Sunday October 27 2013

Is history repeating itself?

By Ngaruye Ruhindi Boniface

Scholars have variously stated that history repeats itself. And others have said leaders learn nothing from history.

The enactment of the Public Order Management Bill 2011 by the Parliament of Uganda on August 6, 2013 is one of the best such examples.

About 46 years ago, in 1967, Milton Obote, the then president of Uganda faced a lot of resistance and demonstrations. There were many dissenting voices against the emerging trends of dictatorship. Obote had recently overthrown the government and sought to arrest the president Sir Edward Mutesa II who was forced to flee into exile when his palace was ferociously attacked by the Uganda Arm.

Obote had just declared himself executive president of Uganda. In a bid to ruthlessly deal with dissenters Obote hurriedly convened Parliament and tabled the Public Order and Security Bill 1967 which gave the President
Powers to issue detention orders without trial against persons who spoke against the growing dictatorial tendencies in his government.

The Bill was passed hurriedly without serious debate.

Having got the leeway to detain without recourse to courts of law since S.13 of the said Act provided that the detention orders issued under the said Act were not to be questioned in any Court Obote issued so many detention orders to such an extent that by 1969 Ugandans had become so desperate that one person attempted to kill the President.

Incensed by the assassination attempt Obote gagged the opposition further When he banned other political parties save his UPC and issued more detention orders such that by 1971 Luzira Prison was flooding with political detainees who had been detained under the Public Order and Security Act without trial.

Following the February 18, 2011 Presidential Elections, which the opposition, like the opposition in 1980, claimed were massively rigged, Kirunda Kivejinja the then third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs on April 29, 2011 came up with a law titled “the Public Order Management Bill”.
Like the 1967 Public Order and Security Act, the Public Order Management Bill seeks to gag dissenting views. The new law also has 17 sections.

So, will people obey this law or will they resort to acts of desperation?

Ngaruye Ruhindi Boniface is a lawyer.