The members of the panel at the just concluded 8th Annual ULS Rule of Law Symposium held on 2nd October 2015: Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi (Moderator); Mr. Njonjo Mue; Ms. Lucy Ndungu; and Prof. Sabiti Makara
“Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water” - Mahatma Gandhi
Law is a creature of politics and as lawyers; we are a perfect fit for the Legislature because we are creatures of advocacy trained in navigating through legislation and policy. This gives us a head start in understanding how society works because our work involves advocating specific positions on behalf of our clients, similar to a politician's advocacy of a constituent's interests. If you are deliberating whether you should go for that seat in your constituency, this is to nudge you and say, go for it. This is not to ignore the legitimate causes of a general aloofness to politics within the legal profession – but we must be alive to the fact that, we require a healthy interrelationship between the law and politics. It is my sincere hope that we can get the number going up of lawyers joining Parliament to deliver a healthier interrelationship between the law and politics. Michael D. Bayles states that a legal order can be empirically dependent upon a political order, a view held by all people who believe that effectiveness is a necessary condition for existence of a legal system. Politics creates the Constitution, the Constitution establishes the fundamental structure of the state, and once the Constitution exists, constitutional law fundamentally restricts politics. Constitutional law sets the procedural framework for political activity.
Politics is defined as the practice and theory of influencing other people. It is a distinct form of social order in which persons might live together in peace and social solidarity within a single society and yet preserve the possibility of ongoing contestation about what actions that society might take. Chantal Mouffe (Political 20, 2005), argues that politics is a specific form of practice that is adopted when persons in a society agree to disagree. They disagree about what to do, but they agree that they belong to a community and that they will therefore use politics peacefully to settle differences among themselves. Members of a community seek to forge agreement about what to do under circumstances of disagreement. The practice of politics survives between war and law.
Robert Post (Theorizing Disagreement: Reconceiving the Relationship between Law and Politics, 2010) states that: if our disagreement becomes too intense, if we wish to exterminate each other rather than peaceably to live together, we cannot engage in the practice of politics. Alternatively, if we agree too much, if we cease normatively to value disagreement because we expect all to concur on common remedies for common problems, we also cannot engage in the practice of politics. If ever there were a natural unanimity of opinion in any society on all great issues, politics would, indeed, be unnecessary. In politics, the strive is for agreement under conditions in which it is expected that the persistence of disagreement will be protected.
The law is also perceived as a specific social practice expected to promote social solidarity. It functions as an instrument of social control that we invoke when we believe that we have reached agreement and when we wish to implement and entrench our presumed agreement. The trends in alternative dispute resolution are aimed at maintaining harmony within communities.
Law and politics are thus two distinct ways of managing the inevitable social facts of agreement and disagreement. The law requires politics to produce the shared standards that law enforces, whereas politics requires law to stabilize and entrench the shared values that politics strives to achieve. Law and politics should thus be conceived as distinct phases of a larger and more inclusive process of social integration by which modern dissimilar societies produce solidarity and control (see Robert Post).
As a lawyer, you are already equipped with advocacy, analytical and persuasion skills that will enable you to appreciate how the law is written, interpreted, and applied and to be alive to the application and different interpretations of policy within society, which is key to understanding the influence and limitations of politics.
Go make the law and politics work for the people of Uganda.
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