Amin, Macbeth and Museveni

Author, Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • As everyone knows, bail is a fundamental right under Article 23(6) of the 1995 Constitution because any accused person, under Article 28 of the country’s supreme law, is presumed innocent until proven or pleads guilty.

When I was still high school, studying English literature, my teacher Frank Muriza (rest in peace) told the class that we study specific books and plays on the A-Level syllabus because they help explain the human condition and Ugandan situation. 

He added, for good measure, that Sir William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” demonstrated how Field Marshal Idi Amin degenerated into a paranoid basket case in the same manner Macbeth does after he murders King Duncan in act 2, scene 2 of that play. 

We cannot forget that Lady Macbeth was instrumental in Macbeth’s invidious designs as she’s the one who drugged the king’s servants.

After she drugged the servants, the door was left open for Macbeth to kill the king. So he used the servant’s daggers to kill the king and thereby frame the servants for regicide. 

This way, he commits the perfect crime. 

However, before long, Macbeth’s paranoia eats him up and he is eventually (violently) toppled. 

Macbeth, our teacher told us, could be used as a composite of Amin’s rule while King Duncan may be used to represent the president Amin deposed, Milton Obote. 

Although Obote was not killed, he was overthrown in a strikingly Shakespearean manner. 

To be sure, our literature lessons have come in handy once again to explain the administrative shortsightedness of President Yoweri Museveni. 

We say shortsightedness because Mr Museveni seeks to amend the Constitution (yet again) and scrap bail for suspected capital offenders.

As everyone knows, bail is a fundamental right under Article 23(6) of the 1995 Constitution because any accused person, under Article 28 of the country’s supreme law, is presumed innocent until proven or pleads guilty.

However, Museveni wants to exercise this legal provision as if it is cancerous to due process. 

“Really! Somebody has killed a person and you see him walking around, that is a provocation I am telling you. It’s a provocation, we can’t accept it,” the President said at the 4th Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture at the High Court Building in September. 

Enter my high school English literature lessons. 

In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More argues with his ambitious underling, William Roper:

William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

Mr Museveni should know that this law is for his sake as well as ours. 

There shall be a time, and that time is coming, when he will be in the dock for all the crimes, real or assumed. 

Many autocrats have become victims of the very injustices they meted out and Mr Museveni is not immune to a similar fate. 

Yet the one thing to protect Mr Museveni from such a fate is due process, and bail is integral to the same.  

If he removes bail because he thinks he will rule interminably, his Icarus-like wax wings will melt in the self-consuming fire of his hubris.   

Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter  

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