1. Democracy and political governance
1.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Democracy and Governance
Governance and Democracy are critical tenets of development and the enjoyment of human rights, especially women’s rights. Democracy is a system through which all citizens have a right to participate in their governance from the national level, sub-national, right down to the family. The participation of women at all levels of decision making in every sphere of society is crucial. Substantive democracy cannot exist without the equal participation of women.
In a multiparty democracy, political parties provide space, offering alternative leadership and policy, thereby giving direction to the development agenda. Likewise political parties should provide spaces for women to build alternative leadership from the grassroots to national levels. Unfortunately the ratio of women to men in the public sphere does not reflect the population stratum of 51% women. Women make up 32% in parliament (mainly due to the creation of new districts each with a woman member of parliament). Traditional prejudices, rising levels of religious, economic, political and cultural fundamentalism, low literacy levels and systemic discrimination, affect women’s effective participation and enjoyment of democratic space. There is also evidence of lack of political will and the “trading off” of women’s issues by political parties and organisations, as well as the government.
1.2 Key Priority Areas Within the Thematic Pillar: Democracy and Governance
Constitutionalism, Rule of Law and Justice
Constitutionalism, the rule of law and justice are paramount in the fostering of democracy and good governance in every nation. In Uganda today the duty bearers called to promote these three tenets have been found wanting in the execution of their duties and in many instances are the perpetuators of injustice and the promoters of conflict and electoral related violence. Key questions arise regarding the impartiality of security organs and public officers such as RDCs, Ministers, District Chairpersons etc and their use of public resources for partisan purposes.
It is alarming to note that the institutions supposed to protect citizens’ rights are the ones violating them, with women as major victims. This further entrenches the marginalisation of women in politics and other spheres and has the potential to undermine the achievements registered to date. Incidences of unacceptable forms of gender based violence targeting women politicians, by state organs especially the Police and Para military groups has been commonplace since the 2006 multiparty elections. This further entrenches the marginalisation of women in politics and has the potential to undermine the achievements registered to date.
The appreciation of constitutionalism, the rule of law, the separation of powers, citizen’s rights, duties and obligations cannot be enriched in Ugandan society without continuous civic education. Sadly the people of Uganda lack an on-going comprehensive civic education programme educating them about democracy and governance. In the 2006 general elections, limited and sporadic civic education was undertaken regarding the multiparty system of politics which partially explains the apprehension towards multi-partyism.
Women in Leadership, Politics and Decision Making
Women’s participation in politics and decision making encompasses women in political parties; civil society, the public and private sector. There is wide acknowledgment of the increased numbers of women in public spaces however, women constitute 51% of Uganda’s population and the numbers in leadership positions in Uganda today, do not match the demographic gender representation. With multipartyism in its infancy, women’s participation is constrained by unequal opportunities within the party structures and the social system, which underrates women’s capacities. Currently the risk to women’s life and dignity in politics is higher than in the past, as many women are subjected to abuse and violence. Furthermore the gender stereotyping of women, leads to their “ghettoisation” in political parties and the electoral process, thus hindering their acquisition of key leadership positions.
The fundamental laws to ensure a credible electoral process are in existence however, there is need to ensure that implementation of the amended provisions is gender responsive. Similarly the Political Parties and Organisations Act 2005, provides for a Code of Conduct and a National Consultative Forum but neither were engendered to make provision for women’s concerns and gender parity.
Capacity of the Electoral Commission and Credibility of the Electoral Processes
Cross sections of stakeholders have in the recent past expressed lack of trust in the EC and questioned its impartiality. Furthermore, the Commission is largely perceived as lacking independence from the Executive. In addition, between elections and ahead of elections the work of the EC is highly constrained by inadequate and untimely resources: human, financial and infrastructure, which hinder the Commission from effectively fulfilling its mandate.
Sceptical of the countries’ ability to achieve free, transparent, fair and peaceful elections; a number of stakeholders including civil society, have been advocating for electoral reforms and changes in the composition of the Electoral Commission. Advocates had confrontations with the police, which resulted in the violation of rights to assembly, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to dignity. Some of the other concerns about the electoral process are: the legitimacy of electoral outcomes; irregularities in voter registration, voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, and media access during elections.
The nature and extent of corruption in Uganda, has been an issue of concern in governance as it affects delivery of services and negatively impacts the quality of life. As women in Uganda, corruption greatly affects the realisation of our needs and livelihoods.
Uganda has one of the strongest anti-corruption frameworks and mechanisms, which rank among the best in Africa. Government has made great strides in formulating the legal framework within which to fight corruption, with a total of ten laws and three bills. Work to harmonise all the laws, policies and institutions involved in the fight against corruption is on-going. The capacity of the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG), to implement the Leadership Code Act has been strengthened with trainings of IGG staff in forensics and investigative skills, among others. The Anti-corruption Court is now fully functional . These developments are a clear indication of Government’s commitment to combining legal measures, with institutional frameworks, in order to enhance transparency and accountability.
