Uganda Presidential debate

December 24, 2015

In a rare encounter, President Yoweri Museveni will face his top challengers former confidante Amama Mbabazi along with Dr Kizza Besigye in a Presidential debates ahead of the February 18 2016 presidential election.According to organisers, Inter-Religious Council of Uganda and Uganda Elders Forum, it will be the first time in Uganda’s history where aspiring Presidential election candidates will appear in a live television debate.Candidate are expected to share their insights into democracy, a commitment to ensuring the establishment of a clean government that conserves democracy and guarantees Ugandan’s welfare,fundamental rights of each Ugandan and abolish any form of discrimination.Uganda’s Council Forum said the country’s first ever live presidential debate will take place on January15, 2016, at Serena hotel in Kampala.The organisers said more people were aware of the importance for leaders to meet and speak with people from all levels of society.Indeed, Democracy is about listening to the people and taking concrete action.Organisers said that all eight presidential candidates have confirmed their participation in the debate.

But what should Ugandans expect from the Presidential debate? The communication styles of the eight candidates has similarities and differences that have been witnessed in public rallies since the campaigns kicked off. The similarity is that neither of the presidential candidates had strongly confident gestures when speaking. They all look calm and are under control and in addition, candidates have been working effortlessly in answering the issues Ugandans want to hear signalling good teamwork among the candidates.The differences though are worth deeper pondering. In the first round of the campaigns, candidates have different priorities regarding democracy, clean government and law enforcement, some have been speaking theoretically and normatively saying that democracy was a thing that should be maintained and developed, which could lead Ugandan voters following the candidates campaigns to feel like they were attending a lecture or seminar.Am confident to say Ugandan mainstream politicians have perfected what experts call high-context communication, which literally means communication that does not have prompt and immediate logical understanding in its message. Very few Ugandans understand what it truly means. Even those Ugandans attending those political rallies mean a listener must work hard to guess what the speaker really means with still no guarantee of certainty.

Kampala, the capital where the first ever Presidential debate will held
Kampala, the capital where the first ever Presidential debate will held

One candidate has spoken within a very low-level context in his rallies where listeners from all walks of life would understand what he meant when he said “democracy is listening to the Ugandan’s voices and doing what they promise”. The best way for Uganda to achieve this is through dialogue with the people in the slums, in the streets and in the traditional markets like Nakasero, Kikuubo, Kiseka among others where mostly ordinary people live. I think the Presidential debate will successfully help candidates redefine democracy within their own terms to accommodate the best interests and comprehension of ordinary Ugandan citizens. Candidates will also be expected to come up with their real personal experience in building clean and transparent governance,expectations and ideas that would be good for upholding good governance using electronic government (e-government) in procurement, taxation, permits and so on to avoid bribery and by transforming the recruitment system into an open-to-public auction system with a fit and proper test mechanism.One candidate has been claiming that the best way to combat corruption was by raising the salary of civil servants, the police, judges and others and has argued in his campaign rallies that Uganda civil servants were corrupt due to their low salary. Also, approaches to tackling poverty and unemployment will be discussed, along with how to create national unity as well as fostering economic development.

For Uganda’s undecided voters, they expected the live presidential debate organisers to formulate good questions, on urgent issues but at the same time the January 15 live debate shouldn’t resemble a strict classroom where the audience is continuously scolded for clapping. The debate should surpass the expectations of many Ugandans from Amama Mbabazi perceived humble image, to the extent that some regard the former Ugandan Prime Minister as a simpleton, morphed into that of a more confident figure to the ever-assured incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and the combatant Dr Kizza Besigye.It will be an opportunity to win over voters and good start for Ugandan democracy to what is shaping up to be a fierce competition.Ugandans have increasingly appreciated the importance of good communication skills, but in Serena conference centre the presidential debates will no doubt be stiff and tense. Uganda Presidential debate contenders will need to combine intellect, passion, being communicative, confidence and being relaxed. In short, they should give clear signs of their competence and authentic interest to serve as Uganda’s leaders.

Contador Harrison