FBUP Episode 007: The Politics of Patronage [Guest: Andrew Mwenda]
It’s election season in Uganda, and everybody’s excited. People are excited about going to vote – they want their voices to be heard. Voting is essential for democracy… we are told.
On the face of it, a country such as Uganda might meet all the traditional indicators of democracy such as relative press freedom, multiple political parties, regular elections, etc. On election day international observers will say the election seemed free and fair, and that there was no violence – and the world will get the impression that everything went well, and the election will be heralded as democracy in practice.
But then even after such an election, a lot of people, at the back of their minds, will still feel that something isn’t quite right. Yes, they keep voting, but things don’t get that much better than there were before, and again and again ‘free and fair elections’ will be held, their preferred candidate might even win, but all the problems that were there before persist with seemingly no long term solution to them. Of course, the politicians who win these elections will pay obligatory lip service to the concerns about corruption, but life just goes on, with corruption unabated.
What is going on?
In this episode of Fatboy Unplugged, I want to explore a concept which, in my opinion, best describes what is wrong with African politics, and why I don’t think democracy, practiced in its present form, can ever be the agent for social change that people want it to be. I feel that unless this little concept is given enough attention, and thoroughly addressed, Africans will vote, and vote, and vote, and vote till they get tired – but nothing will change.
And this concept is… Patronage.
Mwenda has written extensively on this very subject, and in this podcast he sheds some light on the problem, and how Uganda – and Africa – might be able to pull itself out of the quagmire that stems from this problem.
[Episode Duration: 55:50]