In less than two years, Uganda will head to the polls. The grueling task of choosing – some will say selecting – who Uganda’s next president will be, will occupy the minds of nearly every citizen.
For some, the likely winner is already known. If you view elections as more than the process of dropping in the ballot and it being counted, you can be forgiven for being pessimistic about any different outcome outside the incumbent.
For others however, the election is ripe grounds for a revolution. On many occasions, the leading opposition candidate Kizza Besigye has argued that elections provide a ripe ground for a revolution. He has now been joined in that school of thought by singer cum legislator Robert Kyagulanyi.
There can be many arguments on whether Uganda needs a revolution. It depends, largely on where one falls on the political spectrum. The question is, can elections – in and of themselves – deliver a revolution?
A revolution, by dictionary definition, is the overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system. In reality, revolutions – particularly in Africa - are the substitute to established systems of capitalism using short term Marxist tactics and tendencies.
The key word in that definition is substitute.
The question to ask is, after power has changed hands, is it possible to create a new system or simply buttress the existing one?
Many so-called revolutions reconfigure the existing system changing only but periphery design problems but maintain – in essence – the system previous administrations ran.
Allow me use two examples; When the French revolution happened, the monarchy – which reigned and had control over economic assets, factors of production and social control – was overthrown in favor of a liberal/ republican democracy. The industrial working class powered the revolution and used it to gain extensive voting rights, property ownership rights and a seat at the table of government.
Society was reconfigured from feudal monarchism to liberal/republican democracy. The French revolution demonstrated that an election may not be a revolution but rather a small outcome in the grand scheme of a revolution.
Burkina Faso illustrates this point; the country’s most fundamental revolution, led by the Marxist Pan- African Thomas Sankara emerged from a coup d’état. Thereafter, the state was reconfigured into a socialist, anti-imperialist vehicle that utilized citizens and their political and social growth as the most potent weapon in their development.
Land - an important factor of production - had been nationalized and realigned from the bourgeoisie to the serfs. Subsequently, by the time of Sankara’s death, production of the country had sky rocketed to food self-sufficiency, a road network had been established from the works and hands of citizens, over 350 health centres had been constructed in communities, education had been democratized and reformed, forced marriages, polygamy and female genital mutilation had all been outlawed – all without foreign aid.
These stories of revolution then beg the question, does any of the opposition leaders running in this coming election intend on a revolution? Or is the goal merely to substitute the incumbent and his policies?
My unconventional thought is that all candidates promising a revolution must familiarize themselves with the social fabric and economy of the citizens of this country for it is there that the radical and much needed revolution – in ownership of land, access to capital, rejection of foreign aid and borrowing, education of the masses – is brewing.
More often than not, an election is just a mere calendar event, a contest between candidates - for no one in particular.