Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Multiparty Politics At Makerere University: Impact On Gender Equality And Student Welfare

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; LLB Student–Mak.]
bsaint3@gmail.com; www.bbbakampa.blogspot.com

2010

1.0 Introduction

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King, Jr

Multiparty politics [1] denotes a system of government where there are several groups of persons united in policy and opinion, in support of a cause. It is a political dispensation characterized by competing groups professing different political views in their quest for political power. In 2005, Ugandans voted for the return of multiparty politics in a referendum, after almost 20 years of no party rule under the then Movement political system.

Gender [2] equality refers to the measurable equal representation of women and men. [3] It doesn’t imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment. The importance of gender equality is highlighted by its inclusion as one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals [4] that serve as a framework for halving poverty and improving lives.

The term “welfare”, ambiguous as it is, may be summarized to mean inter alia a condition of having good health, comfortable living and working conditions. [5]

According to Thorsten, [6] “Gender inequality is a problem…all over the world there is a power gap between men and women.” Thorsten attributes this to “…the patriarchal structure of the cultural background of every ethnicity, nation or people…” and all religious communities which give more power to men than to women.

In agreement with Thorsten, I proceed to examine the impact of multiparty politics on gender equality and student welfare at Makerere University. The main question is whether multiparty politics is the answer to the problem of gender inequality and enhancement of student welfare.

1.1 Multiparty politics and gender equality at Makerere University

“The human race is like a two winged bird; if one wing is not equal to the other, the bird will not fly properly,” Bahaullah.

My cherished belief is that political rights and political participation are one aspect of women’s empowerment and increasing women’s life quality. Political participation comprises all actions of people geared towards influencing the political system relevant to them.

Our Constitution [7] considers Uganda to be “a free and democratic society.” A free and democratic society is ruled by the people in an inclusive, participatory, representative, accountable and transparent manner. Equal participation of women as much as men is the measure of their equal value in a multiparty political system.

The gender identity in the mind of the majority is still that male students are better in politics than female students are. Thus if a female runs for election on the same post with a male, the chance for the male candidate is higher. [8] This fallacy is not only unfortunate but is also regrettable in an institution of higher learning hosting intellectuals. But the million dollar question is who is to blame for this anomaly?

According to Mr. Musangala Simon Peter, [9] a former Guild Presidential Aspirant running as an Independent candidate in the 2010/2011 academic year elections, women at Makerere University are to blame. “Ladies fear to associate with certain political parties,” he said. That even when it comes to voting, an overwhelming majority take into account irrelevant considerations like the handsomeness of the aspirants rather than the substance of their political party programmes, which should be the essence of competitive politics in a multiparty political dispensation.

Mr. Musangala’s assertions were vindicated by the responses I received from the leaders [10] of the various political parties’ branches operating at the University.

Mr. Akampurira Davis, the Chairperson of the National Resistance Movement (N.R.M.) Youth League, stated in similar terms that, “Girls are not much interested in political parties and their activities, so much so that even when it comes to voting, they usually consider the facial appeal of the candidates instead of the merits of their promises.” That the situation is so terrible, that more often than not, as a party, they have to mobilize girls through their boyfriends! The reason for this, he said, is because politics in this country is synonymous with violence which they (girls) fear and the belief that student leadership is hardly relevant anyway.

On his part, Mr. Enap Adim, [11] the Chairperson of Uganda Peoples’ Congress (U.P.C.), Makerere University Branch cum Speaker, Makerere Students’ Guild, 2010/2011, he stated strongly that, “Women have deliberately refused to participate in politics and leadership.” He argued that as a general rule, women don’t join struggles from the beginning, preferring to come on board only when there is a “seemingly success story”! Mr. Enap was convinced that, “Unless they change this mentality, they will always remain the fairer sex.” [12]

In order to appreciate the underlying concerns of the above submissions, attractive and forceful as they are, regard must be had to the justification for multiparty politics as far as the gender equality debate is concerned and ask whether this justification is bearing fruits.

