Pulse Next Big Star: Meet Jordan Tumwesigye, Transforming Debate Culture in Uganda

Debate as a concept is as old as humanity, modern debate however is said to have been at its peak in the late 18th century in what scholars termed as the age of enlightenment. In Uganda, each one of us can trace encounters of debate from our lower education levels all through the education system to university.

One Pulser that will perhaps cherish debate forever is Jordan Tumwesigye, a young lawyer in Kampala. Having been a passionate debater all through his childhood, Tumwesigye was to finally see his eloquence and passion pay off in 2010 when he was announced as the Best Speaker in the 2010 National School’s Debate championship.

Then a younger chap in S.3 from Mbarara High School, Tumwesigye rather unsuccessfully (for his team) argued that Parliament needed more youth representatives because the special interest group constituted over 60% of the population. The show off was at the National Debate Championship final where his school was facing King’s College Budo for the national crown under the motion, “Is there need for more Youth MPs?”

Like I love to say, Tumwesigye lost the battle but won the war. And from then he has never looked back. He was to later join Makerere University for a Bachelor of Law degree and later complete his bar course at the Law Development Centre (LDC).

Almost an accomplished Advocate now, his love for debate has never withered. It is in fact what prompted him and colleagues to form Debate Society Uganda (DSU) which is majorly a youth based organisation committed to improving Debate culture in Uganda.

“Our journey to form Debate Society Uganda started with informal meetings we held with a group of people we called debate alumni. These were people who had debated while in secondary school and had now crossed over to the university.” Tumwesigye told MTN Pulse in an interview.

According to him, the group wanted to contribute more to debate by veering away from insistence on technical details to instead build critical thinking and focus mainly on a values based system where thorough argumentation would be the core focus.

Tumwesigye (ninth from left) and colleagues of DSU.

“All of us wanted to contribute to a better debate culture. We felt that debate had to go beyond handing accolades to the winning schools and students, it had to be an experience. Most of us remembered how the debate experiences we had in secondary school shaped the people we were becoming.” He added.

Barely two years old, the group has partly actualized their dream. They secured a number of partners who share in their vision and last year, they organised their first ever Uganda Schools Debate Championship (USDC) after the regional championships all across the country.

Tumwesigye acknowledges that they face hindrances but the biggest challenge is the mentality among sections of the public that they seek to compete with already established debate entities and organizations which according to him is very far away from the truth. He says it is because of that thinking that many people have misunderstood what they want to do with debate.

“We have made it very clear that Uganda is already too big for the few organisations and yet the work to be done is huge. Our future plans are hinged around improving the debate culture in the country and with our team of dedicated volunteers, we hope to establish a debate centres of excellence across the country. We also hope that we can be able to develop feasible strategies to enhance debate through bench marking from our global debate partners.” Tumwesigye concluded.

Pulse Birthdays: Debate Maestro Jordan Tumwesigye Celebrates his birthday today

Been keenly following the NBS Schools Debate championship? Then you already have noticed Jordan Tumwesigye on the panel of Judges.

A national debate champion and best orator while still at Mbarara High School in western Uganda, Tumwesigye proceeded to pursue a bachelor’s degree in law at Makerere University from where he graduated in January earlier this year.

Currently, he is stationed at Kagugube based Law Development Centre (LDC) where he is pursuing a post graduate diploma in legal practice to enable him practice his profession in courts of law.

A self professed MTN Pulser, Tumwesigye has on several occasions used his Twitter handle (@JTumwesigye) to tell his awesome experience with MTN Pulse and the entire network in general. We wish him a lovely birthday today!

Jordan posing for a photo on his graduation day.

Pulse Leadership: The Machiavellian Principles Of Leadership And Lessons Pulsers Can Borrow

I find it difficult to discuss the concept of leadership without including the notion of power because the attainment of leadership presupposes the wielding of power. Power in this case can be actual or inapparent, depending on how one looks at it. Be that as it may, society mainly perceives leadership as virtuous and power as its villainous sibling. I find it necessary to point out the similarities between the two concepts because that informs the discussion at hand.

