Museveni’s political trust crisis: an Academic insight.

I, over the weekend was privileged to be a guest speaker at a students’ consortium at Uganda Christian University discussing the Uganda that students want. In my speech, was an item that rocked many students’ minds yet hard for their comprehension from the feedback I gathered and that was relevance of political trust.


If an independent research was to be conducted today to determine how much of the population actually trust in the Museveni administration, the results would be less than 30%: a figure Mr.Yoweri Museveni doubled in the 2011 presidential campaigns.

This largely is attributed to not only the massive corruption that has become a reality in the Ugandan polity but also the consistent way through which Museveni has come up to suppress debates that tend to discuss judicial and political matters affecting them and the country as a whole.

Of the 30% who will claim to trust and believe in the Museveni administration, 25 will be from the rural areas who don’t actually influence Government policy so they don’t really care what NRM or Museveni does for as long their cows come home, bananas ripen and maybe their children run 6 miles to a UPE school on daily basis carrying a hoe and a bunch or papyrus reeds.

The other 5% are those lost in oblivion not knowing whether NRM still has the optimum results for Uganda and if crossing would be a good idea or rather backing the wrong horse. The rest of the 70% are the “bakoowu” who without any hoot of a doubt know that the country has gone to the dogs mostly being students, workers, politicians, parents and other classes of people who feel pinches’ every time they foot bills resulting from a minister stealing from them and these are the tax payers.

Preamble: There is an ongoing debate in the academic literature about the level of political trust apolitical system requires in order to function in a satisfactory manner. Traditionally, the dominant view was that democracies need high levels of political trust as a form of diffuse support from the citizenry. Diffuse political trust can be considered as an essential resource to govern a society effectively (Easton 1965). In this context, Easton (1965, 96) argued that a political system distinguishes itself from all other social systems through its “capacity to make decisions for the society and the probability of their frequent acceptance by most members as authoritative”.

 This “frequent acceptance” of authoritative decisions depends on political trust. Trusting citizens are more likely to perceive political decisions more legitimate than distrusting citizens even if these decisions are unfavourable to their own particular interests (Rudolph & Evans 2005). Distrusting citizens, on the other hand, are more likely to calculate the costs and benefits of compliance and this might lead to free riding practices (Tyler 2006).As Gamson (1968, 127) states “if legitimacy is high, then there is a high potential for activating commitments and other, more costly forms of control may be avoided (…) a wide variety of unpleasant commitments may be accepted with good grace when there is a surplus of political trust (…)”.

The basic assumption in this stream of the literature, therefore, is that low levels of political trust and legitimacy will make it more difficult for political systems to implement authoritative rules on the regulation of society.

 I argued that people trust institutions when they perceive institutions trustworthy. Trustworthiness arises from the commitment and capacity of institutions, and it is shaped by the political context of institutional arrangements. In other words, citizens trust institutions when they believe that institutions are committed to and capable of fulfilling their trust, and their perceptions of institutions are conditioned by institutional arrangements.

To explore the political sources of political trust, I have used multilevel analyses with comparative data from East Asian societies and other countries. The statistical results highlight the significant effects of institutional settings and political performance. On the one hand, institutional features such as regime types, party systems, executive systems, and party allegiance that individuals are embedded in shape the way they trust institutions.



Even more importantly, declining political trust has played the central role in the demise of progressive public policy in the Uganda over the last two decades. My claim defies the conventional wisdom. In explaining why public policy has grown more conservative since the 1990s, pundits and political scientists alike tend to identify a conservative turn in public opinion as the cause.

However, little evidence exists to support this explanation. There remains constant and widespread support for big government in areas where most Ugandans benefit. For example, almost everyone wants to maintain or increase investment in the vast majority of government programs, such as Health, Social Security, education, highways, environmental protection, and the like. Had public opinion truly grown more conservative, support for these initiatives would have decreased because conservatives have a philosophical aversion to government.

 In my article is Mob justice an indication that the legal system in Uganda is a failure? I narrated incidents where masses have decided to take the law into their own hands because the judicial, system is not the most fair. Similarly, the 70% of Ugandans who distrust the government have had ways through which they express their distrust of the government all of which have been replied with enact ion of draconian laws to crack down on them for example the Public Order Management Act.

 Those of us who partake in writing in papers, speak on Radios and express our views publicly are the minority of the 70% because the sheer majorities are locked in their respective villages without access to such services so we hypothetically represent their view and opinions hence being their Members in Media (MMs).

Besides being the most important public deciders, we influence policy when we speak and write and that’s how democracy works. Democracy works when you have voice and when you use that voice to change policy regardless of how you use it, it still works top both you and your neighbours advantage.

We the writers and other media personalities use the simple method of a microphone and a pen which is also the most influential and that’s the tip of our voice. The Teachers of Uganda, Traders, Politicians also employ the radical strike and demonstration methodology which is given to them by the Constitution of Uganda and other Civil Society Organisations, Students and groups of people find means of projecting their voices to the highest tones respectively and the end result is arrest and torture ref: Black Monday Movement.

I’m not pro or anti demonstrations but if those involved feel it’s the only way through which their cries are loud enough to be heard then that’s how democracy works because in my professional opinion, the only language that the Museveni administration listens to lately are demonstrations, media and the gun so either of the three should scream out loud but let the gun come as means of last resort.


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