Multiparty politics was thought or expected to inter alia, usher in an ideological shift (politically speaking) among the populace. Opponents of the no party system under the Movement political dispensation argued that the status quo hindered people’s adequate participation in their governance which essentially undermined their right of self-determination. [13]

If the above responses from the interviewees are anything to go by, then apparently the move to multiparty politics has not yet attained its rightful purpose, such that it is a deal gone bad. It is submitted however, that before one can reach such a conclusion, it is imperative to first inquire into the reason(s) why people bore these expectations.

Under the Movement political system, what mattered was individual merit. One’s personality and attributes is what endeared them to the electorate. But considering our patriarchal social structure which is inherently biased in favour of men, women were incapable of competing favourably with them. The proponents of multiparty politics believed that this could be overcome by opening the political space to allow different political parties to compete for political power, in the hope that they would offer a conducive platform on which special interest groups like women would base to explore the hitherto murky waters of political life. [14]

The question therefore is whether the political parties have done this in fact. In sofaras Makerere University is concerned, all the party officials [15] whom I had the pleasure and benefit to interview said that their parties had laid down quotas for women in their leadership structures.

Mr. Akampurira Davis (N.R.M.), said that his party has a Central Executive Committee of seven people of whom three are girls and that this is in addition to the women’s leagues in the various women’s halls of residence, while Mr. Enap Adim (U.P.C.), said that out of an executive committee of ten people, half are women. He however, hastened to state that, “But even getting the five was a struggle,” thereby emphasizing the disinterestedness of women in politics. [16]

When asked why there weren’t any women showing up to contest for general offices in the University, all the leaders, including Mr. Musangala, told me that there is only so much that a political party can do. The rest has to be borne by the individual. They were all unanimous that the role of a political party is to provide the basic minimum support upon which the members can build on to nurture their political prowess. “It would be demanding too much to expect that men will or ought to come out to raise the deliberately adamant women after opportunities have been generously availed for them to seize and utilize,” remarked Mr. Enap Adim.

At the end of the day, the answer to the question whether multiparty politics is the answer to the problem of gender inequality at Makerere University must be an objective one and basically in the affirmative––for the sole reason that in order to attain gender equality, the onus is on women to claim their rightful positions.

Like Mr. James Magode Ikuya has stated, “In human history, rights are not given or offered by human rulers; they are won in the crucible of a furious struggle by those who are deprived.” [17] Evidently, the various political parties in Uganda have women’s structures which the women should utilize to claim their entitlements so that the gender sensitive men can support them. And we are there––believe it.

Simply put, the point is that not only the input-orientation of politics and democracy constitute reasons for more gender equality but also the output-orientation of the same. Emphasis should be placed on both the de jure and de facto. Hannan [18] notes that, “…despite political recognition of the fundamental right of women and men to participate in political and public life, the gap between de jure and de facto equality in the area of power and decision-making remains wide.” This gap can only be filled when women rise to the occasion and embrace political leadership roles.

Fortunately, we are not short of inspirational figures in this respect. In 2006/2007 academic year, Uganda Young Democrat’s (U.Y.D.), Ms Suzan Abbo contested for and won the Guild Presidency. Whereas it may be debatable whether or not her win is attributable to her personality or her political inclination and backing, [19] what isn’t is the fact that she was a female who rose to the helm of student life here on a political party platform and defeated several other male contenders in a democratic election. In my opinion, Abbo’s win is sufficient testimony that multiparty politics has the potential to cause gender equality at Makerere University.

No political party worth its name can afford to ignore any special interest group–– lest it signs its own death warrant. [20] This enhances cordial relations between women and men realizing the need for complementary existence in their pursuit of political self preservation hence undermining the pillars of gender inequality as identified by Thorsten [21] i.e. patriarchy and negative religious influence. Therefore, multiparty politics will positively impact on gender equality at Makerere University.

1.2 Multiparty politics and student welfare at Makerere University

"In politics there are no perfectly safe courses; prudence consists in choosing the least dangerous ones,” Nicolo Machiavelli, in The Prince.