Political theorist Niccoló Machiavelli in his political treatise The Prince attempts to find a discrepancy between two groups of people which he terms as the “great” and the “people”. He explains that the “great” seek to exploit and oppress the “people” who in turn loathe the “great” and resist being exploited and oppressed. Machiavelli then states that a compromise is reached when the two groups assign a leader who can be popular to the people while the great benefit. This leader is called “the prince” throughout the exposition Machiavelli wrote this text some 486 years ago and yet its applicability and relevance to today’s society is astonishing. This text of the treatise highlights the key components of good leadership.

A good leader is a unifier who seeks to bring different factions and opposing ideologies under one umbrella for the good of the society that he or she leads. Leaders usually take the reins of power after hotly contested elections that threatens to spill over into full blown hatred. The immediate role of a leader after the polls is to bring the two sides of the divide together. This makes their work easier since they are leading one united front. From the analogy of the society with the prince, the two antagonistic sides cannot move forward until there is a compromise agreed. As Machiavelli states, this is in the form of someone who is agreeable to the “people” and also affable to the “great”. Therefore, a leader has to use this position to forge unity.

Next, a true leader is one who is able to find a compromise. The prince alluded to in Machiavelli’s masterpiece has to find a compromise between the differing interests and be able to broker a workable compromise. A leader who is able to do this is not only perceived as wise but visionary too. My experience with student leadership has taught me that society is composed of different schools of thought and as a leader it has been my mandate to harmonise the same.

Listening is a trait that is fast vanishing from our societies. In an era characterised by intolerance and inconsideration of people’s opinions, it is hardly surprising that leaders tend to shut down people who hold divergent views from their own. The danger with listening to only one side is that a leader only chooses from a narrow point of view, which may prove incurable to their leadership credentials. Instead, leaders should listen carefully to both sides in order to make informed decisions.

Leaders ought to be transparent and accountable to those that they lead. I like to think that transparency endears the leader to the people. Transparency is not about reporting achievements but stating the weaknesses and suggesting solutions on how to strengthen the weak areas. During my tenure as Makerere Law Society president, I introduced something known as the State of the Society address whereby I gave accounts of what my regime had done over the preceding twelve months. I was aware that my leadership did not fulfil some of the campaign promises we made but I was strengthened by the fact that I reported to the people with justifications as to why we were not able to achieve as promised. Leaders must make it a point to account and report back to the people they lead. They must place themselves before the court of public opinion in judgment.

Lastly, leaders have to be models and have to conduct themselves that way. Their conduct must be indicative of what they wish their society to look like. I always beam with pride when former students of Mbarara High School, where I was Head Prefect, tell me they are what they are because I inspired it. There is no greater honour for me, to be honest. Yet I also know that if I had conducted myself in a different way, these people would not tell me of how they think I impacted their lives. I have watched on in shock as leaders have demanded for better observance of time management when they are not punctual. The importance of a leader who conducts himself professionally in a bid to act as a model to the rest cannot be overstated.

I wish to ask all my youthful friends to interest themselves in leadership. There is a big leadership vacuum in the country which can only be taken up by the youth. Our quest to guide our nation in the direction we wish to see it starts now. I hope to share my leadership experience with MTN Pulsers with the hope that they shall be inspired to take on the leadership mantle. I joined Mbarara High School where I served as Information Prefect in my O’level and Head Prefect at HSc. During my O’level, I founded the Junior Debating Club to give the younger students a chance at debate. During my tenure I served in many other capacities including Deputy Editor of the school magazine and president of the Junior Debating Club. At University, I was elected president of the Makerere Law Society-the premier and most prominent students’ law society in Uganda. Despite all these portfolios, I have also exercised my leadership abilities when I did not wield positions of influence. Leadership is about causing meaningful impact whether or not you have a tag attached to your name.

I wish all of us the very best for the future.

Credit: Guest Article From Jordan Tumwesigye A renown Youth Leader.