Paradoxically, the nature, extent and levels of corruption are alarmingly high at national and local levels. This has been attributed to the: lack of political will and commitment on the part of the government to implement recommendations of various anti-corruption agencies and commissions of inquiries; inadequate financial, human, technological and logistical capacities in the anti-corruption agencies; inherent weaknesses in public procurement; weak information management systems and public attitudes that tolerate corruption.
One other form of corruption according to a recent study by the World Bank is “quiet corruption”. This is where public servants fail to deliver services and government inputs, with their actions affecting the poor disproportionately and impacting long‐term consequences on development. Denied an education because of absentee teachers, children suffer in adulthood, with low cognitive skills. The absence of drugs and doctors results in unwanted deaths from malaria, childbirth related complications and other diseases, while the use of diluted fertilizers leads to crop failure, which results in low‐productivity agriculture . These levels of corruption largely affect women, the majority of whom are engaged in agriculture and are also the most frequent users of health facilities, being the care givers in families and the main beneficiaries of reproductive health services.
Decentralisation, Creation of New Districts and Administrative Structures
The bulk of women’s representation and participation in Uganda’s political public space is at local government levels. With decentralisation, more resources, power and leadership positions for citizen’s participation in governance, have been decentralised. This therefore is a strategic space that is crucial to garnering the numbers of women in decision-making positions.
At the local government levels, whereas the legal, policy and administrative frameworks for public participation in the monitoring and implementation of policies, plans and, programmes has been developed, the full and effective inclusion of women in their implementation continues to pose challenges. There are several challenges in garnering ownership of plans and programs especially: managing and absorbing public finances; corruption; abuse of office and the lack of capacity amongst the local and central governments to plan and budget for women’s strategic and practical needs beyond the International Women’s Day Celebrations at district levels.
The creation of new districts / administrative units is aimed at bringing services nearer to the people, increasing downward accountability and enhancing democratic governance. However, there are challenges, with the major one being the need to balance the rising cost of public administration and effective delivery of services. Currently the general perception amongst the public is that districts are being created to foster political clout and to gain Government favour among the population. It is unfortunate that this is being done as a means of political patronage rather than the provision of quality services and administration.
Inter and Intra Party Relations
In as far as inter-party relations are concerned; there is no mechanism yet to regulate intra as well as inter-party relations, discipline and conduct. The Code of Conduct for Political Parties is yet to be formulated.
Intra party relations have tended to be violent, marred with the failure to manage rowdy youth leagues. The 3 major political parties’ primaries have been marred with allegations of vote rigging, secretarianism, extreme violence, unethical conduct and character assassination. Related to this is the limited investment in building strong memberships from grassroots to national, regional and the Diaspora communities, that are able to appreciate the party ideals and hold each other accountable.
The ability of all the major political parties to fill positions freely and openly remains questionable, given capacity and resource constraints. For instance, the NRM Party faced tremendous challenges in organising primaries due to the huge number of positions available for the party to fill using adult suffrage. Likewise the FDC, DP and UPC Primaries for the Party Flag bearer were marred with violence and allegations of secretarianism, ageism, ethnicity, religious factions, and unending court battles challenging the legitimacy of the electoral processes and elected party flag bearers. As such therefore, the major political parties have been accused of violence, vote rigging, culminating into loss of trust, in the party electoral and nominations processes.
The intra and interparty dynamics have been disadvantageous to many women who: canvass wider constituencies compared to their male counterparts (those on affirmative action seats) or have to tussle it out with party “trade-offs” based on gender amidst fears of losing the positions in the general elections (women on open constituencies), as well as the monetary implications and loss of party memberships at the primaries.
The Change We Want to See
1. Gender parity (50/50) for all elective and appointive positions in parties, Local Government, Parliament, the Executive and other decision making structures
2. Review of the electoral process with key stakeholders after the 2011 elections:
- To re-think the composition of the EC and contribute to its re-constitution, in order to improve its legitimacy and credibility, and
- To explore alternative, fairer electoral systems e.g. Proportional Representation.
3. Women, Youth and PWDs councils re-aligned to the multi- party system
4. Amendment of the Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Act 2010, to ensure gender parity
5. Enactment of a code of conduct for political parties and organisations, integrating gender specific ethical issues
6. Resourcing and implementation of a comprehensive civic education programme that includes among others: democracy in a multiparty system and women’s rights
7. Implementation of existing laws such as: the Constitution, the Police Act, the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2010 and the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act 2010 and where gaps exist, enact relevant legislation to ensure violent free political processes
8. Implementation of punitive and compensatory measures, to address perpetrators and victims of election violence
9. Adherence to the law and human rights standards to ensure tolerance, dignity and respect, when engaging women in the electoral processes and the expeditious disbandment of para-military groups that undermine the rule of law
10. Ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union 2003 and the African Union Convention for the Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa 1977
11. A comprehensive gender review of all electoral legislation and other relevant laws to ensure the promotion of women’s full and meaningful participation
12. Enactment of the Whistleblowers Bill; the Witness Protection Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, to reinforce the fight against corruption.