It has now become a common practice in Uganda that when a Member of Parliament dies, someone from the deceased’s family is chosen to replace him/her in Parliament. It is reported that the untimely death of the Busiro South Constituency, Kiwanuka Musisi back in 2005 set the trend after he was replaced by his son Joseph Balikudembe. ‘Political heirs’ are not limited to those that emerge after death, there are those merely fronted by their parents because they have achieved societal status and hope their spawn pick up the mantle. Consequently, over the years these ‘political heirs’ have sprung up with the most recent being the case of the late Honorable Namaganda, whose sister has been chosen to take her place as the Bukomansimbi woman MP and Hussein Kyanjo who is fronting his son Farouk Kyanjo to succeed him as MP for Makindye West Constituency.
Gone are the days when a Member of Parliament was the peoples’ choice. Families now front fronted their own and have succeeded by garnering sympathy votes from the constituents. This is especially the case in the event of death, it is no surprise that the replacements are tactically announced during funerals. At this point, the chances of a worthy opponent actually winning are reduced to slim to none. The chosen person doesn’t have to campaign with substance but rather shed a tear. The implications for this practice are quite diverse and it says a lot about the kind of politics are running in Uganda.
Refraining from taking into consideration the capability and aptitude of an individual set to represent an entire constituency in Parliament for five or more years is a recipe for disaster. MPs have roles for which they are sent to Parliament to accomplish and therefore, must desist from looking at these roles as jobs meant to make quick money. In such scenarios, the individuals are often accused of attempting to keep the hefty pay cheque in the family.
The state of democracy in our political parties is also put to question. in the cases of untimely death, it takes approximately a week before burial of a deceased MP and this is because the body has to lie in State otherwise it would take less, all this putting into consideration our Muslim counterparts. What time does the party sit to make such important decisions like who represents them and in what capacity? Because it is an entire process of its own. It’s a clear indication that such individuals are handpicked based on sympathy and not ability.
Most times, what we expect from these protégés is that they should fit in their predecessors’ shoes. They swear to complete projects, to be upstanding citizens and promise all sorts of things but on a number of occasions do not follow through. A few examples to cite are, Jimmy Akena, the late Milton Obote’s son who is barely holding the Uganda People’s Congress Party together, something his father did well and Alengot, the then 19-year-old who after replacing her father, Honorable Oromait appears in the Hansard only a few times during the swearing in and voting on the Constitutional Amendment. Noteworthy is that, affected constituents can impeach this kind of representative, however, it is a cumbersome process that many decide not to go through with.
Although there is no legal ground to contest this practice we should acknowledge that such decisions are premised on selfishness and political positions should not be a birth right for just a few.