There is a view that politics has tended to produce leaders who consider themselves entitled and smarter than the citizens and yet fail to deliver public duty.  This raises questions on how to get governments to do what the citizens expect them to do. Therefore, much effort is geared towards empowering ordinary people who are increasingly disaffected and disenfranchised from the political system to hold their leaders accountable. On the other hand, leaders need to inspire citizen trust – enough so that people can see their problems addressed. Definitely, leaders should be guided by values such as empathy, integrity, innovativeness and respect for diversity and the selfless pursuit of the common good. The Democratic Governance Facility reiterates that conducting targeted governance research, capacity building of local governance structures and advocacy at all leadership levels helps to strengthen and enhance responsive local governance systems.

TRAC FM asked radio listeners for their opinion on the performance of leaders; over the past 5 years, which Government representative has responded to your needs most? Their responses were

Infographic on the performance of leaders in the last 5 years

Poll results

1. LC3 (Sub-County) 29%
2. Member of Parliament (MP) 28%
3. District Women Representative to Parliament (MP) 24%
4. LC5 (District) 19%

Most (28.9%) respondents to the poll said that the LC3 responded to their needs most compared to the MP (27.7%), Women District Representative 3.8%) and LC5 leader (19.6%).

Most women chose the MP (32%), DWRP (26%), LC3 (24%) and LC5 (18%) respectively. The men selected LC3 (31%), MP (26%), LC5 (20%) and DWRP (23%).  

Regional results
The geographic differences are complex. Most respondents in Ankole (45%), Karamoja (33%) and Buganda (29%) chose the MP as the most responsive leader to their needs.

In West Nile (47%) and Tooro (36%) and Acholi (34%) most listeners chose the LC3 as the most responsive to their needs.

Respondents in Lango chose the DWRP (34%), Buganda (27%) and Teso (27%) as the most responsive to their needs. West Nile (16%) and Tooro (17%) selected DWRP for responding to their needs least.

LC3 responded to the citizen needs most in the poll. LC5 is revealed as the least responsive office to people's needs in the poll. There was a difference of 3.93% between those who selected MP and DWRP - indicating that the respondents looked at both leadership categories almost similarly in solving their needs. LC3 leaders were chosen as the most responsive to the people of West Nile, Tooro and Acholi sub regions. DWRP were seen as least responsive to peoples' needs in West Nile and Tooro.

Belinda of Action for Development says that respondents probably chose the LC3s because they are closest to them and there is a need for constant capacity building for the LC3 who solve everything from land to domestic disputes on the relevant laws and policies.

The poll results bring many questions to mind on the role of leaders and how they lead. For instance, why was the LC5 selected as the least responsive to citizen needs? Why is it that District Women Leaders in Parliament in Tooro and West Nile were seen as least responsive to peoples' needs?

TRAC FM partners at ACFODE advise on the need to put more effort into civic education especially on the roles and responsibilities of the different leaders. They urge for increased funding for LC3s; lobbying so that Women MPs to; 1) have smaller constituencies; 2) have their facilitation increased and; 3) call for gender parity with one male and one female representative for each constituency.

In the Ugandan setting, political leaders are expected to open their gates to strangers, engage constituents in small talk along the way, work beyond office hours and attend social events even if they may not want to. Leaders need to become more approachable and supportive to the people they lead. Particularly, DWRPs need to be more approachable without appearing weaker, and softer on empathy but harder on principle on the roles.

Certainly, more research will be required to fully understand the geographic patterns, but these differences are likely related to Executive influence and patronage. The regional disparities are also related to ways in which citizens have become accustomed to look up to the Member of Parliament as a provider of public goods despite their defined role by Parliament of Uganda. In terms of gender, results from Tooro and West Nile need to be examined further for inferences of cultural attitudes and behaviour towards women leaders.

In her 2017 article, The Act of Being an Approachable Female Leader - A Deliberate Undertaking or A Result of Personal Presence?, Lorrin White says that women leaders can do more to appear approachable and supportive. She narrates how a lady photographer sent her an image which she could use to demonstrate her lighter side of business. She concludes thus;

Whilst I might not ‘look’ approachable I do look and am fun, and whether a deliberate undertaking or a personal presence, surely the simplest message is people buy from people and we all like a smile – perhaps I simply need to do that a little more to demonstrate how much I enjoy what I do. After all, if it isn’t fun, and you can’t smile about it then that is something you do need to change.

Read the Voices of Change Campaign report

Written by Mohles Kalule Segululigamba