Nurturing Democracy: CSOs’ role in Uganda’s governance transformation

Uganda faces a complex web of challenges, from political uncertainty and economic stagnation to rising conflict risks at the local level.

President Yoweri Museveni’s growing authoritarianism and weak institutions exacerbate these issues, posing a threat to good governance and the rule of law.

An inexistant political succession plan, an inflated youth bulge, and an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries, including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Burundi, pose further risks.

The Crisis Group actively works to prevent local tensions from escalating into violence and urges Ugandan policymakers to embark on a democratic transition to avert political instability.

Uganda’s struggles are evident in the Transparency International 2022 corruption perceptions index, where it ranks 142 out of 180 countries.

Land-related fraud and corruption further compound the situation, with lengthy judicial processes intensifying social, economic, and political tensions.

The need for a more accountable and responsive government is critical to fostering democratic governance and reducing conflicts among various groups.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. Working alongside the government, CSOs aim to build and sustain a democratic, well-governed state that meets the needs of a growing population.

By advocating for transparency, accountability, and the inclusion of marginalised voices, CSOs contribute to creating a participatory style of governance that benefits all citizens.

CSOs actively work to broaden citizen participation, especially among women and youth, in both national and local governance.

Through programmes that connect these groups with mentors, internship opportunities, and campaign training, CSOs facilitate the inclusion of diverse voices, fostering a more representative political landscape.

Uganda’s struggle with transparency, accountability, and weak institutions remains a significant obstacle to good governance.

The Electoral Commission, for instance, has failed to control voter bribery, vote rigging, and spoilt ballot papers, giving contestants with money and power room to influence the voting process.

CSOs tirelessly work to build the capacity of the multi-party Parliament and local governments, enhancing their ability to provide public services and respond to citizen needs.

These efforts extend to collaborating with the judiciary, contributing to judicial independence, and partnering with civil society to strengthen human rights advocacy and media freedoms.

CSOs also play a vital role in local development planning, empowering citizens to actively participate in the formulation of policies and laws. Through training and civic education, CSOs enhance the capacity of both government and non-governmental actors to effectively inform, engage, and advocate for positive change.

In Arua, for instance, civil society advocacy led to the establishment of a new food security and nutrition ordinance.

While Uganda grapples with electoral challenges such as voter bribery and vote rigging, CSOs work to empower citizens with knowledge crucial to political participation.

Civic education programmes emphasise the importance of voting for leaders who genuinely serve the public interest, countering the influence of wealth in elections.

CSOs operate as watchdogs, monitoring committees, and advocates for human rights, constituency needs, and against government deficiencies.

Their contributions extend to mediating and resolving conflicts, fostering social innovation, and influencing government policies through lobbying for change.

CSOs serve as important catalysts for positive change in Uganda’s governance landscape.

Their relentless efforts to promote inclusivity, transparency, and accountability contribute to building a more democratic and responsive government, ultimately fostering a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Mob: +256 786198556 / +256 759753498

The writer is a Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at the Mid-Western Region Anti-Corruption Coalition (MIRAC)

3 replies on “Nurturing Democracy: CSOs’ role in Uganda’s governance transformation”

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