What you need to know:
- It is now five years of detention without trial for multitudes.
While many people regard Black November as fiction based on an actual event, the title being derived from the month in which activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed in 1995, for the Rwenzururu people it can’t get darker than this because it is no fiction.
Friday marked exactly five years since the Ugandan armed forces attacked the Rwenzururu royal palace in the western town of Kasese, resulting in the death of more than 100 people and incarceration of hundreds of others at Kirinya and Luzira prisons.
Despite scores of these people being released on bail, a number of them have since gone to be with the creator after being silently buried by their relatives, while many more are battling appalling health conditions.
Although different voices of reason, including the 10th Parliament and Human Rights Watch, calling for private investigations into this inexplicable act of execution, the closest link the Government of Uganda has had to it is promoting unremorseful Brig Peter Elwelu, the commander of the brutal attack, and also rewarding him with a seat in the August House, which in all fairness is a mockery of justice.
While on paper the Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere was granted bail, you and I know that he is under house arrest. It is now five years of detention without trial for multitudes, five years of misery for families of the bereaved and for the incarcerated, five years of distress.
Fairness consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, which is what makes it flawed that five years later today, this case has not been disposed of by courts of law. If these people have cases to answer, there is absolutely no reason as to why they should take more than five years before being arraigned in court.
In the wake of President Museveni’s call to have the law amended to scrap court bail for suspected capital offenders, there is every reason to fear that cases such as that of Rwenzururu may be selectively targeted by the law. Someone may try to educate me that the law does not work backwards and this case will not be affected, but a full time Ugandan knows that everything is possible here. The right to apply for bail is inherent to all Ugandans.
Bail is not absolute; it’s only granted at the discretion of the court. Courts take into serious consideration very many factors before they grant bail, especially in capital offences. They look at the nature of the offence committed, the offender, and whether this person will report having given bail.
That discretion should not be removed because it takes away judicial independence. As Rwenzururu people, we find no merit in this proposed amendment whose target we don’t know. For those at the same wave length with the President on this, I say to you; soothe your throats. Injustice has not followed you there. I guess the only time some of us think about injustice is when it happens to us.
While many of you treat the Black Friday as a day of reduced prices in your favourite shopping malls, we the Rwenzururu people are looking at a real dark day, a day of reduced hope in justice and optimism. Friday that evokes horrific memories.
We are asking for an expedited trial of the victims, rehabilitation plan for the widows and orphans as well as a proper recovery plan for the region that has been ravaged on several fronts.
Florence Kabugho is the Woman Member of Parliament for Kasese District