On the morning of August 17, many TV viewers and I watched a programme on NBS in which the moderator and panellists were not only sad but appeared to be weeping for Uganda.
Many other Ugandans must have felt bad and saddened by the events surrounding the recent Arua Municipality by-election.
It is sad to see that many politicians are not bothered to learn from history and avoid the pitfalls that have destroyed other world leaders both small and mighty.
The Ugandan Constitution was promulgated in 1995. President Museveni, the late James Wapakhabulo, who was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly, and I, then chairman of the Legal and Drafting Committee of the Assembly, addressed the delegates and the guests present.
Mr Museveni’s wonderful statement has been repeated many times. He said: “This Constitution has been truly made by the people of Uganda. It is the best we have ever had. I will once more go to the bush if anyone ever tempers with it.”
The audience at the Conference Centre hall erupted into applause and cheering.
Recently, in his ruling in the age limit petition, Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo lamented and said, “Before the Constitution has not been sufficiently tested, before the ink dries, it has been subjected to as many as five amendments.”
Since 1995, as the learned Deputy Chief Justice said, the Constitution has been amended so many times and this last amendment on which the petition was based has been the worst of them all.
Ugandans recall that before it was debated in Parliament, research had revealed that more than 80 per cent of Ugandans who were polled condemned the Bill and prayed that it should not be passed into law, as they feared that it would divide this country and cause chaos.
Unfortunately, the NRM government ignored the people’s cries and, amid raging battles in Parliament and in the country, it was unconstitutionally made law.
Today, people’s predictions have proved to be correct. The events, killings and tortures have since this occurred following the passage of that monster of a law, as exemplified by events in Rukungiri, Jinja, Bugiri and disgustingly, in Arua.
The makers of the 1995 Constitution incorporated non derogation rights and freedoms which include: freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, freedom from slavery or servitude, the right to fair hearing and the right for an order of habeas corpus.
Shockingly, all these rights have been violated or tempered with since the making of the 1995 Constitution. Surely, our President must remember why he and others went into the bush and why he called the 1995 Constitution the best Ugandans have ever had. He must reflect on why Ugandans have continued voting for him all these years.
Since then, matters have got worse and continue on the political and social slip down.
The MPs who were arrested and tortured in Arua while pursuing their legitimate rights were wronged. It may be true that either NRM or Opposition misguided supporters or even their respective enemies may have deliberately thrown stones at the presidential motorcade.
However, that does not justify the tortures and wounds meted out to the MPs and others who were legitimately and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights.
The international community, religious leaders, ordinary Ugandans and foreigners have all condemned the brutality and force used by the security forces in Kampala and other towns as a result of what happened in Arua. The Uganda government spokespersons have confined their criticisms against Opposition elements.
On August 20, President Museveni released a press statement on Bobi Wine and Francis Zaake. He told the country that news about them was fake. The President catalogued crimes that have been committed by the followers of both MPs to include attack against defenceless women, children and civilians, rape, physical attacks and terrorism.
Opposition groups use fascist tactics; civil societies are agents of foreign governments. There is cheating and violence all committed by the Opposition and their supporters. The NRM have been in power and control of security, law and order continuously. Is it not a shame that all these crimes have developed and continue to occur under the NRM’s watch?
Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.