Bail,vaccination; the State is failing

Author, Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Court is a different ball game all together. To prove matters there requires more than torturing suspects to get information. You can’t scare evidence into existence. That is the frustration the State now has to deal with. 

We are still discussing the issue of bail. The Opposition are uncomfortable with a proposal of alleged ‘guidelines’ from within the Judiciary to judicial officers on granting bail to suspects.

The Opposition argue that it is an attempt by the Judiciary to accommodate the wishes of President Yoweri Museveni to keep, especially, his opponents in jail once they are arrested.

The issue of bail is premised on the presumption that one is innocent until they are proven guilty. 

The toughest part of any matter is adducing evidence in a court of law for the states that makes the allegation, to prove one guilty.

It is a very huge story. It starts from the moment the alleged crime is committed to the day in court. Broken down, it is about investing very heavily in ICT, forensics, canine sections, intelligence, spying and a whole load of other things. 

It means that the State must make huge investments in these ‘soft’ and often invisible areas. Have police officers, investigators and prosecutors of good caliber with constant training in the latest technique and information. Besides, pay them very well and keep them motivated to avoid the hounds hunting with the hyenas.

Have CCTV cameras in almost every part of the country. Build good analytical laboratories. Have a good nose for capturing finger prints and DNA to place suspects at scenes. Teach the public about tempering with scenes and get their confidence so they turn up in courts as witnesses, knowing they will be protected if the need arises. Because in matters of crime you are in the devil’s territory, have the capability to hack or tap into phones, emails and all manner of media.  

The drift is that the State must invest heavily and move away from the mentality and structure of the colonial police force. That Force which recruited muscular tall men with wide chests and stamina. In case of a chase it would be the race of the century that would bring a suspect to belief.

It was one that was simply put in place to cow the citizenry and make it easy for the colonialist to lord it over them.
Now crime has gone hi-tech and needs more of the tech savvy coupled with adroitness. It is beyond kifua na bidi (muscle and heavy lifting.) 

The trouble is that the State want to get different results by using the same methods. It is not willing to evolve with the times. It has maintained the bad habits of the colonialist by using the police force and the military to put the population under its boot. 

Court is a different ball game all together. To prove matters there requires more than torturing suspects to get information. You can’t scare evidence into existence. That is the frustration the State now has to deal with. 

The guns, armored vehicles, police posts tear gas, batons, etc. are just the hardware. You will need to style up the software as named above to get reliable evidence needed for a smooth sailing to conviction. 

Otherwise what is happening now is an abuse of the due process and the Judiciary should be careful not to be part of it. Delaying a suspect on remand is now their conviction; their punishment, because the State is aware that even if you gave them forever, chances of conviction are next to zilch.  

If one looks at countries where there is significant investment in these areas the results are astounding. In Japan, for instance, 99.7 percent of all cases end in conviction. In the USA it stands at 88 percent. 

In such places when a suspect faces the State, they have come up with a formidable opponent. In Uganda where suspects are known to bribe poorly paid officers to lose files, tamper with evidence, write fake statements where a crime committed in 2019 is deliberately dated 2009 to favour the suspect, you are asking too much by insisting that bail is withheld pending investigations. 

There is almost no investigative arm to talk about. The State is either asleep or has failed. 
Sort out the side of the State in the prosecution process, the rest will fall in line. Meanwhile, grant the suspect bail.
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Covid-19 has brought us so many problems and made many desperate. Desperate times, as they say, call for desperate measures. Some of them are beyond desperate. 

I was taken aback to learn that in the provinces where you have many that are uninitiated, there has been an ongoing exercise to forcefully vaccinate people against Covid-19. It is said vaccination is the panacea to the pandemic.
The scene is a hastily set up roadblock with health workers armed with their vaccines under a tree, laying in wait for anyone without a vaccination card. 

So I was told gunmen in police uniforms would then direct the unvaccinated to get the jab oblivious of the fact that some poeple may have taken the jab but did not move with a vaccination card. Others may have had illnesses that may exempt them from taking the jab at that moment. Some took jab X as their first one and the vaccine roadblock may administer a different one for a second. What about maintaining the temperatures for the vaccines on the road?

Did the originators of this idea take all this into consideration? The Prime minister has stopped this folly which is good. But why did people endure it in the first place?

It is the same problem you have with bail. The State has invested heavily in the hardware. Health centres and four wheel drive vehicles for the officers at the headquarters. But on the ground we are thin. No health educators to talk about who would be essential in counselling and persuading the people to get vaccinated. 

The staff to vaccinate people in far flung areas are few and far between plus they are overwhelmed by the weight of treating ordinary diseases that we are used to like malaria. 

Adding the burden of vaccination without greater motivation and investment has ended with the current disaster of low vaccine uptake. 

Like bail, vaccination is also a challenge of the State failing.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues
Twitter: @nsengoba

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