The issue of good governance is taking center stage at the African Union summit in Sham el-Sheikh, Egypt particularly because of Zimbabwe’s just concluded controversial run-off election. The democratic and economic evaluations of Nigeria and Uganda under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) were presented at the AU summit.
African countries voluntarily accede to the APRM with the hope of enhancing progress in governance, democracy, and economic development.
The head of the Nigeria assessment report, Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat of Kenya says some of the challenges facing Nigeria are corruption and the management of diversity and federalism. He says Nigeria’s good practices included the country’s efforts in stabilizing West and other parts of Africa.
Professor Adebayo Adedeji from Nigeria who headed the Uganda self-assessment report told VOA President Yoweri Museveni has transformed Uganda from a from a chaotic country soon after independence to a democratic society.
“Uganda became independent in 1962, and the first two decades thereafter were decades of conflict, bad governance. Then in 1986 a new government emerged led by (President) Museveni. And it has transformed the country in the past two decades. First there is law and order…secondly development has become sustainable. They have achieved an average rate over six percent per annum. Thirdly from being a military government, it has now become a democratically elected government and human rights are enjoyed by the people,” he said.
But critics of the Ugandan government said the country’s democratic transformation bas been moving in a reverse direction with President Museveni having enormous influence over the political system.
Adedeji said like all development transformations, there are challenges, including Uganda’s political parties, which he said need to be further developed in order to strengthen the democratic process. But he said there is no country in the world with a perfect democratic system.
“I said to you that if you take Uganda of 1962 to 1986 where there was chaos, where Uganda which used to be called the pearl of Africa became a country in disarray, where there was lack of law and order and governance was at its worse, and then 20 years later, we can talk about a democratic country, think that is the important thing because if this could achieve that kind of transformation in two decades what it needs is to continue to sustain it, and there is no doubt that two decades from now some of the weaknesses we are talking about would be removed,” Adedeji said.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye told VOA the Uganda Self-Assessment Report does not include the main concerns of the opposition, including for example the role of the electoral commission whose members he said are tools of President Museveni. Besigye also expressed concern about the role of the military, which he said has become intertwined with the democratic process.
Adedeji hoped Mr. Besigye would first read the entire report before criticizing it, adding that the review panel mentioned the electoral commission as one of the challenges confronting the Ugandan democratic process.
“We took the electoral commission and identified the imperfections and suggested some reforms. We noted how the multi-party system can become strengthened, enhanced and effective. We said in the report that the people of Uganda must look into the way in which the electoral commission is composed and that in doing this, they should take the lead from the way judges are appointed. The electoral commission in Uganda as indeed in most other countries of the world is nominated by the government and approved by parliament. And we have said in the African context, this should be looked into,” Adedeji said.
He said the review panel recommended that the electoral process must be made as independent as possible so that ordinary Africans regard the electoral commission as an independent institution that is not being used by the government.