British MPs to debate rule of law in Uganda

What you need to know:

Government reaction

  • Frank Tumwebaze, Information minister: “Uganda’s democracy is not discussed and debated in London. That can’t be democracy but rather an abuse of real democracy. We got enough of their [UK]imported democracy before 1962 and it was up to no good.”
  • Don Wanyama, senior presidential press secretary: “Anyone who argues that Uganda’s democracy is not working doesn’t know where we are coming from. There was a time when elections were never the reflection of the will of people. President Museveni has been democratically elected over years.”

Kampala. Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, has been invited to a session of the UK parliament which will be discussing the declining state of democracy in Uganda tomorrow.
Mr Kyagulanyi’s political aide, Mr Nicodemus Musoke, confirmed the travel to the UK.
The Commons website has indicated ‘Democracy in Uganda’ as one of the key issues for debate in the House of Commons tomorrow at 1630 British time. The debate will be streamed live via

“We will be debating democracy in Uganda. I will be leading the debate and the minister for Africa will be responding,” UK Member of Parliament for Stockton South Paul Williams told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview from UK last Friday.
“I want to see a strong and prosperous, independent Uganda with strong democratic institutions. I am interested in the future of Uganda. In Bobi Wine, I see a person who has a good understanding of poverty, inequality and (he) has a good vision for the future,” Dr Williams said, but added that as a non-Ugandan, it is not him to guide Ugandans to choose the leader they want.

Dr Williams first moved the motion early last month but it did not attract much support.
However, it has since garnered support of 20 other MPs-- seven from the Scottish National Party, eight from Labour Party, three independents, one Conservative, and one from Democratic Unionist Party.
The MPs want UK Prime Minister Theresa May to use her government and other international actors such as the European Union, United Nations and Commonwealth—the umbrella of former British colonies—to promote democracy in Uganda.

Bobi’s UK schedule
Mr Godfrey Ssekisonge and Ms Belinda Atim, who are coordinating Mr Kyagulanyi’s travel, said the Ugandan legislator will have a series of events in the UK beginning with the House of Commons, addressing guests at Oxford Union and Oxford University.
“He will also have his private activities after a series of official events,” Mr Ssekisonge said.
Mr Musoke said after the UK, Mr Kyagulanyi will tour the US before holding a music performance in Kingston, Jamaica.

Bobi Wine has faced confrontations with the State on several occasions with some violent incidents.

Police have blocked his music concerts on a number of occasions and banned him from addressing public gatherings.
Last year, his driver was shot dead in the violence that erupted during the Arua Municipality parliamentary by-elections. He and about five other Opposition MPs are currently charged with treason.
Dr Williams has recently been vocal on undemocratic tendencies in Uganda.
He described himself as a supporter and friend of Uganda who, for years, worked for an NGO in western Uganda’s town of Kinkizi before returning home to become an MP in 2017.

Key issues
Dr Williams said in tomorrow’s debate, he will highlight and push the UK parliament to have a chance to discuss the importance of true democracy in Uganda, the undermining of public institutions and charting ways to support Ugandans to strengthen their democracy. “UK has a legitimate interest as a friend and partner, we see attacks on politicians, we see the military moving to arrest and torture democratically elected politicians- that is something many countries around the world are concerned about,” Dr Williams said.

He said UK’s strong relations with Uganda will have to continue but that the current actions of the presidency are ‘diminishing’ the country’s standing globally.
“What we want to see is a strong Uganda but what we see at the moment is a strong President who is retaining power for himself, reducing the power of the people. We want a strong democracy, but I am not endorsing one person or the other,” Dr Williams said.

However, President Museveni’s press secretary Don Wanyama dismissed Dr Williams’ assertions and referred to him as a “victim of acute ignorance on Uganda and its history.”
“Anyone who argues that Uganda’s democracy is not working doesn’t know where we are coming from. There was a time when elections were never the reflection of the will of people. President Museveni has been democratically elected over years,” Mr Wanyama said.

“We challenge Williams and his Opposition friends in Uganda [to show] where democracy has been abused. He is obviously ignorant, a biased fellow working for lobby groups. He needs to know that the destiny and future of Uganda is a question for Ugandans,” he added.
Dr Williams reiterated: “But my critique is that the President is protecting his power while undermining the institutions of democracy - the Electoral Commission, Parliament, the Judiciary and somewhere he is undermining the free press as well -- making it very difficult…. As a friend of Uganda, I would like to see strong institutions instead of a strong President.”

He said the UK is an important partner to Uganda with a vital role to play in business, development and security.
“It is very important to be critical when you see something. Right now, the UK government is keeping its criticism in private,” Dr Williams said but added that if the attacks on democracy continue to prevail in Uganda, the UK may have to make its criticism public.
He criticised what he called military operations against Ugandans intended to keep people in power and said Ugandans should be supported to take their opportunities.

“We all know in every village, there is infrastructure not to protect the country but the future of the president and his party. They control the Electoral Commission, Judiciary, undermining all the aspects of democracy,” Dr Williams added.
He said although he has previously spoken to Mr Kyagulanyi, the pair have not met.
“I see an inspiring potential leader with many strong leadership qualities. I want to help him in his learning journey, develop his skills in leadership. It is fantastic that he has a passion to get people out of poverty,” Dr Williams said.

The Minister of Information, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, described the debate by the UK legislators as political interference and told them to focus on “their own worrying issues of BREXIT and many others than engaging in internal issues of Uganda.”
“Uganda’s democracy is not discussed and debated in London. That can’t be democracy but rather an abuse of real democracy...We got enough of their imported democracy before 1962 and it was up to no good,” Mr Tumwebaze said.

Dr Williams said he “respects and totally believes” in Uganda’s national sovereignty, and his actions should not be construed as neo-colonialism or anything similar.
In December 2017, Parliament amended the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit clause which barred him or anyone aged above 75 from contesting for presidency. With the amendment, Mr Museveni can now stand for re-election until death.

Dr Williams described Uganda as a “fantastic country which deserves better.”

“...I’m concerned about the slow gradual decline of the democratic processes in Uganda and I think my country has a legitimate interest in Uganda because we are partners in the Commonwealth, in business, in development,” he added.
Dr Williams raised a similar matter in the House of Commons in August last year when Mr Museveni was in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) but it did not gain much traction.
He said the President had become a barrier to Uganda’s development and good governance”, which comments triggered a social media storm with a section of Ugandans lambasting him for still treating Uganda as a British colony while others supported him.

Envoy’s response
Uganda’s High Commissioner to UK Julius Peter Moto told Daily Monitor that he had not been officially informed about tomorrow’s debate.
“We will respond when they give us a chance, but they ought to know that Uganda is a young democracy; we are on track: we are learning: and our economy is picking up,” Mr Moto said.
On January 26, Mr Museveni, now aged 74, will mark 33 years in power. He ranks fourth on list of Africa’s longest serving presidents after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema (39 years), Cameroon’s Paul Biya (36 years) and Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso (34 years).
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