Before delving into a discussion on the impact of multiparty politics at Makerere University, it is only prudent that we first comprehend some of the welfare issues envisaged here. Roughly speaking, the term “welfare” may be understood to mean a condition of general comfort. [22]

Some of the student welfare issues involved in this university include the following–– [23]

(i) Quality of teaching and availability of scholastic materials; Makerere University being an academic institution, the cardinal reason why students are here is to study and acquire knowledge. And the reason why there are lecturers and other support staff is purposely to equip the students with the desired knowledge. To achieve these twin objectives, the concerned parties must be adequately facilitated to meet their expectations. For instance the lecturers and support staff should be paid deserving salaries that make their work attractive and the students availed the relevant and necessary reading materials for reference purposes. This includes internet access and other technology requisite for academic excellence.

(ii) Security; The security of students, members of staff and their properties is a matter of paramount importance especially in this era of rampant crime including global terrorism.

(iii) Feeding and accommodation; The quality and quantity of meals served to students in their halls of residences is of utmost importance to us. A long time ago, Napoleon Bonaparte noted that an army matches on its stomach, thereby realizing the vital role of food towards the welfare of combatants. As combatants in the academic struggle, students deserve decent meals befitting their status as such. Then, medical scientists maintain that healthy minds live in healthy bodies. I would candidly add that healthy bodies live in healthy environments and this concerns the issue of accommodation. The halls of residences and the general university environs ought to be kept tidy and habitable. Sanitation cannot be compromised lest disease outbreaks ensue.

(iv) Transport and communication; Mobility and accessibility within the University is highly necessary. Since the administration decided to ban public means of transport within the University, there is need for alternative means to be availed.

The correlation between multiparty politics and student welfare may be best understood by considering the influence of the former on inter-student interaction and ultimately gender relations.

In a bid to preserve themselves and overcome the usually unfriendly waves of change characteristic of multiparty democracy, political parties facilitate a complementary-living attitude among their members (more so regarding males and females) that inspires a culture of unity and harmony. [24] This is a strategy to garner as many votes as possible during elections. It is this sense of oneness and mutuality that catalyzes the spirit of and the need for gender equality, which consequently translates into enhanced student welfare.

At this point, the question is whether multipartism has yielded this complementary-living attitude. Judging from the responses I received from my interviewees, it seems that it hasn’t. All the student leaders were unanimous that multiparty politics had generally negatively impacted on student welfare.

Mr. Musangala Simon Peter submitted that since the advent of multipartism, student welfare issues at Makerere University were politicized to the detriment of common students. “Multiparty politics has divided the collective responsibility of students in terms of party lines,” he said. According to him, this has resulted into sacrificing pertinent welfare issues at the altar of political gain.

He cited the example of the tuition increment debate during H.E Okware Robert’s [25] term in office. Mr. Okware and his government were aligned to the Uganda Young Democrats (U.Y.D), a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. The idea of tuition increment, as proposed by the University administration, was a thorny issue in the student community and country generally, which even attracted the attention of the Head of State, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. He proposed a meeting with the student leaders to look into it. It is reported that there was a highly influential and radical U.Y.D. faction that didn’t want to negotiate with His Excellency the President, who subscribes to the N.R.M. party. How far this went is best known to the responsible parties and it isn’t for this essay to inquire into. What is common knowledge however, is that tuition was increased effective 2009/2010 academic year. Mr. Musangala says that the unnecessary disagreement between the U.Y.D. and N.R.M. is a clear example of political party interests superseding key student welfare issues.

While Mr. Akampurira Davis (N.R.M.) concedes that, “Guild Presidents play a big role in promoting students’ welfare,” he is nevertheless sceptical of this happening under the multiparty political dispensation. “Some administrators may sabotage otherwise good policies for political interests,” he said. In his opinion, “Multipartism has generally negatively impacted on student welfare.”

In response to the question why N.R.M. leadership was not seen taking part in the Makerere Students’ Guild [26] government-led demonstration in protest to the banning of public transport means within the University, Mr. Akampurira ostensibly said that “…this was due to consultation needs.”

