Sunday January 26 2014

The enigma of NRM nearly three decades in power

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

The new principles, methods of governance and retention of political power in Uganda has increasingly become an enigma for most Ugandans.

When it eventually became obvious and judicially noticed that the NRMO party was no longer interested in fighting corruption and other evils of misgovernance, its leadership devised tricks and laws to protect itself against opposition and condemnation. The NRMO leadership manipulated the electoral law in its favour.

The same leadership ensured that the country’s electoral laws and procedures were manipulated and corrupted in its favour. The party leadership adopted policies and schemes to ensure that its new brand of governance would endure against others whether similarly afflicted or not.

To ensure that its unqualified or corrupt candidates enter and remain in Parliament, the party passed a law which provided that even if a candidate was found guilty of a crime he or she would appeal and then remain in and continue participating in the affairs of Parliament so long as the appeal was pending.

In order to ensure that such appeals would not be heard quickly, the Executive refused to appoint additional judges and when pressed, appointed NRMO party cadres of questionable integrity and courage. One would have thought that this same principle would be applied to other cases but sadly not so. Contrast, the way this law applies to his Worship Erias Lukwago, the Mayor of Kampala Capital City of Uganda. His is an elective office. He was duly elected by the voters of Kampala. The law provides that unless he is convicted of a crime that disqualifies him, only his electorate can recall or reject him in subsequent elections.

The political error Lukwago made was to refuse to crawl to the NRM party leadership and stand as a mayoral candidate under its sponsorship. In the Uganda of today, it is a grave error of judgment for anyone to stand as an independent or to be sponsored by a party other than the NRMO party and win against a candidate or candidates sponsored or approved by the NRMO party leadership. Opposition candidates who win are declared enemies of the NRMO party and consequently of the Republic of Uganda.

Today, the NRMO party leadership includes a minister who once proved unreliable by publishing selectively highly confidential information in order to be regarded as a loyal cadre to the NRMO party. He is the one who is witch-hunting the Mayor of Kampala. He and the Government set up what the uncharitable call a kangaroo court presided over by an obsure judicial officer that most Ugandans had never heard of before. Her conduct of the so- called Lukwago Tribunal left a great deal to be desired as far as judicial acumen and propriety are concerned. She pronounced a verdict which everyone sadly expected.

Lukwago was found guilty of high crimes of administration and misjudgment and ordered to vacate office. The Mayor knowing that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, appealed immediately against the tribunal’s controversial verdict. The learned image of the High Court had no difficulty in pronouncing the tribunals’ findings unconstitutional and of no legal consequence. Kampala Minister Frank Tumwebaze feigned ignorance of the decision of the High Court and announced that his own decision to evict Mayor Lukwago from office would stand.

In free and democratic countries, Tumwebaze would be held to be in contempt of court and dragged to it by force to be purged of his sins. In Uganda, however, Tumwebaze stands to be rewarded and declared a hero of the NRMO party.
Since then, Lukwago has been persistently harassed, arrested and detained all accompanied by police brutality and beatings.

The courts have been incapacitated because for a long time now, Uganda has had neither a Chief Justice nor an acting Chief Justice. The only Judge who has been claiming, to be and exercising the functions of the Chief Justice is Justice Steven Kavuma who was appointed to that post by a private citizen, namely retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki who used a small chit of paper, an internal memo which one Justice of the Constitutional Court has erroneously called a handover report.

The chit was not an internal memo because retired Chief Justice Odoki wrote it long after he had vacated office. The claim by a learned Justice of the Constitutional Court that the chit was a handover report is the earliest joke of 1914. To call a chit with two or three sentences written on it a handover report cannot, by any stretch of imagination be described as a handover report.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.