My heart goes out to the families of Muhammad Kirumira and Resty Mbabazi Nalinya, who were assassinated together on Saturday night. Two very young people killed by those who have absolutely no regard for human life except their own.
The Ugandan community at home and abroad is rightly outraged by the ever-darkening clouds in a land that is ruled by men and women without ears. The folly of fools that killed Kirumira is to think that they have silenced him. In fact, they have amplified his voice. While Kirumira was a victim of his truth, the truth must not be a victim of his death. When we shy away from speaking the truth to power, we desecrate the memory of Kirumira and other martyrs for the truth.
One truth that President Yoweri Museveni attempted to dilute in his address to the country two days ago was the fact that his soldiers had tortured MPs Robert “Bobi Wine” Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake one month ago. The President justified what happened in Arua with the claim that the National Resistance Army (NRA) was an indigenous force that carried the baggage of traditional ideas of interrogation and extracting evidence from captives.
The NRA, of course, was converted into a Uganda People’s Defence Force 22 years ago, enough time to have changed an organisation’s culture. In any case, the uniformed and non-uniformed soldiers who wreaked havoc on the MPs and dozens of civilians in Arua were probably babies and toddlers when Museveni built the indigenous force that seized power in 1986.
The President’s comments must have been music to the ears of Mr Julius Wandera Maganda, Uganda’s minister of State for East African Affairs, who is reported to have said that MPs Robert “Bobi Wine” Kyagulanyi and Francis Zaake, were not tortured.
“I think torture is a process,” Maganda reportedly told a conference of East African civil society leaders. “The experience my colleagues have undertaken [sic] may not at this time be pronounced as torture. They could have been beaten, but torture might not be beating.”
Upon reading that report in Nairobi’s Daily Nation, my immediate reaction was that these were utterances of a semi-literate man. However, when I checked him out on the Uganda Parliament Website, I discovered that Maganda, the MP for Samia Bugwe County South, was a university graduate who claimed to be a lawyer and advocate.
My surprise that a whole lawyer and advocate was unaware of the definition of torture in Part 1 Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture was quickly erased when I read the details of his curriculum vitae and career before Parliament.
The 47-year-old Maganda holds a Diploma in Transport and Customs Management from the Institute of Shipping, a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from the Islamic University in Uganda and a Master of Management Studies from the Uganda Management Institute. He obtained a Certificate in Law from Makerere’s Law Development Centre (LDC) in 2009. These are the only certificates he reports in his profile on Parliament’s website.
Unless Maganda neglected to include a law degree and other essential professional licences in his official profile, his claim to be a lawyer/advocate is false. In a country full of false claimants of all manner of qualifications, Maganda’s official profile would not warrant much attention in this column. However, a man who is the face of Uganda in high level deliberations on East Africa, with the privilege of addressing august assemblies such as the one he misled a few days ago, his claims are consequential. To declare oneself a lawyer in Uganda, one must obtain a Bachelor of Laws degree or its equivalent from a recognised university. To practice law as an advocate, one must obtain a diploma in legal practice from the LDC, followed by one to two years of legal practice experience under the supervision of a fully licenced lawyer, then an application to the Uganda Law Council (ULC) to join the profession.
After the Law Council awards you a Certificate of Eligibility, you must apply to the Chief Registrar of the Courts of Judicature to enrol you as an advocate of the Court. You need a practicing licence issued by the ULC, which also requires membership in the Uganda Law Society (ULS). Then, and only then can you legitimately and legally claim to be an advocate.
A certificate in law, which is the only claim of exposure to legal learning that Maganda makes in his official profile, does not confer him the right to claim to be a lawyer, let alone an advocate. He know more about Uganda’s laws than I do but, at best, he can only engage in paralegal practice.
Maganda’s apparent false claims exemplify part of the tragedy that has befallen our country. Fraud, fake, false – three words that apply to the lives, claims and offerings of many men and women in power. The obsession with titles and high level certificates, all meant to caress people’s egos and assuage their insecurities, is an affliction that became prevalent in1979.
Many so-called returnees from exile who flew in after the fall of Field Marshall Professor Dr Idi Amin Dada, joined the ousted semi-literate dictator in claiming academic credentials that they never had. People who had been lecturers or administrators at foreign universities promoted themselves to professorships upon touching down at Entebbe.
One man, a minister in the Obote II government, who was not contented with his Master of Science degree from a reputable university, adopted the more agreeable “doctor” before his name. The story goes that when the gentleman was asked to explain himself, he denied ever claiming the title.
“It is journalists and other people who call me doctor,” he said. Asked why he did not correct the record, the honourable gentleman replied: “As a member of the UPC government, I do not interfere with people’s freedom of speech and expression.”
Maganda’s claim to be a lawyer/advocate is not a matter of freedom of speech. It is illegal. “Anyone who falsely claims to be a lawyer/advocate commits a crime,” Mr Bruce Kyerere, the chairperson of the Uganda Law Council’s Disciplinary Board, who is also a former president of the Uganda Law Society, told me in a telephone conversation yesterday.
Clearly Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Fr Simon Lokodo, our tireless minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, should interest themselves in Maganda’s claims. Indeed, it would be wise to request all MPs, EALA members, ministers and other public servants to provide certified proof of their academic and professional credentials.
In this information age and easy online verification of our curriculum vitae, false claims by our leaders and representatives undermine the credibility of our republic.