Mr. Enap Adim (U.P.C.) said that he doesn’t see the relevance of political parties in student welfare being exhibited here. In his view, “…party leaders don’t value the role and significance of student welfare.” He cited for example, the recent death of a former student (awaiting graduation) at the swimming pool, saying that to the best of his knowledge, “…no party has even given a condolence message.” Not even his party has!

In reference to the strike at the beginning of this semester when members of staff refused to teach and laid down their tools, claiming arrears from the National Insurance Corporation (N.I.C.), Mr. Enap said that political parties didn’t deservedly highlight this on their agenda. That he himself approached Dr. Tanga Odoi, the Chairperson of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (M.U.A.S.A.) with a request to help students by calling off the strike, not as a party leader but as the Speaker of the Guild government.

At face value, the above findings go a long way to show that actually multiparty politics hasn’t impacted much (if any) on student welfare. In other words, that multipartism hasn’t yet fully nurtured the complementary-living attitude to the level of oneness and mutuality that is necessary to enhance student welfare. And if it has, then only to the extent of political party identity and activity without considering that welfare issues are actually bigger than political party interests.

Be that as it may, I am convinced that multiparty politics facilitates political participation of all and sundry and this is one aspect of increasing life’s quality. It provides a platform on which to articulate issues affecting us (men and women) for collective social action.

For many years, women were relegated to the periphery of socio-political activity. Whereas the Movement system should be commended for emancipating women from the periphery of socio-political activity, I am convinced that their relegation will dwindle further under the era of multiparty politics. So, there it is, female students’ welfare being transformed for the better.

The problem is that many people wrongly associate gender issues with radical feminism geared towards women subjugating men. Therefore, to find out how men benefit under this state of affairs, we have to consider the nexus between gender sensitivity in politics and social welfare; determinable through the influence that women’s participation in politics has on policy results.

Social scientists explain that women are often more trustworthy, peaceful and public-spirited than men. [27] The World Bank has reported thus, “We find that at the country level, higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption.” [28] It is submitted that this trust and commitment yields better service delivery which is what multipartism is all about. And this is how men stand to benefit here.

It follows therefore, that the question whether multiparty politics enhances student welfare must be answered in the affirmative, although this isn’t to say that we should turn a blind eye towards the apparent failures and shortcomings of the current multiparty political dispensation. But it must be noted and emphasized that for every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.

I believe multipartism encourages hard work in such a way that the different parties aim at attaining perfection by identifying weaknesses in the system. This activism, it is submitted, will go a long way to enhance student welfare at Makerere University. [29]

For that matter, it is important that we allow multipartism more time to develop for we cannot become champions overnight. [30] Hence the solution isn’t to ban multiparty politics at this great university but to iron out the loopholes which aren’t unique to us but are national issues as well. [31]

The million dollar question therefore, is to what extent should multiparty politics affect student welfare issues? I would say that it should only be to a small and reasonable extent where the essence of general good is not compromised. This is in recognition of the fact that multipartism thrives on alternative views and policies. But these shouldn’t water down our collective interests as students.

1.3 Conclusion

“I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians,” French Statesman.

In conclusion, I urge all progressive Makerereans to appreciate that gender identities belong to history. Let us overcome the gender identity in the mind of the majority that men are better than women and support gender equality because women are as much able as men are. Therefore, when they stand for elections, vote for them judging from their abilities. Political representation of women will be helpful to break down stereotypes and reasons for inequality. [32] The only difference between women and men is just a result of their respective behaviours––period. An equal world is a happy world.

Following from the above discussion, it is clear that gender equality has a huge impact on our welfare as students and this is something we cannot afford to compromise on. Our welfare is and should be a matter of paramount importance.

Robert Francis Kennedy counseled us to “…dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” Gender inequality at Makerere University is savagery that all of us should abate. The Academic Registrar’s Gender Mainstreaming Division programme deserves commendation for championing the fight against it. Thank you very much, G.M.D.

