topical issues,politics and society

Month: May, 2011

Museveni to kill bail: A case of shooting one’s foot.

Just as we begin thinking that the government has finally listened to the peoples’ needs (going by Museveni’s first speech after being sworn in for his 6th term), we are entertained with yet another scene of drama. The government is said to be introducing yet more constitutional amendments. This has got nothing to do with food security. These are aimed at making it very hard, if not impossible for certain Ugandans to access their constitutional right to bail when they appear in court. Museveni’s intention is that people who are suspected of rape, murder and participating in demonstrations (riots) should not be able to apply and access bail until the mandatory days have passed. This will require that Article 23(6) of the constitution be amended to contain the new proposals. This will definitely call for repealing certain sections of especially the Trial on Indictments Act as well as the Magistrates Courts Act.

Meanwhile, the government has also drafted a bill (the Public Order Management Bill) which aims at making organizers of demonstrations to pay for losses suffered by the public during such demonstrations. The state Minister for Internal Affairs Matia Kasaija confirmed the fact that Museveni actually met NRM legislators of the incoming 9th Parliament over the matter. This bill will also contain clauses that require organizers of demonstrations to inform police at least one week before and to agree with the police on the routes and venues of such activities.  The proposed law will also empower the relevant minister to declare certain places out of bounds for precessions and demonstrations.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the news was not anger. Actually, it was far form human rights. I thought for a second: will our MPs be so stupid to make such amendments? Can’t they really see that making such laws will be nothing less than digging one’s grave? It actually reminded me of one gentleman called Grace Ibingira. What do our NRM legislators consider as a procession? Will it be only one involving members of the opposition? Can’t NRM supporters demonstrate against Besigye and company? And how will the law be applied in such a situation?

I tried to answer those questions but I remembered that I was inflicting a worthless headache on myself.  I will not write much. The proposals are still in infant stages. But I can bet my arm on this. If NRM legislators finally wake up to throw out such proposals, then I will certainly consider believing in miracles.

That said, I now would like to look at this from the legal, constitutional point of view. Does the Museveni understand the whole point behind the presumption of innocence?  What then will be the significance of Article 28 of the constitution? I personally consider access to bail as one of the ingredients of a fair hearing. And even if the law was legitimate, are the three proposed offences the worst the country is facing? What about corruption, torture? My humble opinion is that the proposed law is not in good faith and it should be challenged in the strongest ways possible. Even if it is not thrown out at debate or voting level (for obvious reasons), it must be challenged in the constitutional court after it has been passed into law.

I cannot accept a situation where the government makes laws, not out of necessity, but aimed at certain individuals in the country. Laws are supposed to be universal in nature. Secondly, I am not comfortable with putting too much power in the hands of ministers. These are political appointees who cannot say no to what the president says. Will there be that point of balance? Is there any likelihood that the minister can ever make a judgment that does not put the NRM to the advantage? Now, if his/her hands are tied, what will happen next? I see more fights between the government and the opposition politicians who look more than willing to act against the police and minister’s orders. Does it solve the problem? I say NO. What we need are not laws against peoples’ freedoms. We need a responsible government.  Period.

Now, my last word to the NRM legislators. The country watched you lie and change the constitution when you were bribed into scrapping the term limits. Your reports to parliament did not represent the peoples’ view-and you know that. You have gone ahead to pass laws according to the direction of the executive-the president in particular. You have not done your responsibility of checking the excesses of the executive. In short, you have put your party before the nation.  I will not say we are watching you because we have always watched you. That does not put you to shame anymore.  We just want to remind you that one who plays around with fire must not have a grass-thatched house.


Five more years of stagnation?

Five more years of stagnation?

Yesterday, the 12th of May 2011, marked yet another significant year of the Museveni/NRM rule over Uganda. Museveni was sworn in for his 6th term as president of Uganda. He now comfortably takes his place as one of the longest serving presidents in Africa- and even all over the world! While all the glamour was going on at Kololo Air Strip in Kampala, another (more) energetic and equally violent occasion was taking place just at Museveni backyard in Entebbe. To be more precise, it was the (final) return of Col. (Rtd) Dr. Kizza Besigye; Museveni’s worst nightmare. Let this be a topic for another day.

The gist of this article is mainly about the significance of yesterday’s occasion at Kololo. What does this mean for Uganda? Should Ugandans have any hope? Do we see any significant change for the future? What is the position and significance of the opposition especially after the poor performance in the 2011 general election? My discussion is going to rely heavily on the facts we have on ground, not academic ideology and the like.

