People’s govt, people power slogans are legal, court rules

Dr Kizza Besigye of the ‘People’s government’ (left) and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of ‘People Power Movement’. Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • The People Power Movement is a political pressure group that seeks to unite Ugandans on issues such as ending human rights abuse, corruption and redefining the rule of law.

The People’s government and People Power political slogans can continue to be used by Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, respectively, the Constitutional Court has ruled.
In a 4:1 majority court ruling yesterday, the justices dismissed a petition filed by a concerned lawyer and supporter of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Mr Adens Ntare Rutaro, against the slogans.
The justices reasoned that the petition was filed at a wrong court.

“The petition ought to be dismissed since this court has no jurisdiction to entertain it. The petitioner may file his petition before the appropriate court, if he so wishes,” Justice Irene Mulyagonja, who wrote the lead judgment, held.
“In conclusion, the petition is dismissed and I make no order as to costs since it appears to have been brought in public interest,” she added.

The other justices were Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Kenneth Kakuru, and Catherine Bamugemereire.
In his petition, Mr Rutaro had contended that Mr Kyagulanyi and his party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi in establishing an unregistered political orginisation under the name of  ‘People Power movement’ and ‘People Power’ and interchangeably, and mobilising political activities and membership with a view of influencing a political agenda, was illegal.

This, he said, is a preserve of registered political parties since we are in a multiparty dispensation and that their actions contravened the Constitution.
But in their defence, Mr Kyagulanyi and Mr Ssenyonyi submitted that the petition lacked merit and that what they were doing was to come together in an association with other Ugandans while emphasising their power as Ugandans under Article 1 (1).

Likewise, Mr Rutaro had accused Dr Besigye of running a non-registered political vehicle dubbed ‘People’s government’ to advance his political activities, which he said was also unconstitutional.
He accused the four-time presidential candidate of having made himself the ‘president’  of the people’s government, including appointing cabinet ministers, a move he said was contrary to Articles 72 (2), 98 (1), 103 (1) and 114 of the Constitution.

But Dr Besigye in his defence said he is a law abiding citizen who wishes to ensure the rule of law takes root.
“The idea of the people of Uganda participating in the people’s government where positions of service and responsibility are not national civic or state offices is legitimate and constitutional; looking up to leaders who do not occupy national civic offices is not unconstitutional,” Dr Besigye defended himself.
Justice Christopher Madrama is the only judge who dissented by holding that it is unconstitutional for Mr Besigye and Mr Kyagulanyi to hold out political vehicles since the same are the preserve of only registered political parties.

Justice Madrama reasoned that Dr Besigye and Mr Kyagulanyi could carry out their political activities as individuals since they have the freedom of association under the Constitution but sponsoring political agenda and offering platforms for candidates for election as a political organisation would be contrary to Article 72 (2).
 

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