Is Political Dynasty a Threat to Democracy in Uganda

By Joseph Elunya
This story examines whether the rise in the number of dynastic politicians in Uganda has a threat to democracy.
Dynasty politicians are those whose family members have also served in the same and related political position.
Notable dynasts in Uganda include; Miria Obote who succeeded her late husband Dr. Apollo Milton Obote as head of Uganda People’s Congress-UPC party. Her son Jimmy Akena is UPC party President elect and Member of Parliament for Lira Municipality.
Others on the list of political dynasties are Okello Oryem son of former President Tito Okello Lutwa the current Chwa County Member of Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs, President Yoweri Museveni whose wife Janet Museveni doubles as a Minister and Member of Parliament while their son Muhoozi Kainerugaba is the Commander of Special Forces.
Former President Yusuf Lule, whose son and daughter also served as Members of Parliament. MP Florence Nebanda who replaced her late sister Cerina Nebanda, Youthful MP Alengot who replaced her late father MP Oromait and MP John Ken Lukyamuzi and his daughter Susan Nakawuki.
Is Political Dynasty a Threat to Democracy?
Political dynasties can pose a threat to democracy by preventing people from communicating their real needs to Government as noted by Mendoza et al… (2013), political dynasties weaken existing governance and accountability mechanisms, to secure their positions.
Veteran politician Cecilia Ogwal agrees with Mendoza that political dynasties are indeed a threat to democracy. She argues that political dynasties bring mere change of guards and not the programs.
“People should be allowed to make their choice in electing a leader but in Uganda the beneficiaries of political dynasties manipulate people using money and this has kept people in bondage” she argues that political dynasty has made elections to be a mere show or rituals as people allegedly go for elections just for the sake of it.
According to Ogwal, democracy in Uganda has turned into political monarchy “right now they are trying to manipulate to change the age limit in the constitution to favor President Yoweri Museveni who will be contesting for re-election in 2016. This is outright rape of the constitution because after President Museveni his son Muhoozi will take over in 2021”. She exclaimed bitterly that it’s nonsensical to talk about democracy amidst such manipulations.
President Museveni has in the past said his son Muhoozi is not interested in politics but that he’s free to seek for a political office as his constitutional right.
Elly Twineyo Kamugisha author of ‘Why Africa Fails: The Case for Growth before Democracy’ like President Museveni argues that sons and daughters and close relatives of leaders should not be barred from “seeking political leadership in their land because it’s their right”.
Yusuf Mutembuli the vice President of Democratic Party in eastern Uganda agrees “We should be very careful because we may be targeting Museveni or Muhoozi now but it will catch up with us because in future our children or even grandchildren will be barred from political positions just because their grandparents served as Presidents or Members of Parliament” warns Mutembule.
For Mutembuli people should be allowed to contest for political positions regardless of their family background “It’s irrelevant to block someone because his father was once an MP or President. For me what is important is that, does he have the credentials to contest and do people believe in him to deliver once in office”.
“Political dynasty is good because these sons and daughters have grown up in leadership and their parents have instilled certain skills in them”. Mutembuli advises his friends in the opposition to think beyond Museveni and be prepared to face any candidate whether from a dynastic background or not. To him, a brand name alone is not enough to win an election unless people are coerced.
But as noted in Laband and Lentz (1985) dynastic politicians often enjoy two issues-campaign advantage and brand name advantage. This advantage provides them a considerable edge over comparable non-dynastic opponents.
“Family name is good even the bible says a good name is worth more than gold and silver” agrees MP Jimmy Akena a son of late former President Milton Obote.
Akena a beneficiary of political dynasty explained that the family name helped him to win the elections. He however adds that the way he packaged his election manifesto also played a role in his current two terms in Parliament.
“Yes the family name played a big role but I also made a pledge towards the peace process and even went personally to see Joseph Kony and as we speak now people have left the camps and have resettled back to their homes and these two factors will again make me win the 2016 elections” Akena is also a member in the influential Milton Obote Foundation.
What others say
“Political dynasty is a stabilizing factor in democracy if it’s anchored on pedigree. Certain families have traits in breeding leaders and not everyone can be good in leadership. If it’s based on family traits so be it but democracy must be observed”, noted Onapito Ekomoloit a veteran Ugandan Journalist who also formerly served as Amuria County Member of Parliament.
Onapito, who is now a regular guest on NTV’s fourth estate noted that one of the problems affecting democracy in Uganda is the “stop and start mode of politics”.
But political dynasties have long been present in democracies, raising concerns that inequality in the distribution of political power may reflect imperfections in the distribution of democratic representation.
Political power is self perpetuating as legislators who hold power for longer become more likely to have relatives entering parliament in future. Thus in politics power begets power.

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