Sunday June 8 2014

When telling the truth causes hatred

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

In Uganda in the past, people who lied were hated and disciplined. Today, people who tell the truth are the ones hated.

This columnist is reputed to be amongst the latter category of Ugandans. My belief that all things being equal; truth, facts and the law at any given moment of our lives do not change, has often landed me in trouble when I publicly profess it.

A friend of mine was apparently so embarrassed by the truth of what I said about him that nowadays he counts me amongst his enemies.
A well-known Ugandan leader is reported to have said Kanyeihamba is a very good principled man but his utterances and writings spoil our politics. He will see me in company of others but not on my own alone.
At the recently held AGM of the Uganda Law Society, a member rose to protest that I was out of order when I attempted to talk about the failures of the outgoing Executive Council. Last year on the same occasion, there was total chaos during the elections of the Society’s office bearers partly because, incredibly, the Law Society has never drafted or adopted election regulations of its own and party.

On this occasion, I volunteered to draft and produce the regulations and the President was delighted about my offer but eventually she asked others to do so. My efforts to get guidelines from the Executive of the ULS Council throughout the year fell on deaf ears.

When this year’s AGM was imminent, the Society’s President herself took initiative and invited me to meet her at a restaurant and I gladly turned up on the agreed time. She never showed up. All my efforts to contact her on the telephone and obtain an explanation have failed.

However, on the eve of the ULS’s elections of the Executive Council, I accidentally met and asked her why she had stood me up. She rudely brushed me aside with the words “Not now Prof, Later”.

My recent calls to congratulate her on her re-election have not been answered. For many Ugandans leaders who hate the truth told publicly, if I want to contact them I have to use other people’s telephones if they are to respond.

At the AGM of the Law Society, a law firm produced a copy of a letter accusing the Society’s leadership of having embezzled funds. Every member who thought that the accusation was a serious matter and that should be investigated, was shouted down and branded a political agitator.

Those who chorused opposition to revelation of details of the alleged embezzlement were applauded and cheered. Those seeking the truth were branded publicly as traitors and supporters of homosexuals.

The latter was intended to decampaign a Presidential candidate who dared stand against the preferred leader sponsored by an invisible group.

It was sad that when it came to the actual elections, that other candidate was abandoned by many lawyers on the malicious rumour of the supporters of the incumbent president that he was a homosexual simply because he was reported in the media as defending the rights of the gay people.

None of these unprincipled opponents paused to think that since they all have defended and continue to defend murderers and rapists, they should be recognised as murderers and rapists. That is how manifestly absurd, unprincipled utterances become.

While campaigning to be voted as delegate for the Constituency Assembly that made the Uganda Constitution of 1995 in the Rubanda Constituency, many of my agents were of the Roman Catholic Church and they worked so hard and unselfishly for my re-election.

This is an area where the overwhelming majority voters are Catholic. One fanatical Protestant voter severely critisised my reliance on Catholic voters, and advised Protestant voters to vote for a Catholic candidate rather than vote for a Protestant candidate who loved Catholics and Protestants alike.

That is the absurdity of unprincipled politics which produces a press headline like “Mbabazi and Besigye in Political Alliance”.

At her inauguration ceremony last year, the president of the Law Society was almost unanimously elected with only four members voting for her opponent. This year, the election campaigns in her favour were pitch-high and were dictated by tribalism, age and the sexists. It was reported that this year’s AGM was preceded by coercion, bribery, partisan politics, offers of hotel accommodation and clandestine expenditure of millions of shillings spent on behalf of one candidate and the destruction of the chances of the other.

Before the election razzmatazz, speakers emphasised that the practice of law is nowadays business. I was taught and still believe that it is a service to the community. My own protests and pleas that we should still regard it as a service were drowned in praise of wrong doing and the burial of the truth.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.