Political Parties

Political Parties. A political party is an association of persons whose major aim is to acquire state power.

In East Africa, parties formed included: Kenya African National Union (KANU), Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), Democratic Party (D.P) Uganda National Congress (UNC), and Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC).

Most of these parties were formed and dominated by educated Africans.

Why were political parties formed?

  • They were formed to fight for the independence of their respective countries.
  • They were also formed to demand greater African representation on the Legislative council.
  • Political parties wanted the extension of the voting franchise to the Africans since they had been denied the right to vote.
  • The rise of Pan-Africanism also drove Africans to form political parties because they wanted to rule themselves.
  • Political parties were also formed as a result of colonial rule and its evils like loss of land, forced labour, heavy taxation.
  • They were also formed to fight against European exploitation of African resources like land, labour and minerals.
  • The influence of the Second World War was also a factor in the formation of political parties as Africans who had fought in the war came back with the zeal to liberate fellow Africans.
  • Political parties were formed to fight for the release of imprisoned political prisoners like KANU was partly formed to fight for the release of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
  • Political parties were formed to act as vehicles (platforms or mouthpiece) for airing out African discontent against colonial rule.
  • The high levels of poverty and unemployment also forced ex-servicemen to form political parties e.g. General China.
  • The rise of African nationalism was also manifested (shown) through the formation of mass political parties.
  • Political parties were also formed to fight the discriminatory tendencies of the whites e.g. in education, health and employment.
  • Political parties were also formed to demand for the removal of restrictions on the cultivation of cash crops, trade and free movement.

The role/Achievements of Political Parties

  • They contributed to the achievement of independence in their respective countries.
  • Political parties fostered unity and brought different people and tribes together.
  • They contributed to the freeing of political prisoners like Jomo Kenyatta by KANU.
  • They enlightened and educated the masses about their rights in their respective countries.
  • They led to the recognition of their countries nationally and internationally.
  • Through boycotts, demonstrations and riots, they advocated for the participation of Africans in voting process.
  • They advocated for the equality of all races and the establishment of multi-racial governments.
  • They acted as platforms for explaining the colonial ills to the people especially in local languages that were understood by everyone.
  • Political parties contributed greatly to the development of infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals.
  • As a result of their pressure, Africans were able to get white collar jobs.
  • They contributed to the development of agriculture like the establishment of Busitema Agricultural College and Kibimba rice scheme in Uganda.
  • They contributed to the attainment of republican status by the East African states e.g. Uganda in 1963 and Kenya in 1965.
  • They led to the establishment of adult suffrage in East Africa.

Problems faced by the political parties

  • Tribal differences led to disunity which delayed independence e.g. D.P for Baganda and UPC for Northerners
  • Differences in political ideologies also led to power struggles e.g. UPC could not have the same plan with DP on how to achieve independence.
  • Differences in languages created the problem of language barrier i.e. Uganda lacked a national language which also created disunity.
  • Religious differences created disunity e.g. DP for Catholics and UPC for Protestants.
  • Imprisonment of Charismatic national leaders created power vacuum at the top.
  • Differences on how to achieve independence e.g. some wanted force and some wanted diplomacy.
  • Inferiority complex of Africans i.e. they underrated their potential to fight the whites.
  • Lack of funds to sustain their programmes made it difficult to spread awareness among the masses.
  • Foreign interferences e.g. political parties were always not allowed to freely carry out their work.
  • Some Africans collaborated with colonialists which weakened the work of political parties.
  • High level of illiteracy made it very difficult for the leaders to convince the local people.
  • Poor transport and communication to effectively spread ideas countrywide.
  • Lack of proper organization made it difficult to achieve independence quickly.
  • Nationalists mainly concentrated in urban areas and neglected the majority rural population.
  • British policy of divide and rule worsened the levels of tribalism and created tribal thinking.
  • The few educated Ugandans were comfortably employed in the gov’t civil service and could not join the independence struggles.