Edited by Admin
By Matanda Abubaker


Uganda just went through an electoral cycle. ANT presented several candidates for the Presidency, Parliament, and Local Councils. According to the results released by the ‘Independent’ Electoral Commission, the party’s Presidential candidate garnered a paltry 0.65%, all the party’s candidates for Member of Parliament “lost”, while 1 LC. 5 Chairperson (Terego) and several Councillors made it. This lukewarm performance sent chills across the country, and lefts tongues wagging about the future of the party.  

The definition of democracy that seems to have gathered the greatest moss is Abraham Lincoln’s “A government of the people, by the people, for the people.” In short, we can say democracy is PEOPLE, period. Elections are therefore a major anchor of democracy because it is the most legitimate and effective way through which citizens directly determine who governs them, and how. To bring this home, this is the crux of Article 1 (4) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which states that, 

“The people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed, through regular, free and fair elections of their representatives or through referenda.” (Emphasis mine).

In this context, therefore, the underlying assumption is that through an election, individuals, and civic/political groups present their ideas/policy alternatives, and the people choose what they prefer and by doing so cede some of their power and resources to the elected leaders who then govern in accordance with the law and aspirations of the people. The debatable assumptions being that the ground is levelled for such contestation and participation, and that the people are free and informed enough to make the right choice and own the consequences of their choice. In Uganda, we know that none of these assumptions is true. The ground is not anywhere near levelled, and the population is not only civically inept but susceptible to intimidation and manipulation. 

Be that as it may, knowing that even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, a cohort of Ugandans with common ideas came together, and formed the Alliance for National transformation (ANT) which they gladly presented to Ugandans. Their common ideas being, among others:

  1. That since her independence, Uganda has not been able to get a leadership whose major tendency is progressive ideas, that govern based on values and ideals like integrity, respect and dignity, godliness, justice, equity and fairness, accountability, and zero tolerance to corruption etc. which would then spur a radical socioeconomic and political transformation.


  2. That majority of Ugandans are “good people” but who have been alienated from governance by a toxic political culture leaving the country in the hands of greedy, self-centered, irresponsible and excitable politicians thus frustrating Uganda’s socio-economic transformation and stunting her governance to a level where she has never had a peaceful transfer of presidential power since independence.


  3. That the “good” Ugandans can, and should be mobilized to join the party or any other progressive platform, to liberate the country from the state capture, and responsibly handle the transition. On this point, the goal of ANT is not merely to take power as an end but just as a means to radically transform the political culture - from the broken-individual-based system, to one that is institutional, systematic and value based.

This is what we presented to Ugandans, and the result was, to many, not a promising performance. Questions have thus emerged. Did Ugandans reject ANT and its ideas? Was the electoral process free and fair to warrant a basis for assessment? Is ANT’s approach to politics (values and institutions) not practical and applicable in Uganda? 

Stick with me.

Our answer is to all the three questions is NO! Majority of Ugandans never had the opportunity to make a choice in the elections and those who did, did not reject but rather reserved ANT. 

A background to ANT’s status and approach may be of use here. The party chooses a method of mobilization based on ideas, engagement, systems, organization, training, sensitization etc. This method is apparently harder, longer, slower, and sometimes frustrating. This is however borne out of the party’s belief that there is no short cut to transforming the political culture of a country. Uganda has attempted shortcuts severally and for almost sixty years, moved in circles. 

After its launch therefore, the party embarked on a process of identifying, training, and deploying leaders. This process was meant to run from the national to the village level. Party elections would then be held bottom up to create a substantive leadership. By the time of the rude interruption of COVID 19, this process had covered all the sub regions of Uganda, installing interim leadership in all the districts, and had embarked on counties covering about ten (10).

This meant that by the end of the total lock down, when the country entered election mode, the party had leadership only to the point of the districts. Being a party that believes in working through structures and institutions, an internal debate ensued on whether to participate in the 2021 elections. One group argued that the party was not ready to participate in the elections and therefore should not. Some proposed that the party would perhaps simply support opposition efforts without being at the front line. On the other hand, other members argued that as a political party – especially one proposing a radical shift in the politics, regardless of how much ground covered, we were duty bound to participate in the elections since the country is desperate for meaningful change, and then depending on the results, carry on with the structure building effort. 

The latter group carried the day. We, however, knew that we were entering the election handicapped against a regime that is brutal, and barbaric, a population that is disempowered and disenfranchised, and an incomplete internal process of organization and mobilization. With that background, the results of the 2021 elections were not a shock to the party and just a clarification of the toughness of the fight ahead. The party has resumed the efforts of building leadership and membership.

That is not all, however; it is also important to note that in our view, what just happened in Uganda cannot be described as a free and fair election. We hold that every successive election in Uganda since 1996 has been worse than the previous. Imagine an election where you are expected as Presidential candidate to meet only 200 people at a time with two months to cover the entire country. This would mean, by the end of the election, you can only meet about 10,000 people to make your case for something as important as the Presidency of a country of 45 million. This only means that for a party like ANT that works through a systematic process of engagement (rather than a wave for example), there was not even close to enough time to engage the electorate for a mandate. This is without inquiring into the violence, intimidation, bribery, electoral fraud, and manipulation that makes it impossible for the election to pass the test.

There are voices from the usual doom and naysayers always arguing that the proposition by ANT of value-based, institution-based leadership is not practical. At least not in Uganda, they say. Many of these were quick to declare before the ANT was even launched that it was dead on arrival. They also felt vindicated after the 14th January 2021 elections that the party is a nonstarter. A friend who belongs to this category japed at me, “So, what is ANT going to do next? Register as an NGO?” He laughed away.



Let me clarify our position:

  1. We are aware that the kind of politics we are rooting for is not generally understood and/or practiced in Uganda yet. Therefore, we are proposing it in the first place. If it were the practice, or if we were comfortable with the status quo, we would not be in politics. Otherwise, I would have no business in politics. I am in politics because I believe that the nature of politics we have at play cannot lead to the transformation of the country. So, contrary to what some people think, we are not naïve, we are aware of the task before us and the shortcut that we deliberately refuse to take. Therefore we say whether it takes a century, whether we die before seeing the fruits of our struggle, we are happy to initiate the mission of sanitizing Uganda’s politics.


  2. Many people agree that our proposition is the best shot Uganda has. They however, unlike us, think it is impossible, in Uganda and indeed anywhere, and yet some think progress will naturally occur someday. The foundation of our struggle as a party can captured in threefold beliefs; 


  1. That Uganda and Ugandans have capacity like all human beings to establish an effective and honest government, 


  2. That an effective and honest government, public order, and personal security cannot occur naturally but through a deliberate effort and fight by the citizens, and 


  3. That a cohort of Ugandans must keep advocating for and working for that until when it is manifested. We are happy to be cohort.

In summary therefore, whereas we would have wished to perform better, the performance we had was not a shock to us. We are sure of the righteousness of our mission and are merely resuming our mobilization efforts to empower Ugandans to reclaim their country and take charge of their destiny. We call upon whoever believes in our ideals to join the party and build a fairer, honest, and prosperous country for ourselves and posterity.

For God and my Country


The Writer is the interim National Youth Coordinator,

Alliance for National Transformation (ANT)

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