Notes and References

1. For purposes of this essay, this term may be used interchangeably with the term “multipartism”.

2. In simple terms, the word “gender” means the socially constructed roles of men and women.

3. As per the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

4. Goal Three: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.

5. See, A.S Hornby et al, OXFORD ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARY OF CURRENT ENGLISH, p. 994

6. Thorsten Nilges, GENDER INEQUALITY IN POLITICS, 2005.

7. Constitution Of The Republic Of Uganda, 1995, Article 43 (2) (c).

8. This explains why few females actively engage in competitive politics here. When they choose to, more often than not, they settle for positions of deputies. As if this isn’t bad enough, even where they have higher numbers like at the Faculty of Law where women constitute about 65% of the student population, the same minority mindset manifests there.

9. He is also a former Guild Representative Council (G.R.C.) member having represented Lumumba Hall.

10. It should be noted that all of them are males.

11. He was also a Guild Presidential Candidate last academic year i.e. 2010/2011.

12. Even acclaimed gender equality activists like Thorsten (see note 6 above) share this sentiment. Thorsten states that, “Generally women don’t participate as much as men…If they participate they use more non-conventional ways. They are more engaged in social movements and non-governmental organizations than in governments, parliaments or political parties.” This ‘fair’ attitude results from our patriarchal social structure construction which demands of females to be meek and submissive.

13. For instance, while speaking on Capital F.M’s political talk show, The Capital Gang, Mr. Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a prominent journalist turned politician, compared this system of governance to communism which he said tends to consider majority of the people to be “stupid” such that a select few individuals have to think for and on their behalf.

14. This was, arguably, in addition to the affirmative action policy accorded, legal backing by Articles 32 and 33 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution. A.33 (4) guarantees equal treatment of women and men “…in political, economic and social activities.” It is for this reason that there is a quota reserved for women at all leadership levels including Parliament.

15. Efforts to contact leaders of the other mainstream parties like F.D.C and D.P (U.Y.D) were futile.

16. Even in conferences of a political nature, it is usually a struggle to have women speak. In most cases, they are literally ‘forced’ to talk, all in the name of affirmative action.

17. This was in one of his periodic comments published in The Weekly Observer (a Ugandan local newspaper).

18. Carolyn Hannan, BEYOND BEIJING: TOWARDS GENDER EQUALITY IN POLITICS, 3rd March, 2005.

19. Mr. Musangala asserted and insisted that Ms Abbo’s victory was entirely due to her personality, averring that she was an orator as well as a social and charismatic person.

20. A.71 (b) of the Constitution prohibits parties from basing their membership on sex, religion or other sectional division.

21. See note 6.

22. Refer to note 5.

23. This list is neither exhaustive nor is it in any way intended to be.

24. Other than the affirmative action policy, it is precisely for this reason that political parties ensure equitable participation of women and men in their leadership structures as indicated earlier.

25. He was Guild President during the 2009/2010 academic year.

26. Currently, the MSG government is run by U.Y.D. under the leadership of H.E. Shaban Ssenkubuge. Whereas transport facilities are used by every student irrespective of political affiliation, the demonstration in question was largely a U.Y.D. loyalists dominated thing.

27. This view is fortified by my experience in the previous vacation during which time I conducted an inquiry among lawyers on whom they felt (regarding males and females) was better suited to replace the soon-to-retire Principal Judge and Deputy Chief Justice. All respondents were unanimous that it did not matter as experience has demonstrated that female judges are as good as male judges, if not better. In fact, women were complimented for being more trustworthy than men. See, Who Should Be Uganda’s Next Deputy Chief Justice, Principal Judge? www.bbbakampa.blogspot.com.

28. A 1999 Policy research report entitled, ARE WOMEN REALLY THE ‘FAIRER’ SEX? CORRUPTION AND WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT.

29. For instance, most (if not all) students, irrespective of their political affiliation have jointly rejected the proposed out-sourcing policy whereby they will have to buy food for themselves other than relying on meals prepared by the university. Due to intense pressure, the passing of this policy, unlike others before and after it, has failed.

30. Multipartism in Uganda is only five years old after spending almost 20 years in limbo under the Movement system.

31. But this isn’t necessarily to say that we should justify our failures using other people’s weaknesses.

32. Thorsten Nilges, see note 6.