Saturday September 30 2017

Oh Uganda: Where the constitution is slowly becoming unconstitutional



Asuman Bisiika

Asuman Bisiika  

By Asuman Bisiika

Uganda, Oh Uganda! Even for an indifferent and passive observer like me, I am disturbed by the acts of Uganda Police Force purporting to do police work. I was scandalised by the act of a man dressed in what looked like a Uganda Police Force uniform grabbing Mr Erias Lukwago (the Lord Mayor of the country’s capital city) by the scrotum.
The Uganda Police Force is not (and clearly doesn’t act as) the force procured in the Constitution of Uganda. They do not follow the law, but execute orders of their superiors with the level of impunity typical of a police state. Our moderated assessment is that the powers appropriated to the Uganda Police Force by the Constitutional are not enough to enable the Force manage its traditional civil policing work. This explains why the Uganda Police Force is fond of inviting what they call ‘sister security agencies’ to supplement their civil policing efforts.
In other countries, the police will do anything to guard the civil policing turf against other public safety agencies. The Constitution now lacks the functional capacity to satisfy and justify the actions of those running or managing the affairs of the State. Otherwise, how else would one explain the demand for more powers and privileges associated with the execution and management of the three estates of the State?
Mr Museveni needs more powers to appropriation private land (and pay for it later). He needs to increase the time under which the Uganda Police Force can hold a person in its custody before taking him or her to court. He also wants people charged with certain offences to be denied bail for at least 180 days.
And, of course, Mr Museveni wants the age bracket for the eligibility of a presidential candidate to be removed. It is clear that the Constitution is now so constrictive. To put it more plainly, the Constitution is now unconstitutional. Duh!
The Constitution has not rendered itself unconstitutional; rather, it is the constitutionally ultra vires actions of the government that has rendered the Constitution unconstitutional. That is why the government is demanding the expansion of powers… So that instead of legally arresting Erias Lukwago, the Uganda Police Forces can now legally kidnap him.
Mr Museveni is not eligible to seek re-election in 2021 (and as you may have heard, I staked my reputation on a bet that he will not be on ballot in 2021). But this engenders a question: Can the NRM win an election without Mr Museveni at the helm? My answer is yes.
The NRM can win the presidency without Mr Museveni because the biggest political constituency in Uganda would be positioned to support any candidate enjoying the legacy and heritage of Museveni and the National Resistance Movement. This political constituency is called the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). The UPDF has the latitude and attitude to rally the nation by coercive means. A promise (as is always the case with military takeover of political power) to clear the political mess that was playing on my TV screen on Thursday, September 21, and Tuesday September 26, would also rally the population.
The political might of the UPDF is very conspicuous to the political elite that they (UPDF) do not even have to make any political muscle flexing. This might has been resident and evident in all aspects of social, economic and political life of this country. But when the Constitution becomes unconstitutional, the military is likely to advise itself to restore the Constitution’s constitutionality. And this is when Ugandans will know the difference between a wink and a blink. Ms Evelyn Anite was right after all.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.

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