Museveni has held the top job in Uganda for 25 years. The first 10 or about 15 years of his rule were convincingly full of progress, though not entirely clean. However, with political pressure mounting on him and his men, things got rather out of hand. This explains the very sharp difference between the 1986-2000 era and the post -2001 era. Many wounds have been created over the years, some healed and others deepened. This brings out the issue for today? What is Museveni going to do about the two societies that exist in Uganda? Because, it is evident that the political differences in Uganda are not created by the difference in ideology. It is far from that, even our own politicians do not really understand ideology. I then highly doubt that the common man downtown in Kiseka market really pays attention to political ideology. Look at our parties and try to figure out what their driving force is. You will get shocked to realize that there is none! This will perhaps help explain why our political leaders do not plan for the country at all. In Uganda, we just do things. Today it is Entandikwa, two years later, Prosperity for All and after barely 6 months, we launch Bona Bagagawale. After all those years, we see no results on the ground. That is the banana state we are!

Museveni has created two states within one. Those that have, and those that do not have. One will now want to ask: where in this world will you ever find an equal society? My answer is similar to yours: NO WHERE. But wait a minute. Does that justify social injustice in our society? Does that justify failure of a government to provide to most or even half of its citizens with basic needs? Does that justify impunity? Does that justify corruption and misuse of public funds? Does our similar answer justify institutional failure? Remember, we are not talking about any government, but a government that has been in power for 25 uninterrupted years. My answer to all these questions is therefore NO.

The biggest problem I see in Uganda in lack of political tolerance. Museveni, after being declared the winner of the last election, made a tough public statement to the effect that all he cared about are the 5 million citizens that voted for him. In other words, he does not feel like he is a leader of all the other citizens that support the opposition. That has been further evidenced by his attitude whenever there is an opposition uprising. Men are beaten, killed and locked up. Do you ever hear Museveni (as a responsible president) reign over his indiscipline men? I personally have never. The last time I heard him; he said that the CNN cameras that captured Besigye’s “unconstitutional” arrest were faulty!  These economic factors coupled with the visible intended political neglect have sharply divided up our society. We have those that feel happy with the current system. We however have the majority that is unhappy with the system. Now that looks like it’s normal. You cannot make everybody happy, so they say. Wait, this is not about unhappiness. It’s about bitterness. Many Ugandans feel cheated by the government. They pay very high taxes but they get a raw deal in return. Meanwhile, there is another group of people that get much more than they deserve. How is Museveni planning to reconcile these Ugandans? (that is if he plans so anyway…)  Ugandan politics is now driven by the desire to “protect”. Those that have much are ready to protect what they own at all costs, even if it means keeping all the wrong guys in power and positions of responsibility. Meanwhile, they have opened a political war against the majority that feel cheated by the system. The war has been joined by the NRM party. It fights alongside the few beneficiaries. It makes political sense of course.

But is this the kind of country we want? We are definitely sowing seeds of hatred amongst Ugandans. One day, people will wake up. What will Museveni tell his grandchildren? What shall we tell our children? It’s something worth thinking about.

Now let’s look at Museven’s “win” in the 2011 election. The electoral commission indicated that over about 12 million Ugandans registered to vote. That number did not escape debate. Out of the 12 million, Museveni managed to win about 5 million votes. Dr. Besigye came distant second with about 2 million votes. The rest shared the rest of the vote, which was less than a million. This means that about 4 million voters did not take part in the election. What is the significance of such a scenario? It is very important that we take note of the fact that Museveni, our current president got less that half of the total vote. And remember Uganda is now about 33 million, in terms of population. Now, if Museveni is going to concentrate on only 5 million Ugandans, where will the rest 25 million go? Who is their president?

I do not want to make predictions for the future. But our leaders (including opposition) surely must look beyond politics and power. We need leaders that will take us to the next level, and honestly 25 years is enough honeymoon. I personally do not see anything for Ugandans in the next five years. Museveni’s legal (but illegitimate) government is facing a crisis. It has a long task to prove to the population that it won an overwhelming majority in the last election. Why are they so desperate and paranoid? Why shoot the people that voted you into power? There must be a secret. As for the opposition, it’s now or never. The people want solutions not just noise and hullabaloos.

Then, to my dear Ugandans. Dr.Besigye is not a prophet. He is not Jesus. He is not going to fight alone. And even if he did manage to fight and succeed, he will forever feel cheated. Ugandans must lean to put their leaders to the accounting table. This is our country and we must fight for it. Otherwise, we are going to have first-class citizens and second-class citizens. I don’t know where you would like to belong.