Sam Nyakua, the district chairman were heard in a bitter verbal exchange at the tallying centre. On-lookers were stunned by the level of gross accusations of corruption against each other and the open tribal sentiments without remorse.
The FDC accusations were not independently verified by this publication but what if such is true? What if the scale is much higher than what is brought up by the FDC? What if there are more evils practiced by many candidates wooing the electorate in the campaigns?
Role play or personal donations?
The constitution and other relevant laws like the local government act stipulate the different roles of different politicians occupying different offices.
However, despite such clear outline in our country’s laws, a discussion on whether to elect leaders based on the roles they play as set by the law or their personal contribution to their electorate is making rounds.
For instance, there is a growing list of donated ambulances by MP’s or those intending to be to their electorate, Sarah Bakhit in Pakwach, Odria Yoke in Aringa South, Asiku Elly in Koboko North, Evelyn Anite in Koboko municipality, and Maureen Osoru in Arua, etc.
The benefactors of these donations have received praise and condemnation perhaps in equal measure for what should ideally be a good gesture of giving.
Those that oppose the ‘personal giving’s’ look at the donations as bribes intended to divert the voters’ attention from the real issues based on the roles of a Member of Parliament. They accuse the donor MPs of having no voice on the floor of Parliament.
But for the pro donation section, they argue that the MP’s personal donations have helped to fill a huge gap in social service delivery by the government and should be encouraged. Some opinions even point to Parliament as an arm of the government with diminishing powers as a result of excessive influence (read interference) from the executive.
Therefore the group would rather have a sleeping MP who donates part of the hefty salary to help the common man than having a vocal representative whose contribution in Parliament still amounts to nothing at the end.
The voter has a tough choice in this range of opinions but how civically empowered is the electorate for this task and can the people stand up to the candidates in the door to door campaigns?