A profile for future Uganda leaders

Disappointing political and economic performance of Uganda leaders since independence in 1962 has raised questions about the profile of future leaders. The leaders we have had so far have not passed the test in large part because we did not know them well or were imposed through coups and the guerrilla war.

Obote spent much of his time in Kenya. He came back to Uganda a few years before he formed the UPC in 1960 to contest elections in 1961 and 1962. Although his economic performance in the 1960s passed the test, the same cannot be said for political performance.

Ugandans had known Amin to be a rough individual militarily going by his record in Kenya in colonial days and his handling of the 1966 political crisis in Buganda. He became president in the 1970s through a military coup. He was never elected by the people of Uganda.

Museveni shot his way to power from the Luwero jungles through the barrel of the gun. He had worked for a few years as a government research assistant. And he has been with us since 1986.

The message coming through is that Ugandans did not have a chance to scrutinize the three leaders whose performance has not been satisfactory, raising questions about the profile of future leaders. Here are some preliminary proposals.

1. In non-hereditary societies good leaders evolve through individual public and private service. People observe them and their families, listen to them and read what they have written. In England, the creation of a cabinet of ministers led by the prime minister was designed to compensate for the shortcomings of monarchs. Picking someone to lead because he or she comes from this family, that region or that religion is the wrong way of selecting leaders.

2. Leaders must exhibit political determination and moral courage to govern in the interest of all. They must also by extension put the interest of the people ahead of anything else – personal or foreign interests. They must be trans-ethnic and religious tolerant. Above all, they must have the courage to de-politicize security forces. Security forces must be professional and serve any government in power.

3. From now on, the people of Uganda should take a keen interest in what their potential leaders do and say so that the people themselves should identify them. Potential leaders should desist from buying political positions. Once in power leaders should be transparent and accountable to the people.

4. Political leaders should not make politics a career. To check against this habit, term limits should be fixed for all political positions from the lowest to the highest level.

5. The people of Uganda must make it clear that they have entered into a contract with leaders. If the leaders do not deliver, they can be recalled or rejected at the next elections.

6. If the people allow themselves to be corrupted and the leaders do not perform well, then it is the fault of the people.

7. Above all, leader should selected on merit regardless of gender, ethnicity or age.